ISLAMABAD : The Pakistani nation on Monday marked the 47th martyrdom anniversary of its ‘National Hero’ Rashid Minhas.
Born on February 17 1951, Rashid Minhas remains the youngest officer to receive the Nishan-e-Haider award and was the first recipient of the highest honour of gallantry for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
He got his early education from Karachi and upon reaching the tender age of 17, he joined Pakistan Air Force Academy in Risalpur as a Flying Cadet. In 1971, Rashid graduated from the academy as a general duty pilot and was posted to PAF base Masroor in Karachi’s Mauripur area to hone his skills as a fighter pilot.
On August 20, 1971, as a pilot still under training, Rashid was taxing out a T-33 Jet trainer for take-off, when a Bengali pilot instructor, Flight Lieutenant Mataur Rahman, forced his way into the rear cockpit. In mid-air Rahman knocked Minhas out, seized control of the aircraft and headed towards India.
With just 40 miles of Pakistan territory remaining, Rashid regained consciousness and tried to regain control of his aircraft. Failing to do so, he did the only thing within his control to prevent the aircraft from being taken to India — he forced that plane to crash just 32 miles from the Indian border, deliberately sacrificing his life for the honour of Pakistan.
Rashid was laid to rest on August 21, 1971 with full military honours. The young trainee pilot’s entire family attended the funeral, along with senior PAF and other Armed Forces personnel.
Rashid was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s top military honour the Nishan-i-Haider announced by then president General Yahya Khan. He became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to win the award.