The Unsung living legend- Air Marshal Asghar Khan

By Muqeet Malik Kakazai


Dear Readers! You must have read about the mesmerizing tale of Brigadier Muhammad Aslam khan, and found it intriguing. Now, it is time to pay tribute to his brother, Air Marshal Asghar Khan ascribed as ”Night flyer”. Have you ever pondered over the “Golden era” of Pakistani Aviation Industry? Who made Pakistan Air force,a fighting dragon in Air to Air battle? Did you ever for a moment focus upon the Pakistani Former Air Chief Air Marshal Asghar khan legacy? Did you ever assess the reasons which imbued Pakistan International airline to become one of the world’s top Airlines in the 1960’s? A man of principles, and unbend-able commitment to serve the Air force deserves him a place in the flying heroes of Defence Day. His tenure can be segregated into three broad areas; Pre Partition, Post Partition, and post retirement.
Air Marshal Asghar Khan was born to Brigadier Sardar Rehmatullah Khan, at Jammu Kashmir in 1921. His family Afridi originated from the Tirah valley, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. He became one of the greatest chiefs of Pakistani Air force for all times. He was brought up at Srinagar, and got his education at Atchison College, Lahore. He hailed from a family which endured difficulties of military life as his father was in the Maharaja’s army. Thus, to bond the armed forces certainly ran in his arteries. He began his career from the Wales Royal Military College in 1933, and joined the Indian military academy in 1939. He passed out obtaining his commission on 20th December, 1940. For a few months, he was posted as second lieutenant to Royal Deccan house. Later, he attended a Flying Training School at Walton, in Lahore, followed by three months at the Elementary Flying Training School at Begumpet in Hyderabad; there he learned to fly the Tiger Moth, a small di-plane trainer. After Begumpet he went to Ambala, to fly the Hawker Audax ,also a bi-plane, which was the head aircraft in the Royal Air Force at that time. He would have dearly loved to become a combat pilot but at the time, the size of IAF was frozen, and no new inductions were contemplated. As soon as the avenue opened up, he obtained his transfer to Air force. Thereafter, he got commission in No.3 squadron of British Royal Air force in Peshawar. The dovecots of Hindu dominants went up in flutters. Surprisingly, the war against insurgents in Miran shah was being fought by British Indian army. Thus, as a superior fighter, Squadron leader Asghar khan led the air strikes in to hold back miscreants in Waziristan thus, facilitated ground troops. However, after two years of a successful battle, he was posted to Arakan in burma, where he attested to be one of the most dynamic fighter pilots in World War 2 among the Indians. After two years at Peshawar, Kohat and Miranshah he was posted to No.9 Squadron Indian Air Force, at that time in the Arakan, in Burma. The World war 2 had initiated its final phase, the Japanese Army’s thrust towards India had been checked but it was still active in Burma. The Japanese Air Force had ceased to be a threat in this dynamism though its Army still posed a problem. No.9 Squadron was commanded by Squadron Leader Adams of the Royal Air Force and was divulged into two flights. One was an Indian Flight under Asghar khan’s command and the other Canadian, commanded by Fl. Lt. Gerry Marr of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Squadron was based at various airfields, south of Chittagong on the Arakan coast and later at Akyab and we were employed in bombing and strafing Japanese ground positions. No.9 Squadron continued its role in support of the Army till the end of the War in 1945. Then, Asghar khan took over command of No.9 Squadron, and was moved to Ranchi. Here, he was equipped with Spitfire Aircraft, a more modern combat fighter at that time , and after some time in Ranchi, he moved to Gurgaon near Delhi. After a few months there, he was posted as the Chief Flying Instructor at the Advance Flying Training School at Ambala owing to his professionalism in combat games. He remained there till Partition except for a short interlude in Delhi. Whilst at Dehli, Air Cdr. Janjua and Asghar khan became members of the Armed Force Reconstitution Committee, which was responsible for dividing the assets of the Indian Armed Forces. He is known to be the first fighter jet pilot of Indian Air force flying the Gloster Meteor which he learnt from the Royal Air force College, U.K.
This did not take much time, and it was here, in Delhi, that he had his first meeting with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in November 1946 about which he has proclaimed in his book ‘We have learnt nothing from History’. It was also from here that he went to Karachi for a few days on August 14, 1947 for a meeting with the founder of Pakistan . He arrived in DC 3 (Dakota) Aircraft as his colleagues did not allow him land travel, and even insisted the RAF commander -in-chief to en route his aircraft all the way through Ambala going to Peshawar. Later on,he recalled in his book that he could witness the villages burnt as a result of Hindu-Sikh Joint massacre of Muslims. Furthermore, the train that was carrying the evacuees was attacked, and everyone on board annihilated. Asghar Khan considered himself fluky to have traveled through air. He got back to Delhi on August 15 ,and a few days later to Ambala and was scheduled to leave by train for Lahore on August 23, 1947. Albeit, they came back through a special plane as the conditions around were vulnerable. He, and his family lived in Ambala where his replacement was Wing commander Nair. Air Marshal Asghar Khan was even venerated by his counterparts, and juniors in the Indian Air force. He has the dissertation of being the first combat pilot in the Indian Air force .
