Name: Muhammad Anwar Shamim
Pak No: 3657
Father’s Name: Muhammad Rafiq
Date of Birth: 1 Oct 1931
Place of Birth: Haripur, Hazara
GD(P) Course: 10 GD (P)
Date of Commission: 9 Dec 1954
Date of Retirement: 6 Mar 1985
Date of Demise/Burial: 4 Jan 2013/H-11 graveyard, Islamabad
Gallantry Award: Sitara-e-Jurat (SJ)
Early Life/Career: It was a cold Sunday evening at Usterzai Payan, a small village near Kohat. A five-year boy was playing in the courtyard of his house when he suddenly saw a biplane crossing overhead. The boy was amazed to see a plane for the first time in his life. He waved to the dashing pilot, wearing leather helmet with big goggles. To his utter delight, the pilot waved back at the boy. The vivid red scarf fluttering behind the pilots head fascinated the young boy the most. At that point in time, the young boy made a firm resolve to be a pilot. The history bears testimony to the fact that the boy later became one of the finest fighter pilots of his times and was honoured with the command of PAF. The boy was none other than Air Chf Mshl Anwar Shamim.
Shamim was born to an educated family of Muhammad Rafiq, who was a reputable educationist by profession. The family hailed from Haripur, Hazara. His father remained associated with teaching for a long time. He served in various schools of the area and later became principal and served in that capacity in three high schools in Hazara District prior to his retirement. Shamim received early education in his native town; then proceeded to Government College Cambelpur (Attock), and subsequently joined Dyal Singh College, Lahore. He became a member of the then functional University Air Squadron to begin his childhood dream career of a fighter pilot in PAF. During training at the Air Squadron, Shamim’s name hit the headlines of the major national newspapers when he went for his first solo on gliders at a stunningly young age of 19, becoming the first member to earn this rare feat.
He joined RPAF College, Risalpur in 1952 and gave all-round performance during training. He was the colour holder of Hockey and Basketball at the college. Shamim showed great promise in initial tenure at Risalpur and he along with Azim Daudpota (later became Air Mshl) was spotted for Advanced Flying Training at Royal Australian Air Force College, Point Cook. His all-round performance continued at Australia as well. He was the member of Academy Hockey and Cricket teams at Point Cook. After spending two eventful years at Point Cook in 1954, he returned with a glittering flying wing on his chest and a half stripe on his shoulder. After graduation, Shamim joined the elite No 11 Sqn where he further honed his flying skills and became the top professional in no time. In 1960, Shamim did Fighter Leaders’ Course from Mauripur and won the coveted Best Pilot Trophy for being the distinguished and Best Fighter Pilot of the course. After spending a year at Risalpur as flying instructor, Shamim took over the command of prestigious No 11 Sqn and led the unit with distinction.
Heroic performance during 1965 War: During the Indo-Pak War of 1965, Wg Cdr Shamim was commanding the No 33 Fighter Wing at Sargodha. He not only actively participated in the air operations during the war but also played a key role in honing the skills of select group of fighter pilots under his command. He led the Wing from the front and discharged his duties with utmost dedication. With the outbreak of war in the first week of Sep 1965, the IAF Amritsar radar (Call sign ‘Fish Oil’) posed a substantial challenge to PAF in carrying out air operations at will. The radar station was situated just across the border from Lahore near the famous Amritsar city It needed to be eliminated at all costs and the task of destroying ‘Fish Oil’ was given to Shamim’s Wing. After the first abortive missions against Amritsar on 6 Sep, Shamim planned the next move on 7 Sep when attempts were made to locate radar by photographic reconnaissance. RT-33s of 20 Sqn were initially used for this task, operating un-escorted at low level, and their results were sufficiently accurate for locating the site of ‘Fish Oil’.
The first attack, as a result of this intelligence, was launched on 9 Sep. Four F-86s from No 33 Wing of Sargodha hedgehopped for fifteen minutes across the border to Amritsar in poor visibility, dropping bombs on the radar site. Despite the adverse weather conditions, the 4 Sabres came across part of the Amritsar complex after setting course from their IP (Initial Point), and the accuracy of their navigation was confirmed by the heavy ack-ack fire encountered in the target area. Flt Lt Bhatti, who was leading the mission, delivered his bombs close to the site, although slightly to one side. His No 2, the ebullient Sqn Ldr Munir, pulled up into a textbook attack pattern over the site, but then lost visual contact with the target because of the thick haze. Further attempts to continue the attack were then abandoned following warnings from Sakesar of large numbers of IAF fighters racing towards the scene from the nearby airfields.
