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The icon, a legend, Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s eternal flight

Birth and death are indelible certainties, preordained by Almighty Allah. It is the interregnum which lays open the bounties and opportunities for everyone to explore. The achievers choose challenging mission as raison d'être in life, and pursue their dream 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 stature of leadership rather than 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 trailblazing 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 he surveyed.

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-i-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-i-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 (Meteor with RAF), captained the first mission into Kashmir in a lumbering Dakota against IAF agile Tempest fighters, and propelled the PAF from a rudimentary air force to the firmament of best air force in the world.

Within 18 months as the youngest C-in-C in the world, at ripe age of 36 years, the PAF under his stewardship created world military aviation record by Formation Aerobatics with 16 aircraft performing loop in front of King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan and a massive crow watching in awe n some defence diplomats in shock. Soon after on Eid-ul-Fitr day as the Muslims were in supplication, an Indian spy bomber violated Pakistan’s air frontiers.

The early air defence system effectiveness created as his priority policy 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 Indian pilot and navigator were taken in custody.

Such was the verve, moral high and the professional excellence spawned by AM Asghar Khan, by all 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 in weeks Burt kept the Air Force C-in-C in dark. But he had honed his successor well and the war was lead by the next best, the intrepid AM Nur khan. Rest is glorious history of PAF performance.

Today, the formidable performance of PAF in Zarb-e-Azb and continues with ferocity and velocity that has rattled the rafters of not only the beasts of terror, but a signal to the perpetual adversary India, to check before takeoff, return is not a choice. The PAF today, and in foreseeable future, will continue building stronger edifice of operational formidability on the foundations laid by AM Asghar Khan with steel and mortar and blood, sweat and tears of the pioneering cavalcades who joined the saga of courage, passion for fulfilling the mission resonating to this day ordained by the Quaid-i-Azam's "the PAF to be second to none”.

He stood apart in his unmatched achievements which are things beyond the pale of Guinness book of records. He followed the beacon which was legacy of the Quaid-i-Azam and performed even beyond the raison d'être ordained by the Father of the Nation for the Pakistan Air Force “To be Second to None". (The writer is a subordinate, an admirer and protégé of late Asghar Khan)

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