Later on, he took over command of the flying, and engineering complex Risalpur where his contributions led to indigenous discoveries by the Pakistani Air force like missiles, flares ,investigate as well as concurrently, highlighting upon the training of GD Pilots. Pakistani Pilots training manual was also conceived by Air Marshal Asghar Khan, and later on expanded to include modern warfare to annihilate the IAF’s superiority. Furthermore, this realm of his tenure can be known as the post partition phase where he evolved an invincible Air force which was deemed to succeed in the coming years. In his command of Risalpur, work was carried upon the new-fangled warfare tactics, and overhaul of F-86 Sabres coming from the US Air force. Moreover, he helped his brother Brigadier Aslam in 1948 war by surveying the Hawk, Deosai planes, and the whole of Chillum. This helped Aslam Khan to divert his troops to areas where enemy was in pockets so, capture was made plausible. The Director General Air operations is an imperative appointment in any Air force, and Asghar khan was particularly, selected as the DG in 1950. During the seven years till his promotion, he evolved a culture of model discussions, and regular combat practices through mapping, and bringing up a potent elucidation to any complex strategy. Moreover, he was sent to the Imperial College London to pursue his degree in Military Ethics.
In 1957, General Ayub Khan promoted him, and appointed him as the commander in chief of Air force at the seasoned age of 36. Therefore, he was a unique person in the history of aviation to become a head up at such age. Though, he acted maturely, and curbed all threats through effective planning; Asghar Khan acquired fighter jets from the United States along with the modernization in Air facilities. Combat squadrons numbers raised from 4 to 9 equipped with the state of the art F-86 Sabres, F-104 Star fighter,-57 bombers, C-130, T-33 ,and T-37 Aircraft. The F-104 was the multi role combat aircraft at that time. Moreover, he played a role to amalgamate 4, and 9 squadron into the first Tactical attack 14th squadron. Mirages are currently operating as naval-Air coordination aircraft to deter any enemy approaching from Arabian sea. Air Marshal Asghar khan’s contributions are uncountable to He established three bases at Samugli, Peshawar , and the all powerful Sargodha. Pakistani eavesdropping huge radar stations developed at Sakesar , and Badin. The Pakistan Aeronautical complex, Kamra owes to Asghar Khan. He supervised this laborious task, and gave an arena for Aircraft manufacturing. Side winger Missiles of F-7 , JF-17, Mirage, and the roaring F-16 Block C/D Aircrafts are all locally prepared. The JF-17 thunder win at Paris Air show in terms of its built and light multi role jet owes to PAF complex, Risalpur. The renowned Combat schools such as Fighter Leaders School, and PAF staff college were over arched by him. He also directed the inspectors designated as well as brought the culture of air staff presentations. A balanced paradigm was developed by him as he firmly believed of academics as an essential ingredient of a pilot. Though, a competent officer but he never hesitated in ruffling a few feathers to bring juniors to higher ranks if they were the best men to fill the combat unit gaps. Autocratic decisions were taken by him but he always stood by his word without flinching off his implementation strategies. He got retired from service before 1965 war, but deserves the credit of bringing PAF to the front Aviation. Supremacy of our Air force was corroborated by the fierce destruction of Indian Fighters in 1965 over Lahore, Sialkot, and other adjoining areas. Even pilots like MM ALAM, Sissal Chaudhry, and Qais Hussain ET cetra got training in reign of AM Asghar Khan demonstrated spectacular air . Asghar khan was offered extension by General Ayub but out rightly denounced, as, he firmly believed of servility in service, and wanted seniority to prevail. Consequently, as attitude of Hankering for extensions of service proves ruinous for a fighting service thus, he retired at age of 43 in 1965. He did not want to solely hold over the affairs of the ever prospering Airforce. Consequently, upon Ayub Khan’s insistence, he joined the Pakistan’s carrier wing PIA as Chief Executive Officer. His work during those times made PIA a profitable organization. For instance, PIA earned a net record profit of Rs.55, 000,000 as well as opened new routes thus, generating revenue. A whole jet fleet induced into PIA is still in operation. New outfits were introduced for the cabin crew. His peculiar characteristic was that he never got overshadowed by the temptations o the higher echelons in the government. He left PIA in 1968 as he was frenzied over the bureaucratic muddle beaming at that time in the carrier. People did not come to job on time as well as tried to exploit the treasury thus; he relinquished himself going to politics. In Politics, as an impartial like the crow flies person, he could not have succeeded. Resultantly, this coerced him to retire early as he has also written in his book “My Political Struggle”. He eulogized the role of his successor Nur Khan in supervision of PIA after him. Air Marshal Asghar Khan had received phenomenal respect, and honour from fellow counterparts praising him for his command in knotty times.
In an epilogue, Asghar Khan is among our living legends and exemplary models for the newly graduated cadets as well as the officers of PAF. He is now settled near Abbottabad with his nephew Mr. Arif Aslam Khan, the chairman Shangrila Resorts. Asghar Khan lost his both brothers Flying officer Asif Khan, and Squadron Leader Khalid Khan plus helped his brother Brig. Aslam in 1948 war, thus, showing his bond with the PAF. Today, it is hard for him too to realize that his hard work bore fruition after his resignation but he will always be commemorated for the services rendered by him. I would like to end on the quotation that: “Those nations who are oblivious of their heroes are tantamount to failure”

