Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Search of Rashid Minhas (1)

Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas, the youngest recipient of the Nishan-i-Haider medal, died in action on August 20, 1970. The exact circumstances remain a mystery but it can be said reliably that Rashid was taxiing for his third solo flight in T-33 aircraft when his flight instructor Matiurrahman got into the rear cockpit. Mati was from East Pakistan and had been grounded as a precaution in those tension-ridden days. Soon after the takeoff, Rashid sent message to the control tower, “1-6-6 hijacked.” Apparently, the instructor was diverting the plane towards India. Rashid was able to repeat the same line a few more times before fading out from the radar.

His aircraft was later found crashed 32 miles from the Indian border. His family was informed and he was buried with honor in the PAF cemetery in Karachi (off Sharea-e-Faisal).

It was determined through the examination of the wreckage that in order to prevent the hijack, “Rashid Minhas tried to regain control of his aircraft, but finding this to be impossible in the face of the superior skill and experience of his instructor, forced the aircraft to crash.” Nine days after the incident, he was awarded the highest military honor.

The nation heard about him only after he was gone. There was no footage of him from life, nor any voice recording (except that “1-6-6 hijacked”). Yet, his charisma outshines celebrities. I also fell captive to it in 1985.

I was a teenager then. I got intrigued by a story in the English weekly MAG, where it was mentioned that Rashid was fond of playing gramophone records of Western music at loud volume whenever he came home on vacation.

That was not the profile of a suicidal martyr. I found and read everything which I could find about him but I wasn’t satiated: the intrigue was increased. The face of the sophisticated Rashid, his mild looks and gentle gaze kept haunting me. Excerpts from his diary, also printed in the magazine, incensed my curiosity even further: quotations from warriors of WWII, a rather decent attempt at writing a poem by himself and – well, I discovered that Rashid and I had a favorite author in common: Allama Iqbal. He had copied an excerpt from The Rose Garden of Mystery, the English translation of Iqbal’s ‘Gulshan-i-Raz Jadeed,’ which I had not read by that time (I was still struggling with the original Persian of Asrar-o-Rumooz).

Now I am amazed to see that Rashid had chosen precisely the lines which suited the end of his story – the end which he could not have foreseen. The gist was that we are like a short-lived spark but it is not our lot to end up in smoke. We can pierce the heart of this universe and become immortal.

Destiny? Yes, destiny was the most oft-repeated theme in the few quotes printed in the magazine. “Destiny too plays a part,” Rashid had quoted from a Japanese pilot and, well, it did play a part. I’m not referring to his life, for we already know about that. I am talking about mine. Soon afterwards, I found myself visiting the house where Rashid had lived. I gained unrestrained access to all his private papers, his letters, diaries, and the entire collection of his books. I found the answers. I now realize that in all these twenty-three years I have hardly shared them with anyone. I will now. See next issue.


  1. it was really a touching article.

  2. Like you Khurram Sahib, my childhood hero is Rashid Minhas, but unlike you I was not able to explore his life which shaped his destiny. I am very curiously waiting for the next blog. Your writings as always has a potent message and an imagery akin to poetry and a painting.

  3. Unfortunately our so called leaders failed (and even present leaders) lacked foresight and far reaching consequesce of the events that precipitated 1971 crisis. Why could not they realized the obvious outcome of the situation that befell the nation. A casual look clearly was evident that half of the army ( east Pakistanis) were disarmed (were they prisoners of war) and the majority of the East Pakistani population were indiscriminately subjected to suffer ruthlessly by the occupying forces of West Pakistan (imagine the mode of thinking). The whole world knew the final outcome of the situation except the great LEADERS (if they were leaders at all)and the end result was embarassingly disastrous for the occupying forces. Many Rashid Minhases were made to loose their lives unnecessarily for a fruitless cause. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided by the foresight and equitable means. I could write a book on the mental level of the so called planners and the decision makers of the time but that will not wash the indelible disgrace they inflicted on the nation. Quoting Iqbal:

    Waay nakami mataay karwan jata raha,
    Aur karwan ke dil sey ihsasey zian jata raha.