On the following day, 10 Sep, PAF followed up with further 2 missions against Amritsar radar by a total of 12 F-86s from Sargodha, escorted by 2 F-104s as top cover. For these attacks, first by 4 F-86s escorted by two F-104s, followed by another 4 F-86s with 4 more as top cover; primary armament comprised 2.75 inch rockets. However, it was soon found that the dust, smoke, and debris from delivery of the first aircraft’s weapons restricted visibility to such an extent that it was impossible for subsequent pilots to achieve an accurate aim. Slight damage was caused to some parts of the radar installation but unfortunately for the PAF, ‘Fish Oil’ was soon in operation. However, there was one encouraging aspect of the mission; at least Shamim and his valiant pilots now knew the location of radar site.
He planned to lead another strike against Amritsar on 11 Sep. Four Sabres plus a top cover of 2 F-104s were led by Wg Cdr Anwar Shamim with Sqn Ldr Munir as No 2, Flt Lt Bhatti as his No 3 and Flt Lt Cecil Chaudhry as No 4. They completed the briefing meticulously and the 4 Sabres set off at low level at 0800 hours on the half hour flight to Amritsar. Despite poor visibility from the usual dust haze, Bhatti who was responsible for the navigation of mission brought the four Sabres out at low level precisely on track to Amritsar. Some help in identifying the target was in fact received from the Indian ack-ack fire, which began even before the Sabres started their pull-up to attack. As planned, Bhatti and Chaudhry began climbing to about 7,000 ft as top cover to draw some of the ack-ack fire, while the two F-104s, flown by Sqn Ldr Jamal and Flt Lt Amjad, orbited even higher to guard against interference from IAF fighters. As the first pair of Sabres started their climb, Bhatti soon picked up visual with the radar site and informed the formation members about it. As Shamim and Munir pulled up for the attack, the target area was under veritable inferno of light and medium flak and within a few seconds Munir called out on radio in calm and unhurried manner that he was hit. Soon Bhatti saw three balls of flame tumbling through the air where Munir’s
Sabre had already exploded. Munir took a direct hit from a heavy ack-ack shell and never had a chance to eject. The flaming wreckage fell on the eastern outskirts of Amritsar town, and the chivalrous warrior embraced Shahadat in keeping with the rich traditions of PAF.
Furious with the great loss, Wg Cdr Shamim vowed to avenge the demise of his comrade and went in for the strafing attack, firing long bursts into the radar aerials with his 6 lethal machine guns. Bhatti followed delivering the lethal blow. They remained over the Amritsar radar amidst heavy ack-ack fire delivering repeated blows. Shamim ensured that all his Sabres expend most of their ammunition on the radar installation before exiting. With the debris flying high and destruction all around, the gallant formation returned home at deck level. As a result of the devastating blow delivered by Shamim and his comrades, this time ‘Fish Oil’ really did go off the air and photographic reconnaissance of the target the next day revealed that the site had been vacated.
Citation of Gallantry Award: “Wg Cdr Muhammad Anwar Shamim in his capacity as OC Fighter-Bombers Wing, made significant contribution to the high morale and aggressive attitude of the pilots who flew from this station.
