Air Marshall Mohammad Asghar Khan (1921- ) First Pakistani Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Air Force (1957-65 )
Asghar Khan was born on January 17, 1921. He is Pakistan’s veteran aviation historian, peace activist, and retired military figure; a three star air marshal who served as the first non-white commander in chief of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) from 1957 until resigning in 1965, prior to the start of the air operations of the PAF during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
Early life and World War II
Mohammad Asghar Khan was born in Jammu, Kashmir and Jammu (princely state) in British Indian Empire on 17 January 1921. His father was Brigadier Thakur Rahmatullah Khan, an officer of the Jammu & Kashmir State Forces. He and all his brothers, except one, later joined the armed forces of Pakistan.
After attending the Aitchison College at Lahore, he obtained a place at the Prince of Wales’s Royal Indian Military College in 1933, and joined the Indian Military Academy in 1939. Initially, Asghar Khan was commissioned into the Indian Army as a Second Lieutenant, starting his active duty from the Royal Deccan Horse in December 1940. However this was short-lived, as he was attached to the newly established Indian Air Force in 1940, joining the No. 9 Squadron of the Indian Air Force. In 1944, Asghar Khan assumed the command his unit and commanded the aerial missions of No. 9 Squadron in Burma. He took active participation in Burma Campaign 1944–1945, directing and commanding aerial operations against the Imperial Japan.
After World War II, he was sent to United Kingdom where he joined the RAF Staff College at Bracknell, and completed a staff course. Later, he joined the Joint Service Defence College where he gained B.Sc. in military ethics after submitting his thesis on actions involving the Joint Services. He conducted his post-graduate research and studies from Imperial Defence College where he was awarded M.Sc. in Military administration by the college faculty.
Upon his return, Asghar Khan was most-senior officer in the Royal Indian Air Force. He was also the first Royal Indian Air Force officer to fly a jet fighter aircraft—a Gloster Meteor— whilst doing a fighter leader’s course in UK in 1946
- He became first commandant of Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1947
- First to head the Directorate-General for Air Operations (DGAO) in 1950.
- In 1957, he became the youngest to-date and first non-white Air Force commander-in-chief of PAF.
His tenure as air chief saw the extensive modernization of the PAF, in both technical and military equipment, and after resigning in 1965, he was not consulted by President Ayub Khan prior to launch of Operation Gibraltar. On retirement from the air force, Asghar Khan became president of the civilian national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which he led until 1968.
C-in-C Asghar Khan awarding Gliding wings to Safi Mustafa* 356 Tempest House, PAF Public School Sargodha 1961(?)
*Flight Lt. Syed Safi Mustafa, (martyred), Sitara Jurat, East Pakistan,1971
Personal life: Asghar Khan was married to Ms. Amina Shamsie in 1946 and they had five children, Nasreen, Shereen, Saira, Omar (deceased) and Ali Asghar Khan. He has also authored 13 books, among them:
- (1969) Khan, Asghar. Pakistan at the Cross Roads. Karachi: Ferozsons. OCLC 116825.
- (1979). The First Round, Indo-Pakistan War 1965. Sahibabad: Vikas. ISBN 0-7069-0978-X.
- (1983). Generals in Politics. New Delhi: Vikas. ISBN 0-7069-2215-8.
- (1985). The Lighter side of the Power Game. Lahore: Jang Publishers. OCLC 15107608.
- (2005). We’ve Learnt Nothing from History. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-597883-8.
- (2008). My Political Struggle. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-547620-0.
- (2009). Milestones in a Political Journey. Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694963556.
- Khan, Ashghar (1985). Sada-i-Hosh (in Urdu). Lahore: Jang Publishers. OCLC 14214332.
- (1998). Chehray nahi Nizam ko Badlo (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960401.
- (1999). Islam – Jamhooriat aur Pakistan (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960852.
- (1999). Ye Batain Hakim Logon Ki (in Urdu). Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-9694960876.
