Islamabad: The daughter of the pilot of an Indian civilian aircraft shot down during the 1965 war has accepted the apology of a Pakistan Air Force pilot who downed the plane and expressed the hope that such steps would "heal wounds" in both countries.
    
Qais Hussain, the PAF pilot who shot down the Beechcraft piloted by distinguished ex-Indian Air Force officer Jehangir Engineer, had sent an email to Engineer's daughter Farida Singh on August 5, apologising for the ac.

Singh responded to Hussain's missive five days later, saying in her email: "It took courage for you to write this."

She further said she knew that Hussain's gesture "was not an easy thing for you to do."
    
"However, I am glad that it is now public as it can do nothing but heal wounds, not just on a personal scale but in a much wider arena. And most of all, my father would have liked that it goes towards bringing a spark of forgiveness between our two peoples, who after all were one," Singh wrote in her email to Hussain.
   
Fresh information that has come to light about the incident which occurred on September 19, 1965 suggests that PAF officials could have mistaken the Beechcraft for a C-119 Packet transport aircraft of the IAF.
    
Acting on the orders of a ground controller, Hussain, a rookie pilot flying an F-86 Sabre jet, shot down the civilian aircraft piloted by Engineer and carrying then Gujarat Chief Minister Balwantrai Mehta.
    
The Chief Minister's wife Sarojben Mehta, three members of his personal staff, a crew member and a reporter were also killed in the incident.

Hussain told a news agency that he had written to Singh as he wanted to explain his actions and convey his condolences to the families of those who died in an act that occurred "in the confusion of war."
    
Singh said in her response to Hussain that the shooting down of her father's aircraft was "the one incident which defined" the lives of her family.
    
"But in all the struggles that followed, we never, not for one moment, bore bitterness or hatred for the person who actually pulled the trigger and caused my father's death," she wrote.
    
"The fact that this all happened in the confusion of a tragic war was never lost to us. We are all pawns in this terrible game of war and peace," she added.
    
Referring to her father's "generosity of spirit and his intuitive understanding of the pain of others," Singh wrote: "Hence it is now easy for me to reach out my hand to receive your message. This incident is indeed a prime example of what damage strife and mindless battles can drive even good men to do."
    
Hussain was spurred to act after a Pakistani military aviation buff, Air Commodore (retired) Kaiser Tufail, researched the incident and wrote an article on it in April.

(Agencies)