  • Rex Minor

    It is not in the realm of the constitution or any other human institution to define the muslimness of a persons or to excommunicate individuals from the muslim communities. This act tantamounts to a caste system which their ancestors practiced. Most Pakis are converts from Hinduism and appear to be very passionate about their faith accompanied by their traditions and culture which conridict the way of life of a muslim.

    Rex Minor

  • kaalchakra

    ‘not in the realm of the constitution or any other human institution’

    That’s right, specially, any constitution or human institution that has not been directly derived from Islam. Using ‘democracies’ to decide upon matters of faith is to turn faith into a man-made artifact.

  • yasserlatifhamdani


    Dirty? That post was after our arrangement. And you repeated it again right now. I am going to give you one last chance. Be respectful. No personal insults, no accusations and no abuses. Have a reasoned discourse with points while respecting the other person’s point of view.

  • keval

    Question to all:
    “…Using ‘democracies’ to decide upon matters of faith is to turn faith into a man-made artifact….”

    Every faith is a man-made artefact.

    Question is : how many are involved in creating this artefact and who manages it afterwards (in later generations).

    God has still not intervened in history.
    But some are impatient and declare that it has happened and then take that to impose themselves on others.
    This is typical of the west asiatic religions, and especially bad about this arab fascist religion from the 7th century.

    The muslims keep wasting us trying to decide about what some 7th century arabs want us to do.
    This arab religion will destroy mankind and its honesty and decency. This has alraedy happened in lands taken over by this religion.