Founding Independence Movement: after leaving the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Asghar Khan criticized and blamed President Ayub Khan and Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for the 1965 war with India, and later, he turned the criticism towards General Yahya Khan for the 1971 debacle, which resulted in the breakup of Pakistan; Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League had won the election, but had not been allowed to form the government. In protest in January 1969, Asghar Khan relinquished awards of ‘Hilal-i-Pakistan’ and ‘Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam’ against repressive policies of Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
During the Bangladesh war of secession, Asghar Khan did support East-Pakistanis (Bengalis) morally, alleging that West-Pakistan under Bhutto had deprived them from their political and economic rights. He also demanded power to be handed over to the people of East Pakistan. In 1972, after Bhutto was made president, Asghar Khan accused Bhutto for the break-up, later noting that:
“We are living virtually under one party state…. The outstanding feature is suppression.
In 1970, Asghar Khan founded the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal, initially a centrist secular party. He criticized Bhutto on numerous occasions, holding him responsible for tyranny during the 1970 elections. However, he, and his party failed to score any big hits during the 1970 parliamentary elections, failing to secure any seats in the parliament.
Peace activism: Besides political activism, Asghar Khan has been engaged in peace activism. On various occasion, he called for normalization of Indo-Pakistan relations. He also renounced the nuclear tests operations conducted by Pakistan, targeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif move for making that move. In 2011 he maintained that:
In the last over 60 years, India has never attacked Pakistan, as it cannot afford it. Indians know well, if Pakistan is destroyed, they will be the next target… It was made our problem that one day India would invade us. But we did so four times and the first attack was on Kashmir, where Maharaja was not prepared to accede to India for he wanted to join Pakistan and waited for this for 21 days. Indian forces came to East-Pakistan when people were being slaughtered there. Moreover, again at Kargil, Indian never mounted an assault…
Asghar Khan also blamed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for Balochistan conflict and the East-Pakistan war, terming it: “inflexible attitude” of Bhutto. Commenting of his political collapse, Asghar Khan accused the civil society for his failure, and marked that: “the majority in Pakistan voted for the (corrupt) politicians, as they also wanted their job done by “hook or by crook.”
He was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and conferred with the Gold Medal by the Human Rights Commission and Jinnah Award by the Jinnah Society for the cause of democracy. After years of founding the Independence Movement, Asghar Khan merged his party with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, in January 2012.
Activism in national politics–Tehrik-e-Istiqlal: During Bhutto’s rule from 1971 to 1977, Air Marshal Asghar Khan played a major role in opposition to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. During the 1977 elections, he allied his party, the Tehreek-i-Istiqlal with the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against the People’s Party. It was during this period that he and his party faced frequent attacks by Pakistan People’s Party supporters and from the brutal paramilitary Federal Security Force. He was imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat and Sahiwal prisons from March to June 1977.
He contested two seats, one from Karachi and the other from Abbottabad; despite alleged rigging by the PPP, Asghar Khan was elected by a huge margin from both seats. The PNA rejected the election results as rigged and launched a nationwide agitation against them (results). Asghar Khan resigned from both National Assembly seats as a mark of protest against massive rigging in the elections.
Supporting martial law: While imprisoned, Asghar Khan wrote a much-criticized letter to the leadership of Defence Forces, asking them to renounce their support for the “illegal regime of Bhutto”, and asked the military leadership to “differentiate between a “lawful and an unlawful” command… and save Pakistan”. This letter is considered by the historians as instrumental in encouraging the advent of the far-right Zia regime. However in a television show, Asghar Khan strongly defended his letter. According to him “nowhere in the letter had he asked for the military to take over”, and he had written it in response to a news story that he had read in which a army major had shot a civilian showing him the “V sign”. After the overthrow of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government by the military in the summer of 1977, Asghar Khan was offered a cabinet post by General Zia-ul-Haq, which he refused to join, and withdrew from the PNA after a growing split between the various parties.