He efficiently managed the changing air defence and other requirements and ensured, while fully meeting these requirements, that the pilots got sufficient rest and other comforts to enable them to fly intelligently and confidently. During the operation, he led 14 air defence/escort missions and 5 ground attack missions. His leadership during these operational missions was aggressive and confident and served as a very good example for his pilots to follow. He accepted long hours of duty, including operational sorties at odd hours of the day, with enthusiasm. Wg Cdr Muhammad Anwar Shamim is, therefore, awarded SJ. “
Later Career: After the war, decorated Anwar Shamim remained on various command and staff appointments, which included Ops Officer at Air Defence Command, Deputy Director Operations at AHQ, Chief Instructor at prestigious FLS (Fighter Leaders’ School), and Director Projects at AHQ. In 1968, he proceeded to Jordan on deputation and served the Royal Jordanian Air Force as Air Adviser to His Majesty King Hussain Bin Talal for two years. During his service at Jordan, he played a key role in reforming the Jordanian Air Force after the 1967 Arab-Israel War. During Indo-Pak War in 1971, he was commanding the Sakesar Air Base and was responsible for the air defence of aerial frontiers of northern sector of Pakistan. From 1971-75 Anwar Shamim commanded three air bases that included Badin, Korangi Creek, and prestigious Masroor Air Base. After the successful command of bases, he was selected for the important assignment of Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations) at AHQ. Remaining on this important appointment, he played an instrumental role in revising the PAF war plans. On promotion to a two-star rank, he became the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Operations). He only had to serve for a month on this appointment before he was promoted to a four-star rank and was entrusted with the prestigious command of PAF on 23 Jul 1978.
At the Helm of Affairs: Air Chf Mshl Anwar Shamim took over the command at a time when the PAF’s basic structure with regard to men, equipment and morale had just been refurbished by his predecessor, and the new CAS was in the happy position of being able to select the course he should now adopt to take the PAF to ever greater heights. He chose two admirable themes: operational excellence and personnel welfare, and pursued both with commendable zeal. Air Chf Mshl Shamim’s notable contribution during his long tenure included the induction of the super-sophisticated F-16s, the acquisition of A-5s, and the creation of three regional air commands for more efficient conduct of air operations generally and of land-air and naval-air operations specially. The landing of first batch of six F-16s at Sargodha on the evening of 14 Jan 1983 was not only a red-letter day for PAF but also the morale booster for the entire nation. After the acquisition of F-16s, PAF involvement in Afghan War became productive. He also instituted a system of annual operational exercises like ‘Exercise Jet Stream’ to improve PAF’s combat posture.
In the field of welfare, he expanded considerably upon the activities of PAFWA, adding two Mujahida Academies aimed at improving the quality of life of PAF personnel and their families. As CAS, he supervised the modernization programme of PAF. Major reforms, intelligence operations, fighter training and strategic programmes were supervised under his command.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of Air Chf Mshl Anwar Shamim as CAS was the professional and courageous response posed by PAF to an imminent threat of an Israeli Air Force attack on Pakistan to destroy Kahuta (Atomic Research Facility). The attack was planned in collaboration with IAF. Shamim acted swiftly and placed PAF on high alert with alert level 7. PAF jets began to fly sorties; were equipped with missiles on regular basis and a counter operation code name Operation Sentinel was launched. PAF adopted aggressive posture and took effective measures to thwart an impending Israeli Air Force attack. Panicked and surprised, Israel Air Force cancelled its strike mission. Air Chf Mshl Anwar Shamim’s well-orchestrated quick response and supreme tactics thus averted an Indo-Israeli misadventure.
Air Chf Mshl Anwar Shamim was a highly decorated officer of PAF, whose contributions were acknowledged both at national and international levels. Besides SJ, he was also the proud recipient of NI (M), HI (M), and SI (M). His foreign decorations included Al Istiqlal from Royal Jordanian Government and Legion of Merit from the United States of America.
Family Details: Air Chf Mshl Anwar Shamim got married in Jul 1958. His wife, Begum Tahira Shamim, was an active social worker and President of PAF Women’s Association, with a professional dedication to welfare work, spanning twenty-five years. She is a poet and has authored four books on Urdu poetry. The couple was blessed with three children. Farah and Sakiba born in 1960 and 1962 respectively are attorneys and Asad born in 1966 is a computer engineer.
Sad Demise: Air Chf Mshl Muhammad Anwar Shamim breathed his last on 4 Jan 2013 after prolonged illness. He was buried with full military honours at H-11 graveyard in Islamabad on 5 Jan 2013.
Air Chf Mshl Anwar Shamim was a fighter leader of a high calibre. It requires knowledge, regular study, high professional skills, and leadership qualities like integrity, tact, composure, persistence, and patience to be accepted as a leader of top-notch professionals. He surely was endowed with all these qualities.