  • sta

    Yasser Latif Hamdani :
    While the Constitution does not offer a definition of the term “Citizen”, with reference to the religious inclination of the citizen, and thank God for that, the religious impartiality of the State towards its citizens is, nevertheless, still compromised due to the fact that the Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the state. Article 2 reads:

    2. Islam to be State religion
    Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan.

    By virtue of this article (Article 2) of the Constitution, the state has a State Religion, which is Islam. Therefore, the citizens of this state are now divided into two classes:
    1) those who have the same religion as the religion of the state
    2) those who have a religion other than the religion of the state
    Even if the state were to exercise the highest possible degree of impartiality, which would be overly optimistic to assume, the State would constitutionally remain aligned with those citizens who happen to share a common religion with the State. Thus, the State and those of its citizens who have the same religion as the religion of the state, would be on one side of the fence – the fence being Article 2 – while those of its citizens who have a religion other than the religion of the state, would be on the other. Even if, for the sake of hypothesis, the Ahmadi Muslims were recognized by the State as “Muslims” – not that it counts – but were that to happen, and they happened to land on the right side of the fence, there would still remain many citizens of this state of Pakistan on the wrong side of the fence, merely due to their religious beliefs – and this is wrong, and this is what you and I rightfully oppose.

  • Ranger625372


  • kaalchakra

    “Whenever a problem emerges in matters of faith, people decide upon it using their understanding of the divine, God does not descend himself from heaven to pronounce judgment on disagreements, that does not make faith a “man made artifact.”

    Masadi, whenever a problem emerges in matters of faith, Muslims decide upon it using their understanding of the Quran, and if some confusion still remains, then using their understanding of the life and words of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).

    They don’t decide upon matters of faith by letting everyone – no matter what level and kind of latter’s faith in Quran and Mohammad – or the representatives of such people – vote, as Bhutto did.


    Given this problem, you are now running away from it by stating that declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims was not a matter of their faith but of their status. Try to extricate the matter of their status in Pakistan from the matter of their faith and its practice.

  • Rex Minor

    Do not try to interpret the definition of Islam. The constitution of an Islamic State m ust reflect the values of the religion of Isle am and not necessarily the traditions and the cultures of past civilisations. Hinduism on the other side revolves around the Kama Sutra teeachings and get inspired by several ancieant avatar Gods and Godesses who wers abondoned by the followers of the Ibrahimic faitho centuries The hindu faith do not require a set of ethics and morals from its followers which today arethe integral part of our civilisation and the basis of human rights.
    Contrary to RHR statement the Ibrahimic faiths are not determined by birth but after birth and when they are baptised and confirmed. People are under no obligation and free to convert, or leave the faith as and when they please

    Rex Minor

  • Rex Minor


    I have alwsys said that you are an enlightened individual. From your recent comments it would seem that something has befallen you or perhaps you are aging rapidly unddolpher the californian sun.
    Why must you now follow Ahem turned keval and look at the acts of politicians from the religous angle. Neither Napolean who was running like a lunatic with his army invading foreign lands or Hitler who entered into a concord with Vatican, separating the authority of the church from that of the parliament.

    The brilliant politician and a visionary leader was a non religious bod like his predecesors were including MAJ. His decisions were to facilitate administration work and to stay in power.At this juncture he was biologicaly no different than Napolean or Hitler or even Stalin.

    Rex Minor

  • kaalchakra

    Rex, I agree with you entirely! Besides, the actions of many of these leaders cannot be divorced from their historical-cultural – largely Hindu- backgrounds. Sindh, in particular, continued to be rather backward, regressive, and inegalitarian in its social mores, relations, and politics.

  • keval

    to rex

    Children are being imprisoned in islam long before they have come to know what honest and factual information is. Many muslims later come to know how evil and dangerous islam is – but they can never leave islam because they fear being killed if they leave.
    This is how fascism functions.
    All muslims converted due to briberies, intimidations, perversions, sweet-false promises etc. And their children are born as mental prisoners in this fascism.
    Rex is an example of such an imprisonment.