Political activism: After successfully calling for Bhutto’s “judicial murder”, Asghar Khan decided to take on the far-right regime of General Zia-ul-Haq who had announced general elections in 1979. The Tehrik-e-Istiqlal became the most favorite party and benefited with large number of high-profile civilian political figures, including:
- Nawaz Sharif
- Khurshid Kasuri
- Aitzaz Ahsan
- Rashid Ahmad
- Javed Hashmi
- Akbar Bugti
- Mushahid Hussain
- Nadir Pervez
- Gohar Ayub Khan
- Zafar Ali Shah
- Ahmed Raza Kasuri
- Sher Afgan Niazi
- Manzoor Wattoo
- Syeda Abida Hussain
- Syed Fakhar Imam
and many others. These members left Asghar Khan under Nawaz Sharif who founded the largest conservative party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N). However, at the last moment, General Zia-ul-Haq indefinitely postponed the elections, ordering the arrests of Asghar Khan who remained under house arrest for more than five years.
In 1983, Asghar Khan decided to join the left-wing alliance, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) led by Benazir Bhutto but was detained by the government. He was kept under house arrest at his Abbotabad residence from 16/10/1979 to 2/10/1984, and was named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. With decline in public approval in 1986, Asghar Khan left the MRD, as a result of which many of the Tehrik’s members resigned in protest. He boycotted the non-partisan elections held in 1985. However, Asghar Khan and his party took full part in 1988 parliamentary elections. But this time, he was accused by Pakistan Peoples Party for having called for Bhutto’s death sentence and the martial law, which Asghar Khan failed to justify.
His party members disintegrated and allied with conservative Nawaz Sharif, a major setback for his career. His public rating plummeted and he faced complete annihilation in 1988 elections. He conceded defeat but again contested in the 1990 parliamentary elections from Lahore. He was once again defeated. Briefly retiring from active politics in the late 1990s, his party faced another one of its many splits. Since 1990, Asghar Khan has not held a significant position in politics.
Collapse and merging with Pakistan Movement for Justice: As he grew older, he handed over his small party to his equally capable son Omar Asghar Khan, who had for a while joined the military government of General Pervaiz Musharraf, and became minister of Ministry of Environment. After his son’s resignation from the cabinet, he (son Omer) took over Tehrik-e-Istiqlal and subsequently merged it with assorted other non-governmental organization and formed a new party called National Democratic Party, an event which caused another split in the party. Both Independence Movement and National Democratic Party suffered major shock and setback when Omar Asghar Khan was murdered in Karachi on 25/6/2001 prior to the elections. An inquiry into his death was ordered b y the Sindh High Court and despite repeated requests, it was never started.
In a historic press conference on 12/12/2011, Asghar Khan announced his full support to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Imran Khan. He praised Imran Khan for his struggle and endorsed him as the only hope left for the survival of Pakistan. This endorsement came at a crucial time for Imran Khan, when many tainted politicians were joining his party. After announcing his party’s support for PTI, Asghar Khan resigned as President of Tehreek-e-Istiqlal and left the future of his party in the hands of his workers. Contrary to many media reports, Asghar Khan never joined PTI.
Asghar Khan اصغر خان
|Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Air Force||In office: 23 July 1957 – 22 July 1965|
|Presidents||Iskander Mirza; Ayub Khan|
|Preceded by||AVM Arthur McDonald|
|Succeeded by||Air Marshal Nur Khan|
|President of Pakistan International Airlines||In office: 20 August 1965 – 31 November 1968|
Chairman of the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal
|In office: 29 June 1970 – 12 December 2011; merged with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf|
|Preceded by||Office created|
|Succeeded by||Imran Khan|
|Born||Mohammad Asghar Khan
17 January 1921 (age 95) Jammu, Kashmir, British Indian Empire
|Citizenship||British Subject (1921-1947)
|Political party||Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf|
|Children||Nasreen Asghar Khan
Shereen Asghar Khan Omar Asghar Khan
|Alma mater||Royal Air Force College
Indian Military Academy
|Service/branch||Royal Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
|Years of service||1940-1965|
|Rank||Air Marshal (Lieutenant-General|
|Unit||No. 9 Squadron Griffins|
|Commands||Pakistan Air Force Academy
No. 1 Stryker Group, Peshawar AFB Directorate-General for the Air Operations (DGAO)
|Battles/Wars||World War II; British War in Burma; Indo-Pakistani War of 1947|
|Courtesy of Wikipedia.org|