    And after the tragic outcome, many of the sages (so called) turned around and justified the severence of eastern half of the country as natural. And a Joker (Bhutto) and the self-appointed Field Marshal witnessed the results of their hard planned Nation Building programs, prior to their own demise. What a foresight they had? And the hard cored and confused elders,who witnessed the creation of Pakistan were emotionally finished and thousands of them kicked the bucket within two years after the tragedy. The intellectuals, I know were trying to solace the shocked nation with their own half-baked philosophical justification. Here again Iqbal warned them with his prophetic verse:

    Ab nawa para hai kiuun gulshan hua barham teer,
    Bey mahal teera tarrunam, nagma bey mausam teera.

    And clincher diagonosis that ails the Islamic Ummah is: BRAIN DAMAGE that is transferred from generation to generation. Period.

    CURE: The present generation of Pakistan is getting much more aware of the impending problems and will not tolerate the HONEY MOON of their leaders to dishonor and humiliate their beloved Pakistan. Inshallah

  4. As I pass the cage of my small blue and green parakeet, I constantly consider a large cage I want to thrill him with soon. Recently I was reminded by behavior of a friends' bird, that sometimes small creatures prefer the familiar places rather than to hear the beat of time and the music of our era and venture out to accomplish a particular work - (to do the will of Allah) within our small lifetime.

    I just finished listening to US president and former Vice President speak on their apparently diverse views on approach to "terrorism" without reference to the "terrorism" to which the US has been accomplice.

    The US president spoke in much more principled terms than the former vice-president ( for a transcript URL & notes) yet we must continue to watch and compare comments on actual carry through.

    Unfortunately for both/all who find justification of the same trends for continuing or expanding wars - Common War Mentality is like the fears of a bird in a small cage afraid to go out of the small places in order to truly fly.

    I applaud Khurram for following the unmistakable leading of the Spirit - of Allah - by exploring and now offering such a gift. Such blessed offerings will surely have more impact on peace and ultimate security than all the warring armies and militants in the world.

    This has been and will be by inevitable Design.

  5. Ali, Wasim, Dreamer and Connie, thank you all for your encouraging responses. I also wish to thank all who emailed me about this post. I shall try to make the sequels just as interesting.

  6. One thing which I found misterious about Rashid is his interest in Iqbal's works. That makes me really curious about reading what he wrote. I hope your next issue satisfies my curiosity.

  7. Im on to it
    waiting for next episode

  8. Rehan and the most intelligent Duffer, thanks. Rehan's curiosity has now been met in the third post in the series. Duffer's encouragement is good for me, since I also admire his robust humor which some readers may find outlandish but I do strongly recommend that you click on his name as it appears with his comment, and see where it leads (warning: the resultant page will be in Urdu)!

  9. Wow! He's rightly The most Intelligent Duffer !!

  10. The school in which I studdied were near to services grave yard being a student of class 5 I with my friend often goes and offered fateh at Rashid grave,I cant explain the feeling for this hero,and obviously committed to join PAF as GDP,I think its every boy story who has passion for flying and knows what happened on 20th aug 1971.but there are some serious questions ,How that bengali manage that? when directives had sent to all bases,Oc,FLU,and commomn sense why let him to do the job of FSO,first heli reach after 24 h0urs,tillnight 11pm IT was assumed that A/C reached india and AIR will announce this it was interior sindh police station ,informed mauripur ps and they informed PAF.I dont know if any inquiry about those possibly responsible everdone and the result of such inquiry.

  11. I haven't read any past comments on this page so I don't know If I might be repeating a question and I apologize for it.
    I just had this question for the past few days in mind (since recently I've come to know so much about the Shaheed pilot).

    Why did the West Pakistanis gave a bangali pilot a flying instructor job (no offense to bangali people) when they were already restricted to fly the aircraft. West Pakistanis should've had some instincts about this type of mishap (I am talking about the hijeck). I mean, worse comes to worse, he was working among many inexperienced pilots. I am sorry but it seems like he was given a full chance to attack in any way anytime.

  12. Mistakes in my last post: I mean *hijack and *worse comes to worst

  13. Fareeha, thanks.

    Matiur Rehman had been grounded before this incident. He was still an instructor but had been relieved of flying duties.