  • Bin Ismail

    @ s t a (September 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm)

    Even if the state were to exercise the highest possible degree of impartiality, which would be overly optimistic to assume, the State would constitutionally remain aligned with those citizens who happen to share a common religion with the State. Thus, the State and those of its citizens who have the same religion as the religion of the state, would be on one side of the fence – the fence being Article 2 – while those of its citizens who have a religion other than the religion of the state, would be on the other. Even if, for the sake of hypothesis, the Ahmadi Muslims were recognized by the State as “Muslims” – not that it counts – but were that to happen, and they happened to land on the right side of the fence, there would still remain many citizens of this state of Pakistan on the wrong side of the fence, merely due to their religious beliefs – and this is wrong, and this is what you and I rightfully oppose.

    Could not agree more. Not only is the the concept of Egalitarianism, not alien to Islam, it is perfectly “Islamic” and lies well within the domain of Islamic doctrine. The term traditionally used for this is Musawaat, which means “Equality”. This the very same “Equality“, that Jinnah spoke of, with reference to the Islamic Principles. “Equality” is one of the three Islamic Principles that Jinnah mentioned. Addressing the Bar Association in Karachi, on 25 January 1948, Jinnah said:
    “…Islam and its idealism have taught Equality, Justice, and Fairplay to everybody…”
    Only a state that is constitutionally secular, can think about truly upholding the principle of Equality among all its citizens, regardless of their respective relions. Moreover, these three principles are conveniently acceptable to followers of all faiths. No one would disown these three principles, regardless of his religious background. And the first and foremost of these principles – Equality – can simply not be upheld if the constitution of the state has any religious leaning towards or away from any of its citizens. The state’s role is, by definition, a parental one, which requires it to treat all its citizens equally, as far as the State-Citizen relationship goes. And in order for the state, in the case of a Muslim-majority nation, to be able to treat its Muslim and non-Muslim citizens alike, it is imperative that the state itself has no State Religion.

  • Parliament certified Muslim

    As a Parliament-certified Muslim, I must remind all ignorant and kafir visitors of PTH that the world’s best air force is actually the Royal Saoodi Air Force. People should be discussing Al quwwat al jawiyya al malakiyya al Saoodia al Wahabia al Salafia (royal abbreviation for Royal Saudi Air Force), instead of discussing a useless ex-chief of a uselss airforce, the Paleedistan Air Force (PAF). Paleedistan, let us all gratefully recall and remember, was the name given to this so-called “Pakistan” by the ever-wise and eternally righteous Ulama of Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Hind (now known as Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat).

    The Saudi pilots are extremely competent and brave.
    The latest news is that the Saoodis have finally joined hands with their Ahl-e-Kitab cousins-in-faith – Israel. Finally, Saoodi Arabia and Israel are one:

  • I don’t think, you are correct in assuming that Pakistanis have forgotten Asghar Khan …

    Appearances can be deceptive, and the “no comments” on Asghar Khan, situation, is only reflective of the fact, that it has been difficult, if not outright impossible for Pakistani civilians, such as myself, to rightfully acknowledge, the great services of this great gem of a man to PAF and other national institutions.

    That Pakistanis, as a matter of Principe … hate to follow popular ‘trends’ … visible on this page, are sensible enough, to curb any urge to make any “unqualified comments” …

    Asghar Khan lives in our hearts, and while eulogising his contribution to Pakistan’s premier military and civilian Institution … I wish him a long and prosperous life and hope, he lives to see, the fruition of his political efforts too …

  • M Khan

    He went to boarding school at Dehradun, not Aitchison.

  • Saadat Fauzi

    A brave pilot and an honest patriot ……..GREAT WORK

  • IDaresay

    Ayub Khan didn’t appoint Asghar KhanC-in-C of PAF, it was Prime Minister Sarwardhy I suppose. Please check. Army Chief can’t and does not appoint Air Chief.