Flight of the Falcon - Review on Bharat Rakshak by K V Ramesh
Autobiographies by their very nature are highly suspect. Usually convenient facts are mentioned or embellished while inconvenient episodes are left out, glossed over or entirely missing. However Nosy Haider’s autobiography , like the man, is a straight shooter that grabs you from the time he volunteers and is accepted into the Pakistani Air Force. Haider makes no bones about the way he is and calls himself a proud , passionate , Pakistani. The passionate part is very readily visible in the way in which Haider always goes for the jugular , be it leading a demonstration for visiting dignitaries or his out of uniform experience of chasing the fairer sex which he readily admits as his weakness.
Read More at Bharat Rakshak: http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Books/Reviews/812-Falcon.html
Sajad Haider’s (SJ) name made headlines, both in war and peace. The former remains his legacy, faithfully
revisited every September. The latter became a fleeting moment in history, which no one talks about. This story would be incomplete without either - its shock and awe value – lessened,
considerably. But when Haider’s debut novel - Flight of the Falcon, sets out to demolish myths of Indo-Pak wars 1965 & 1971, several other fine illusions became collateral damage in the
His legendary exploits during battle, notwithstanding, Haider’s fall from grace was swift. A recurring role in controversies (domestic and international) plagued his professional career. Refusal to conform caused its premature end. Out of these extraordinary, if unorthodox life experiences, is born a story that flaunts the unwritten code of silence typically held sacrosanct.
Haider saw action in both wars as commander of a fighter squadron (‘65) and a tactical fighter wing (‘71). Speaking from such a unique vantage point has advantages. It has been used to assess PAK military operations and political adventurism of that era. This fact finding mission clears away prevalent misconceptions about PAF’s alleged lacklustre performance in ’71 - indicts top leadership (military and political) for ineptitude – cross references claimed kills (aerial) against recorded data and berates the system for letting air-brushed versions of history become impediments. It does so by amassing a repository of previously documented facts and figures from both sides of the border in the hope that this serves as a catalyst for ‘deeper more incisive probes’ in the future.
To call them ‘sensational revelations’ would be inaccurate, for our war time fiascos have spawned many books and articles by local and foreign observers alike – neutral or otherwise. Exhuming carefully crafted fairytales is not uncommon. Treading what was once considered to be hallowed ground has been in vogue for quite some time. The puzzle – in this case our history - comes together more easily with so many pieces to choose from. The issue is separating true historians on a quest for truth from vindictive pseudo analysts trashing institutions for sport. Now, all these versions compete for attention with another that has a personal stake in resurrecting old ghosts as Haider re-lives painful memories of his incarceration in the final half of the book to identify the burgeoning turmoil within his professional life that became a precursor to witch hunts against the crème de le crème of our PAF. But there is more to this cautionary tale of lost opportunities and political decay. ‘Flight of the Falcons’ vividly captures these magnificent men in their outnumbered flying machines at their finest – as creators of The Falcons Four (world class formation aerobatics team) and champions of air combat (65/71) war. It is a fitting tribute to the unsung heroes, martyrs and regular men in service for accomplishing what they did with whatever little they had.
Haider’s journey, from his most triumphant moments to the bleakest hours plays out like a Shakespearean drama where, according to one observer, he is a ‘maverick, top gun and Casanova’ rolled into one, forced to go through an obstacle course laid with incarceration, intrigues, and tribunals. And while one-sided versions, however committed to the pursuit of truth, require the occasional suspension of disbelief when shades of grey are carefully edited leaving the ‘shining armour concept’ intact, they are no less entertaining.
The writers 8 years spent in the business world could spawn a sequel; one that will go after the wheelers and dealers, or as he puts it, ‘crocodiles and piranhas’, who define the underbelly of ‘the Pakistani business world’. Someone who once told President Zia exactly what he thought of his regime should have no qualms about putting up an encore performance. Back in the day, Nosey – as he is referred to by his peers - stepped on powerful toes. Today, his book continues the tradition.
