Pilot officer Rashid Minhas (shaheed), Nishan-e-Haider
Rashid Minhas was born in Karachi, at the P.A.F(Pakistan Air Force) hospital on 17 The month of january ,1951 being the newest of all, born after three sisters and two brothers. This young hero who always glow above. From his beginning he revealed maturation and liability towards his nation . In youthful daily life he used to study guides about the excellent men like Winston Churchill and Abrahim Lincoln subsequently. But most of the guides he study were about Conflicts particularly air-warfare. His most popular was Nevil Shute.
He dedicated two three a long time day-to-day, to his exercising. Being an excellent college scholar throughout, he properly secured first location in Mature Arlington, F.S.C and B.Sc. It was the twentieth May 1971, Rashid Minhas was all prepared for his first, but unfortunately the last trip.
Early life and education
He was born to a family that had settled in Gurdaspur from Jammu and Kashmir. After the creation of Pakistan, the family migrated there and lived near Sialkot. Minhas spent his early childhood in Lahore. Later, the family shifted to Rawalpindi. Minhas had his early education from St Mary’s Cambridge School Rawalpindi. Later his family shifted to Karachi. Minhas was fascinated with aviation history and technology. He used to collect different models of aircraft and jets. He studied from Saint Mary’s Cambridge School, Murree Road, Rawalpindi and completed his O Levels at the age of 16. He also attended St Patrick’s High School, Karachi and then attended Karachi University where he studied military history and aviation history.
Having joined the air force, Minhas was commissioned on March 13, 1971, in the 51st GD(P) Course. He began training to become a pilot. On August 20 of that year, in the hour before noon, he was getting ready to take off in a T-33 jet trainer in Karachi, his second solo flight in that type of aircraft. Minhas was taxiing toward the runway when a Bengali instructor pilot, Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman, signalled him to stop and then climbed into the instructor’s seat. The jet took off and turned toward India.
Minhas radioed PAF Base Masroor with the message that he was being hijacked. The air controller requested that he resend his message, and he confirmed the hijacking. Later investigation showed that Rahman intended to defect to India to join his compatriots in the Bangladesh Liberation War, along with the jet trainer. In the air, Minhas struggled physically to wrest control from Rahman; each man tried to overpower the other through the mechanically linked flight controls. Some 32 miles (51 km) from the Indian border, the jet crashed near Thatta. Both men were killed.
Minhas was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s top military honour, the Nishan-E-Haider, and became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to win the award. Similarly, Rahman was honoured by Bangladesh with their highest military award, the Bir Sreshtho.
Minhas’s Pakistan military citation for the Nishan-E-Haider states that he “forced the aircraft to crash” in order to prevent Rahman from taking the jet to India. This is the official, popular and widely known version of how Minhas died. Yawar A. Mazhar, a writer for Pakistan Military Consortium, relayed in 2004 that he spoke to retired PAF Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry about Minhas, and that he learned more details not generally known to the public. According to Mazhar, Chaudhry lead the immediate task of investigating the wreckage and writing the accident report. Chaudhry told Mazhar that he found the jet had hit the ground nose first, instantly killing Minhas in the front seat. Rahman’s body, however, was not in the jet and the canopy was missing. Chaudhry searched the area and saw Rahman’s body some distance behind the jet, the body found with severe abrasions from hitting the sand at a low angle and a high speed. Chaudhry thought that Minhas probably jettisoned the canopy at low altitude causing Rahman to be thrown from the cockpit because he was not strapped in. Chaudhry felt that the jet was too close to the ground at that time, too far out of control for Minhas to be able to prevent the crash.
After his death, Minhas was honoured as a national hero. In his memory the Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra was renamed PAF Base Minhas, often called Minhas-Kamra. In Karachi he was honoured by the naming of a main road, Rashid Minhas Road ,A two-rupee postage stamp bearing his image was issued by Pakistan Post in December 2003; 500,000 were printed.
Rashid Minhas Story
A few months back I had the opportunity along with a friend to spend an evening with Group Captain (R) Cecil Chaudry. Obviously the time was spent discussing his experiences. As it turned out Cecil was responsible for investigating the Rashid Minhas crash back in 1971 and told us a some details which are not known publicly.
