New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s decision to confer Padma Shri on singer Adnan Sami has triggered a controversy with social media trolls highlighting the fact that his father, former Flight Lieutenant Arshad Sami Khan, was part of the air raid by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) that destroyed the Pathankot air base in India during the 1965 war.
PAF pilot Khan was awarded the Sitara-i-Juraat, Pakistan’s third highest gallantry award, by Field Marshal Ayub Khan for his role in the war.
Critics have slammed the Narendra Modi government for awarding the son of a PAF veteran who fought against India. Many also questioned the Pakistani-born singer’s contributions to India in the last five years.
Arshad Sami Khan had the distinction of serving three Pakistani presidents — Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — as their aide-de-camp (ADC). He retired from PAF in 1972 and joined the Pakistan Foreign Service at the behest of Bhutto.
Arshad Sami Khan’s role in 1965 war
The PAF had carried out preemptive attacks on the Indian airfields of Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara on 6 September 1965. While the Indian Air Force lost about 10 aircraft on the ground during the attack in Pathankot, those at Adampur and Halwara by the PAF were considered failures.
According to the Pakistan Air Force Museum website, Khan flew the maximum combat missions during the 1965 war with India.
“His enthusiasm and aggressive spirit was of the highest order and was responsible to ignite the spirit of competition amongst other pilots in its most effective form. He led formations in the battle area with exemplary determination and brought back excellent results,” it reads.
The website also says Khan has been “credited with one aircraft, 15 tanks and 22 vehicles destroyed and 8 tanks and 19 vehicles damaged and two heavy guns destroyed during the war”.
He was later awarded the Sitara-i-Juraat.
The website notes: “He never looked tired or apprehensive in the face of heavy odds but kept on inflicting maximum damage to the enemy as his only objective. For his outstanding devotion to duty and bravery, Flight Lieutenant Arshad Sami Khan was awarded Sitara-i-Juraat.”
According to Defence Journal, a website tracking Pakistani military, the PAF formation was flying the US-supplied F-86 Sabre fighters during the 1965 war.
Pakistan also claimed that its F-86 fighters had destroyed “seven MiG-21s, five Mysteres and one Fairchild C-119 (a transport aircraft)” on the ground during the conflict.
India had lost a total 35 aircraft on the ground during preemptive strikes — one on Pathankot on 6 September 1965 and then on Kalaikunda, a day later.
‘Magic of government chamchagiri’
Soon after it was announced that Sami has been conferred with the Padma Shri, Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill called it a “magic of government chamchagiri (sycophancy)”. His comment later led to a Twitter war between the singer and Shergill.
Listen uncle-don’t u “dare me” -if not distancing then say proudly u are a son of Pak Fighter Pilot who said “Indian planes were falling like birds” -Until then stop jumping like a kitten on hot tinned roof!!
Once again, 5 contributions to India batao Uncle Ji, still waiting!! https://t.co/ijILjWrzMp
— Jaiveer Shergill (@JaiveerShergill) January 27, 2020
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra came out in defence of the singer Monday and gave a long list of his achievements. He mentioned how Sami, who was a Pakistani national then, sang for India at the ICC World Cup in 2003.
“Sami may have grown up in London but his mother Naureen Khan was from a Jammu family,” he said at a press conference.
— BJP (@BJP4India) January 27, 2020
Patra also hit out at the Congress’ “hypocrisy” in the matter and said, “When publication houses in Pakistan refused to publish Arshad Sami Khan’s book, it was launched in India in 2008 by I.K. Gujaral and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.”
He also alleged that the Congress government had earlier “supported Sami and his father”.
(With inputs from Soniya Agrawal)