The Hush Post| 9:44 am|one-minute-read|
India did not down F-16 post-Balakot strikes. Christine Fair, a political scientist at Georgetown University, US, has questioned our claims. India or rather Indian media had claimed we shot down a Pakistani F-16 in February.
She was speaking at a session on “Understanding the message of Balakot” alongside former Air Chief BS Dhanoa and other Indian experts at the Military Literature Festival here.
She disputed the radar data and various videos of parachutes and debris used as evidence. This was to back claims of the F-16 being brought down. She said the Pakistan aircraft did not have GE engines. Some Indian experts had claimed that the debris of GE engines had been recovered. Some of her claims were challenged by experts present, though.
She said, “No one is questioning that ordnance landed in Pakistan, but other things are highly subjective.” She added that Pakistan never saw the airstrike coming.
Fair said the lessons of the airstrike must be empirically studied on the basis of facts and not on what one wanted to believe. “Some claims being made by either side are far from real and need to be studied deeply for an objective assessment,” she stressed.
In a related report immediately post-Balakot airstrikes, about a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilot being lynched to death had appeared in the media. It now turns out the report was far from true. It was based on a singular, inauthentic Facebook post. The so-called lynched PAF pilot Shahzaz-ud-din was a figment of imagination of a gentleman called Umar. There is no person by the name of Shahzaz-ud-din in Pakistan Air Force. The officer whose photo is doing the rounds as killed PAF pilot is that of Agha Mehar as investigated by Newslaundry. But Agha Mehar is alive.
Below are the details.
The London-based man’s post was the source of Firstpost’s story which The HushPost also carried
On March 2, a Firstpost report by Praveen Swami stated that “Pakistan Air Force Wing Commander Shahzaz-ud-Din, the F-16 pilot shot down in a dogfight over the Nowshera sector, is reported to have been lynched by a mob who mistook him for an Indian airman.”
On March 1, a day before the Firstpost report was published, a London-based lawyer, Khalid Umar, had posted about the purported killing of a PAF pilot on Facebook. The Firstpost report cited Umar as a source stating that he [Umar] had received this information “privately, from individuals related to the F-16 pilot’s family”. Subsequently, various media houses carried the same story.
Like the Firstpost report, Umar identified the PAF pilot as Shahzaz-ud-Din. He had stated that his father Waseem-ud-Din was an Air Marshal of the Pakistan Air Force. Comparing Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and Shahzaz-ud-Din’s plight, the London-based lawyer also wrote: “Two sons of Air Marshals fought it out mid-air up in the skies…Wg Cdr Abhinandan (Ind) in MiG and now late Wg Cdr Shahzaz-ud-Din (Pak) in F-16. Both fell from the skies, one could not survive.”
Umar said Shahzaz-ud-Din, who had ejected in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, was “lynched (beaten mercilessly, nearly to death) by the mob who took him as a fallen Indian”. On his identification as “our own man”, the PAF pilot was taken to a hospital. He did not survive, Umar wrote: “Nothing can be more heartbreaking than the untimely termination of a young life. My heartfelt condolences to the family of Shahzaz.”
Was that the truth: Khalid Umar’s U-turn
Umar had claimed he had received information relating to the PAF pilot’s death “not from a single source but from multiple PAF sources”. He said, “My sources in PAF informed me that the F-16 was flown by Shahzaz-ud-Din. It was shot down by MiG 21 of the Indian Air Force in aerial combat.” In a story which appeared in News laundry, he added that authorities would “never accept this” and that they had “even denied using F-16” to breach the Indian airspace.
Umar said that Shahzaz-ud-Din was one of three sons of Air Marshal Waseem-ud-Din, who had retired from the PAF. He claimed that apart from multiple PAF sources, this was also confirmed to him by Air Marshal Waseem-ud-Din’s family.
However, investigations proves these claims were false. When Umar was asked about it, his responses were the following.
Here’s what the investigations revealed: “Air Marshal Waseem-ud-Din has two sons, not three. Neither of them is in the PAF. When Newslaundry, the digital media platform which brought this up with Umar, he said it “doesn’t matter” who was in the aircraft: “It doesn’t matter whether it was some Abbas or some Shahzaz. But someone definitely was on it.”
So, the single source for news reports on the PAF pilot’s death and background has been Umar’s post, which identified the pilot as “Shahzaz-ud-Din”. Investigation shows that Air Marshal Waseem ud-Din has two sons named Waqar-ud-Din and Aleem-ud-Din. In this picture found on Facebook, Air Marshal Waseem-ud-Din stands with his two sons.
The photo of the Air Marshal; his two sons live in the UK
According to their Facebook profiles, both sons live in the UK. Aleem-ud-Din studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has worked with companies like Telenor—as CLM planning and design officer and pricing executive for four years, till 2018—and Starcom Worldwide in Pakistan. He did his Bachelor’s degree in economics from the National University of Sciences and Technology.
A screenshot of Aleem-ud-Din’s LinkedIn profile
The Air Marshal’s other son, Waqar-ud-Din, lives in Warwickshire. Since September 2015, he’s been working as a system engineer at Jaguar Land Rover in Gaydon in Warwickshire. Before joining Jaguar Land Rover, he worked with Tetra Pack in Lahore as a field service engineer and project engineer for more than three years.
Waqar-ud-Din graduated from Pakistan’s Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology. He did his Master’s degree in energy and power engineering from the University of Warwick. His job record shows that he was never in the Pakistan Air Force.
Now whose photo did the rounds on social media titles as Shahzaz-ud-din
It now emerges, that the photos are from a joint Air Force training between China and Pakistan which took place in October 2015 at China’s Yinchuan air base. One of the photos shows Chinese and Pakistani Air Force pilots standing in a group photo, while another is captioned “Pakistani fighter pilot before Chinese Su-30”.
There’s no mention of Wing Commander Shahzaz-ud-Din, but the photo has been circulated on social media claiming to a picture of the “fallen” PAF pilot. Yet this photo is of Group Captain Agha Mehar, a pilot with the PAF. Mehar has approached several agencies pointing out the misuse of his photo.
The photo of Group Captain Agha Mehar misidentified as Shahzad-ud-Din.
Salman Masood, editor of The Nation, an English daily in Islamabad, has confirmed: “According to my official sources, the picture of the pilot which is being circulated as the F-16 pilot is a picture of Group Captain Agha Mehar, who has never flown an F-16 in his career.”
The same photograph is used in this blog. It details Shahzad-ud-Din’s “martyrdom” on February 27, using the very inaccuracies found in Khalid Umar’s Facebook post.