M.M. Alam

Muhammad Mahmood Alam known as “M.M. Alam”; born Muhammad Mahmud Alam; 6 July 1935 – 18 March 2013) was a Pakistani fighter pilot, North American F-86 Sabre Flying ace and one-star general who served with the Pakistan Air Force. Squadron Leader Muhammad Mahmud Alam, Commander of No 11 Squadron, was already a notable leader and highly experienced pilot in 1965, when he was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat (“The star of courage”), a Pakistani military decoration, for his actions during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. In earning his decorations, Alam downed five Indian aircraft in less than a minute – the first four within 30 seconds – establishing a world record. He also excelled in gunnery competition, a skill that without a doubt contributed greatly to his becoming the first and the only jet ace in one mission.

Early life

Alam was born on 6 July 1935 to a well-educated family of Kolkata, British India. Although born and raised in the Bengal region, Alam was not ethnically Bengali, contrary to common perception. Alam’s family was of Urdu-speaking Bihari origin, having emigrated from Patna and settled in the Bengal province of British India for a long time.  The family migrated from Calcutta to eastern Bengal which became East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) following the formation of Pakistan in 1947.[3] Alam completed his secondary education in 1951 from Government High School, Dhaka, East Pakistan. He joined the then RPAF now PAF in 1952 and was granted commission on 2 October 1953.[4] Alam’s brothers are M. Shahid Alam, an economist and a professor at Northeastern University,  and M. Sajjad Alam, a particle physicist at SUNY Albany.
His family moved to West Pakistan in around 1971, after the secession of East Pakistan. Being the eldest among 11 siblings in his family, Alam never married as he had to share the financial responsibilities of his younger sisters and brothers. Several of his younger brothers excelled in various academic and professional careers.[4]

Service with the Pakistan Air Force

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Alam was listed on the top of the hall of fame list at the PAF Museum in Karachi. Alam is considered a national hero for Pakistan, most significantly for his service in the war of 1965 when he was posted at Sargodha. During this war he was involved in various dogfights while flying his F-86 Sabre fighter. He downed nine Indian fighters in air-to-air combat, including six Hawker Hunter fighters.
In one mission on 7 September 1965, Alam downed five Indian aircraft in less than a minute, the first four within 30 seconds, establishing a world record, with total of nine aircraft downed in the war.[1][8][9][10][11] Alam’s confirmed kills are as follows:
  • 6 September 1965, 1× Hawker Hunter
    • Squadron Leader Ajit Kumar Rawlley, No. 7 Sqn, KIA near Tarn Taran.
  • 7 September 1965, 5× Hawker Hunters
    • Squadron Leader Onkar Nath Kacker, No. 27 Sqn, POW
    • Squadron Leader A B Devayya, No. 7 Sqn also claimed by Flt Lt Amjad Hussain[12]
    • Squadron Leader Suresh B Bhagwat, No. 7 Sqn
    • Flight Lieutenant B Guha, No. 7 Sqn
    • Flying Officer Jagdev Singh Brar, No. 7 Sqn, KIA, near Sangla Hill.
  • 16 September 1965, 1× Hawker Hunter
    • Flying Officer Farokh Dara Bunsha, No. 7 Sqn, KIA, near Amritsar.
The Pakistan Air Force figures have been disputed by Indian sources which claim that Alam made four kills, attributing one of the losses of Sqn Ldr Onkar Nath Kacker’s aircraft to technical failure or some other cause, including the possibility of ground fire.[13][14] They also claim that gun camera footage of Alam’s kills is yet to be made public and therefore some of the kills cannot be confirmed.[15]
In 1967, Alam was transferred as the Squadron Commander of the first squadron of Dassault Mirage III fighters procured by the PAF. He was removed from staff college based on a false pretext in May 1969. In 1972, he commanded No. 26 Squadron for two months.[13]
In 1982, Alam retired as an Air commodore and took up residence in Karachi. Since retiring, Alam had become more deeply interested in religion.[15]

Death

The Air Force legend was admitted to Pakistan Naval Station Shifa Hospital in Karachi.[16] Alam died in Karachi on 18 March 2013. He was 77. He had been under treatment for respiratory problems for about 18 months. Alam’s funeral prayer was offered at the PAF Base Masroor, where he served some of the finest years of his air force life. He was later laid to rest at the Shuhuda (Martyrs) graveyard at PAF Masroor Airbase. Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, Air Chief Marshal (Ret.) Farooq Feroz Khan, Sindh corps commander Lt. Gen Ijaz Chaudhry, Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) Director-General Maj. Gen. Rizwan Akhter, Base Commander PAF Base Masroor Air Commodore Usaid ur Rehman, several war veterans of the 1965 war and a number of Alam’s colleagues attended the funeral. One of the younger brothers of the deceased, Zubair Alam, was also present.[4]

Memorials

M. M. Alam Road, a major road in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan is named in honour of the flying ace of Pakistan Air Force, Air Commodore Muhammad Mahmood Alam, running from Main Market to Gulberg. The road runs parallel to famous Main Boulevard thus providing an alternate route and is a commercial hub with many restaurants, fashion boutiques, shopping malls, beauty saloons and décor stores. M.M. Alam Road hosts a variety of flamboyant restaurants in modern Lahore.[17] On 20 March 2014, on account of his first death anniversary, the PAF Airbase Mianwali was renamed after him as PAF Base M.M. Alam.
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