In September, for a few days, Pakistan’s atmosphere is charged with gaiety and nationalistic fervour. 7th September is celebrated as the Pakistan Air Force day remembering the sacrifices of its heroes. It is a time to honour, remember and marvel the accomplishments of people who were true nationalists. This writing space is dedicated to those giants of Pakistan Air force who didn’t share the majority religion but shared the love of our country and served it alongside us. Most in our new generations don’t know that non-Muslims have contributed immensely to the development of Pakistan’s Armed Forces. Peter Christy and Cecil Chaudhry are cases in point I grew up in an Air Force family and then went on to join the Air force as a commissioned officer. My childhood was in Zia’s Pakistan. It was a time when faith had invaded everyday life from Television to school text books. Even at that time – to the credit of Pakistan Air Force’s tradition of honouring and remembering its people – we grew up with heroes who were larger than life. Heroes whose valour, commitment and nationalism transcended the boundaries of religion, caste and creed. Heroes like MM Alam, Cecil Chaudhary, Rashid Minhas, Peter Christy, Sarfraz Ahmed Rafiqui, Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat and so many others. Not only were we in awe of MM Alam’s flying ace, we were equally enamoured by Peter Christy’s exemplary courage and Cecil Chaudhary’s outstanding military and civil career. Most of the new generation does not know that non-Muslims contributed immensely to the development of armed forces in Pakistan. A probe into the celebrated officer’s particulars after partition is a revelation. Pakistan’s pioneer armed forces included a beautiful mix of Christian, Hindu and Muslim officers. The induction of non-Muslim citizens as well as our societal tolerance for difference dried out after the late 70s. However, the induction has increased after the year 2000 with some Hindus, Christians and Sikhs joining the armed forces. Sustainable states evolve out of toil and love of its initial labourers. For Pakistan Air force, it was the Christian and Hindu officers who helped to build the air force into a formidable force. A number of Christians and Hindus have fought side by side to defend Pakistan. However, many are not remembered today. We lost their narratives along the disillusioned journey to define ourselves through religion. Like our text books that portray foreign usurpers as our saviours, our history books have left out the natives who were non-Muslims. After Partition, Pakistan Air Force had been more inclusive of the non-Muslim citizens especially Christians and Hindus. Many of them gave valuable service and were founding members of today’s strong and efficient Pakistan Air Force. Some notable contributions are: Air Vice Marshal Eric Gordan Hall was the first chairman of Pakistan’s atomic energy commission and Vice Chief of Air Staff. He was the pioneered PAF’s improvised airpower by introducing the cargo plane C-130 for bombing at Rann of Kutch. He was awarded the Hilal-e-Jurrat, Hilal-e-Imtiaz (military), and Sitara-e-Jurrat for his bravery and services. Air Commodore Balwant Kumar was the only senior Hindu officer to fight in 1948 and 1965 wars. We do not remember him and his legacy is presumablylost. He is not mentioned as a part of defencemedia campaigns. Media campaigns should encourage our marginalised Hindu community to be part of our mutual national identity. Air Commodore Wladyslaw Józef Marian Turowicz was a prominent and noted Polish Pakistani military scientist and aeronautical engineer. He is considered as one of the chief architects of the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan’s space program. Group Captain Cecil Chaudhary, who passed away a few years ago, received Sitara-e-Jurat (1965), Tamgha-i-Jurat (1971) and President’s Pride of Pride of Performance (2013). He is the only non-Muslim Pakistani to receive these all three awards. Cecil Chaudhary’s legacy continues in the form of The Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF), run by his daughter to combat religious extremism. Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat was a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot who participated in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani wars, before being shot down on 12 December 1971. Declared missing in action, he was posthumously awarded a Bar to the Sitara-i-Jurat. He fought for Jordon during the six-day Arab-Israel war and upon his death King of Jordan requested him to be buried along with Jordon Flag along with the Pakistani flag. Squadron Leader Peter Christy was a football enthusiast and a valiant pilot who fought during the war in 1965 and then 1971. He embraced martyrdom while on a mission in 1971 and was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat. These heroes are examples that need to be retold so that the minorities are recognised as pivotal in Pakistan’s nation making in the past and today. Minorities should be encouraged to become part of armed forces as well as all integral facets of Pakistan’s society. Lip service cannot improve the minority’s status or calm their insecurities. It is the opportunity to participate and engage more that may reduce the prejudice harboured by certain sections of society. We do not need Muslim heroes as much as we need Pakistani heroes. By standing on the shoulders of these giants, we may be able to envisage a tolerant future for Pakistan. The writer is a policy practitioner, an Oxford public policy alumnus and Oxford Global leadership initiative fellow Published in Daily Times, September 8th 2017.