Since its launch in May 2009, Sajad Haider’s book has sent ripples across the nation and garnered responses from different parts of the world. The second edition has already been sold out and a third, revised version of Flight of the Falcon is under print. The upcoming edition has been further amended to include additional comments by the author where he reiterates his views about the 1965 and 1971 wars; revisits 6th of September to analyze, what he labels as command failures at Mauripur and Sargodha, and their contentious decision making process that resulted in the ‘avoidable loss of Sqn Ldr Sarfraz Rafiqui and Flt Lt Yunus Hussain’ – jewels in the PAF’s crown. An incident about Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas has also been updated. The botched hijack attempt has now been replaced with one attested by Grp.Capt. Zaheer Hussain - President of Air Investigation Board, who was also the officer in charge of the original investigation. The revised epilogue has been topped off with some scathing commentary - and the nuclear Godfather of the nation - Dr. AQ Khan does not come off well when it is over. The third edition is expected be on the shelves in about two weeks.
Air Commodore S. Sajad Haider's book 'Flight of the Falcon' reviewed in 'Books & Authors' section of DAWN newspaper's August 16, 2009 edition.
A fighter pilot’s tale
Reviewed by Shuja Nawaz
PILOTS are a special breed and fighter pilots are extra special, with their own tribal and behavioral characteristics that set them apart. The nearest the army has to them is the old cavalry, now the armour, officer. The jaunty-angled cap, silk scarves, special boots, and even the way they stand. The fighter pilot’s stance is more often than not hands on hips, arms akimbo, leaning slightly forward.
The cavalry officer leans back on one heel while the other leg is extended, with knee slightly bent, tapping the heel on the ground, much like a steed raring for action and seeking attention. Élan, joie de vivre, ebullience, and bravado come to kind when writing about fighter pilots. Their war stories are colourful and graphic. But very few have learnt to tell these stories on paper without losing the reader with unnecessary detail.
A decorated war veteran, S. Sajad Haider epitomises the fighter jock but boy can he tell a tale! As someone who grew up on a rich diet of military history and biographies, including stories of dogfights in World War I, when dogfights first entered the lexicon, I can say that parts of Haider’s book will take your breath away. His fighting scenes are cinematographic, not surprising for a fan of John Wayne’s movie Jet Pilot, and they virtually put you in the cockpit as he cannon balls to and from his mission. He gives you enough detail to make the experience vivid but not enough to bore you to death. These scenes make this among the best stories written by a fighter pilot.
Read more --
Anjum Niaz writes a review on 'Flight of the Falcon'
A well known freelance journalist, Anjum exposes the meat on Sajad's recently launched book. Below is an excerpt from her fiery article for an even more fiery book
‘Group Captain, give me your Swiss bank account number,’ the vice president of a Fortune 40 company asks Sajad Haider, Pakistan’s air attaché at Washington DC in the 70s. ‘Get out of my office,’ Sajad tells the American. ’I’ll have your company black-listed.’ Sajad kicks up such a ruckus that the president of that company comes running on bended knees. He fires his VP for offering the bribe.
Shireen M. Mazari, a well-known strategic analyst, writes her review on 'Flight of the Falcon'
When the mainstream biographies by civil and military bureaucrats in Pakistan tend to be tedious rationalisations of their stay in the corridors of power, including military dictatorships, Air Commodore Sajad Haider's book, "Flight of the Falcon" breaks this mode. Newly launched by Vanguard Books, it is a most fascinating study of not only Haider's interesting and adventurous life but also of the Pakistan Air Force itself. Sajad Haider has always been outspoken with a "no-holds barred" approach to life and his life story reflects this most vividly, with his near-death encounters while flying as well as his turbulent times fighting against an unjust court martial which eventually exonerated him. Interesting anecdotes abound in the book reflecting different facets of Haider's life in the PAF – including his run-in with the Shah of Iran in Washington, his unfulfilled true love and other amusing flirtatious encounters.
Debut Launch of the much anticipated
Flight of the Falcon
'Story of a Fighter Pilot'
by S Sajad Haider
Islamabad May 16, 2009
By invitation only
S Sajad Haider interviewed on Samaa TV's Sunday special entitled 'Achievers'
'Achievers' is a journey of individual lives. We focus on the probability of learning from experiences and ideals. We focus on reaching out to the nation in particular with a message that each one of us is as unique as the spirit of attainment of that survives within.