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An icon, a legend: Air Marshal Asghar Khan takes the eternal flight


January 6, 2018

Birth and death are indelible certainties, pre-ordained by Allah (SWT). It is the interregnum which lays open the bounties and opportunities for every one to explore. The achievers choose challenging missions as raison d’ etre in life, and pursue their dreams through qualitative endeavour, strident determination with incontrovertible honesty, personal example and leading from the front with resolute will to achieve success in their mission. They are anointed with the stature of leadership rather than the mere status of rank as head of an institution, community, or even a nation. Status gets buried with the person in perpetuity. Stature achieved through sterling performance in life leaves behind a blazing trail of legacy and a place in the hereafter.

Yesterday, a trail blazing meteor like light speeded towards the galaxy’s final frontier. It was the soul of one of the greatest sons of this soil, AIr Marshal Mohammad Asghar Khan, the father of Pakistan Air Force, a fighter pilot par excellence, an incomparable Commander in Chief and one who achieved the stature of leadership in the hearts and minds of all those whom he led. His indomitable qualities of vision, courage, integrity, inexorable truthfulness, pristine honesty and resolute dedication to his mission in life as a strict disciplinarian were strident in the pursuit and legacy of Quaid e Azam which he imbibed and lived in the highest traditions of an officer, commander, a leader and a sublime gentleman to his last moments.

What were the indelible achievements which stood this man of sterling character apart from any other in Pakistan’s history after the Quaid e Azam. Was he a falcon, an eagle or an “Ukab”? He was a manifestation of all three.

An outstanding fighter pilot from WW11, the first to fly a fighter jet ( RAF’s Meteor) captained the first mission into Kashmir in a lumbering Dakota against the IAF’s agile Tempest fighters, and propelled the PAF from a rudimentary air force to the firmament of the best air forces in the world, within 18 months as the youngest C-in-C in the world, at ripe age of 36 years. PAF under his stewardship created world military aviation record by a formation aerobatics of 16 aircraft performing loop in front of King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan and a massive crowd watching in awe and holding the defence diplomats on trance.

Soon after, on the day of Eid ul Fitr when the Muslims were in supplication, an Indian spy bomber violated the Pakistan’s air space. The early air defence system effectiveness created as Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s top priority responded with incredible alacrity and a young Flying Officer brought the bomber down at 40,000 feet, way above PAF fighter’s operational capability. Both the Indian pilot and the navigator were taken into custody. Such was the verve, high morale and the professional excellence spawned by Air Marshal Asghar Khan, in all the ranks to perform beyond expectations.

That was the indomitable spirit with which the PAF fought the 1965 War, trained, readied and motivated by Asghar Khan who was allowed to quietly retire in what was an intrigue of national leaders, who were planning war in Kashmir for weeks but kept the Air Force C -in -C in the dark. But he had honed his successors well and the war was lead by the next best, the intrepid Air Marshal Nur khan. Rest is the glorious history of PAF’s performance.

Today, the formidable performance of PAF in Zarb e Azab continues with ferocity and the velocity that has rattled the rafters of not only the beasts of terror, but is a signal to the perpetual adversary India, to check before take off, that “return is not a choice”.

The PAF today, and in the foreseeable future will continue to build stronger edifice of operational formidability on the foundations laid by Air Marshal Asghar Khan with steel and mortar and blood, sweat and tears of the pioneering cavalcade, who joined the saga of courage, passion for fulfilling the mission, resonating to this day, ordained by the Quaid e Azam’s “the PAF to be second to none.”

Asghar Khan stands tall in his unmatched achievements which are things beyond the pale of Guinness book of world records.

He followed the beacon which was the legacy of the Quaid e Azam and performed even beyond the raison d etre ordained by the Father of the Nation for the Pakistan Air Force “ To be Second to None”.