The episode has become controversial over the past few decades with some people claiming that the Nishan-e-Haider award was politically motivated and perhaps the young Pilot Officer never deserved it. Also the media and school books information/portrayal of this episode has created some factual distortions. In the interest of history I am reproducing here substantially what Cecil told me about the incident. Obviously given that this discussion took place quite sometime back I do not remember his narration word to word but am reproducing the essential information. Also, I do not claim to have done any independent investigation but I believe that Cecil’s narration of events is an important input.
Now coming to the story,
It is important to remember that Rashid Minhas was a very young and inexperienced pilot. The crash took place during his second solo flight on T-33 aircraft. In the run up to the 1971 crisis the PAF had grounded all East Pakistani pilots in PAF and had assigned them ground jobs. As part of this Flt Lt Mati ur Rehman was made the Deputy flight safety officer of the base. The Flight Safety Officer was Flt Lt Basit (if I remember the name correctly).
Flt Lt Basit as FSO used to on occasions do surprise checks on the OCU students at the base. As part of this he used to stop these students while they were taxing out on a sortie and check if they had correctly stowed equipment in the cockpit or would query them on emergency checklists etc. As one would expect the student would get reprimanded if he was found wanting on any of this.
On the day of the crash when Rashid Minhas was taxing out on a dusk training sortie and saw Flt Lt Mati ur Rehman (Deputy Flight safety officer) signalling him to stop he naturally assumed that the purpose was to do a similar check. Therefore, he not only stopped but his attention shifted to the cockpit. This allowed Flt Lt Mati ur Rehman to enter the instructor seat and initiate roll for take off. By the time Rashid Minhas realized this the aircraft was well into the take off sequence. On this Rashid gave a call to the ATC saying that the aircraft is being hijacked. Now this was 1971, aircraft hijacking was not considered an imminent possibility that too in Pakistan and at an air force base. The ATC requested confirmation of the call and got one from Rashid. On this fighters on ADA were scrambled to intercept the aircraft Again as hostilities were not imminent at that time the fighters were not at the highest ADA level (I forget exactly the ADA level Cecil mentioned but I think that it was 10 minutes). However given that Mati ur Rehman knew where the Radar gaps were (being till recently an active pilot) and the dusk conditions an interception was not made.
No further information became available till late at night when the PAF base got a call from a police station near the Indian border stating that an aircraft had crashed near a village bordering India. Next morning a team was dispatched to the crash site. Following this an investigation into the incident was launched.
Now coming to the factors that led Cecil to believe that a struggle for control took place and the crash was perhaps intentional.
As the aircraft overflew a number of villages some eyewitnesses were available. According to them the aircraft was not flying straight and level but was banking or pitching up and down. If Mati ur Rehman had been in complete control of the aircraft this would have resulted in a straight and level flight. Only a struggle resulted in an erratic flight with probably Rashid Minhas trying to control the aircraft in one way and Mati ur Rehman counter acting.
Fl Lt Mati ur Rehman’s body was found some distance before the crash site while Rashid Minhas body was at the crash site, had gone through the instrument panel and in the nose of the aircraft. The aircraft had crashed nose first. Mati ur Rehman’s body also had a sand blasting type effect on one side which indicated that he was blown off from the aircraft and dragged quite a bit on the desert surface.
This evidence linked in with the earlier events. The manner in which Mati ur Rehman took over the aircraft did not allow him time to strap on. During the likely struggle for aircraft control he used his greater experience to counter Rashid’s efforts. Also he was sitting on the instructor’s seat and could over ride some of Rashid Minhas’s actions. However, the option to jettison off the canopy in an emergency was available with both pilots. Near the point of crash Rahid Minhas in his efforts, either intentionally or accidentally, jettisoned the canopy. As Mati ur Rehman was not strapped on he was blown off explaining the way his body was injured and the fact that it was found before the crash site.
This resulted in sudden force on the controls of the aircraft in one direction, as force applied by Mati ur Rehman to control the aircraft was removed. This along with perhaps the effect caused by the loss of canopy, low level and Rashid Minhas’s inexperience resulted in the crash of the aircraft.
I hope this clarifies some of the issues regarding this incident. Personally I would like to get hold of the PAF‘ official investigation report into the incident which should be more detailed and should also shed more light into the incident.
Rashid Minhas Shaheed Pictures