A Tribute to the youngest Nishan-e-Haider

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There is so much material on greatness and great men that it leaves a human mind perplexed about its true meaning and essence. There are multiple answers to the question,” What makes men great?” It is all about perspective. According to me, great men are those ordinary people who become extraordinary by simply fulfilling their duties. We have an utterly wrong concept that greatness only lies in fancy deeds. It is just a delusion. The truth, my dear readers is that, doing fancy things is not the only difficult task but sometimes our basic duty is the most difficult one.

The name Rashid Minhas is not alien to us. The story of his bravery ispretty renowned and PAF (Pakistan Air Force) takes great pride in telling that it has produced gallant heroes like him. We all know how this young man failed enemies’ plans by killing the traitor along with himself. This tale of valor appears quite normal to most of the general public because this is exactly what military men are expected to do.But what these people fail to understand is, those circumstances were highly unusual and the way this patriot handled the situation was anything but ordinary. The government acknowledged his remarkable martyrdom as one of the greatest acts of country’s defense and awarded him the highest military award, Nishan-e-Haider.

Rashid was born on 17 February 1951 in Karachi and belonged to a famous “Minhas” clan of Rajput. From an early age Minhas was fascinated with aviation history and technology. He maintained a vast collection of different aircrafts and jets. He acquired his primary education from Saint Mary’s Academy Lalazar.

He had a very unique personality and it seems that his love for military and his country was instilled in him at the time of his birth. When he was little, wearing his maternal uncle’s army cap used to give him immense pleasure. When he was 5, he was taking a swing on the branch of a tree. He became upside down by locking his legs around the branch and spread his arms, claiming to be an aeroplane. Once, when he went to the Shalimar Gardens with his paternal uncle, he spotted a gun on a toy stall and made his uncle buy that pistol for him.

He was a passionate reader and used to read about great leaders of the world. Whenever he found anything useful or noteworthy, he used to note it down in his diary. He advises his younger brother to do the same in the letter which he wrote from his PAF training academy, it follows “One more bit before I wind up – please do read. Read anything, comics, autobiographies, novels any damn thing but do read with a clear mind. I can tell you a few good books. “Little Men” by Luisa M. Alcott in biographies Churchill’s, Napoleon’s, are the best. Of course you may come across some exceptional ones just by fluke. You can read James Bond he’s pretty good at spy stuff. Personally I liked war books better “Reach for the sky” (Paul Buckhill) & “Dam busters”, } {Then of course Alistair Maclean’s “HMS Ulysses.” are the ones I read the earliest they were very absorbing.”

The poem which Rashid wrote at an early age of 15 is testament to the fact that he possessed remarkably mature and patriotic thoughts. It says:

This world is but a stopping place
And life but a short span,
so why not through time race
And accomplish whatever we can;
So that generations to come
will remember us as great ones.

We cannot but forever live
and we have to die but once,
so why not to our country give
the life which we so easily can.

 

Few pages from his diary reveal that on 7th August 1967 when he returned home from his uncle’s place some strange happening made him realize that he had done something wrong and made a solemn vow to himself that he would join one of the military forces. Nobody knows what that strange happening was but I am sure that was one of the best things which ever occurred to him and he joined the air force later.

He joined air force on 13th March 1971 and was commissioned in the 51st GD (P) Course. Once during his training sessions at the Kamra Airbase he was in a test flight when his T-33 started leaking oil and he was instructed to eject and save himself but Minhas decided that he would not let the plane crash and then very carefully he managed to land the plane back on the airbase.

On 20th August 1971,when he was getting ready to take off in a T-33 trainer in Karachi when Instructor pilot Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman  forced his way into the rear cockpit, seized control of the aircraft and took off. It is alleged that he had been watching Minhas closely for many weeks for his being new, young and inexperienced. In mid-air MatiurRahman knocked Minhas out with the intention of defecting to India to join his compatriots in Bangladesh along with the plane.

In mid-flight Minhas regained consciousness and realized that his plane was being hijacked. He desperately tried to communicate to the PAF Masroor Base at 11:30 AM about his hijacking by Matiur Rahman. After a tussle between the two pilots, the plane crashed.The exact cause of the plane crash is not known except that it was the result of the struggle between Minhas and Matiur Rahman. The plane was found later, 32 km from the Indian border.

This single incident of heroism teaches us the valuable lesson of patriotism, utter courage, undying devotion, pure dedication, present mindedness, true sense of duty and loyalty. Just for a minute, put yourselves in the shoes of this 20-year-old man and feel his pain and the weight of the burden on his shoulders. He would’ve been torn up between so much emotions and remained confused for some minutes. His constant failure of controlling the aircraft might have made him give in for a fraction of a second but in the end loyalty and patriotism prevailed and he did the most daring thing. Though Rashid died at a very young age but left behind a lot for us to learn.

Today is the 44th death anniversary of Rashid Minhas so let’s take out sometime and pray for him. He was not only the youngest man to get Nishan-e-Haider but the shortest serving officer too. The Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra has been renamed in his honour. In Karachi he was honoured by the naming of a main street Rashid Minhas Road after him.

This man was that Shaheen(eagle) and possessed that Khudi(self-hood) on which Allam Iqbal has immensely written. He says:

Shaheen kabhi parwaz se thak kar nahin girta

Pur dam hai agar tu nahin khatra o uftad

 

 

From Rashid Minhas Diary...planning to join PAK Armed Forces..:) http://ift.tt/Ybj0M4 http://ift.tt/11zwfoE #Pakistan

 

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Zahabia is an aspiring journalist pursuing a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi. She tweets @zkmotorwala and can be reached at zahabiakhuzema@gmail.com

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