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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Rashid Minhas – Youngest recipient of Nishan-e-Haider

On August 20th, Pakistan remembers the youngest recipient of Nishan-e-Haider - Rashid Minhas - who embraced martyrdom in 1971. Minhas was honored as a national hero for preventing a PAF plane from being hijacked to India.

GVS Magazine |

Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas (17 February 1951 – August 20, 1971) is the youngest and the only Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officer to ever receive Pakistan’s highest valor award, the Nishan-e-Haider.

He is remembered for his martyrdom on 20th August 1971 in a jet trainer crash while he was struggling to regain the controls from a defecting pilot: Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman. Indian supported insurgency in former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, was at its peak.

The failed attempt, by Flight Lieutenant, Matiur Rahman, to defect to India took place few months before India formally attacked former East Pakistan in December 1971. The plane, a T-33 Trainer jet, crashed in Thatta District in Sindh, Pakistan. Rashid Minhas was born on February 17, 1951, at Karachi, to a Muslim Rajput family of the Minhas clan.

Image result for rashid minhas nishan haider, anniversary

Rashid Minhas spent his early childhood in Karachi. Later, the family shifted to Rawalpindi. Minhas had his early education from St Mary’s Cambridge School Rawalpindi. Later his family shifted back to Karachi. Minhas was fascinated with aviation history and technology. He used to collect different models of aircraft and jets since childhood.

He also attended St Patrick’s High School, Karachi, where he did his O-levels and A-levels. His father, Majeed Minhas, wanted him to follow in his footsteps by attending the engineering university after finishing his high schooling in Karachi.

Against the wishes of his father, however, Rashid entered in the PAF School in Lower Topa in 1968 (Air Force’s officer candidate school) and moved to Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1969 to complete his training. Having joined the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Minhas was commissioned on March 13, 1971, in the 51st GD(P) Course.

Minhas was only 20 when he died in the T-33 crash that happened when he was trying to wrest control of the plane from his senior, Matiur Rahman. Shortly after taking off from Karachi he had radioed PAF Base Masroor with the message that his plane 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.

Read more: India’s F-21 vs Pakistan’s F-16: A Fair Fight?

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 honor, the Nishan-e-Haider. No living person has ever been awarded this highest award which makes it all the more unique. Similarly, Matiur Rahman was later honoured by Bangladesh with their highest military award, the Bir Sreshtho.

Image result for rashid minhas nishan haider, anniversaryIt is believed that Matiur Rahman’s attempted defection with the plane was not his individual act but was part of the overall Indian plan to support the insurgent sentiment with a series of acts to create a narrative. After his death, Minhas was honored as a national hero.

The Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra was renamed PAF Base Minhas in his memory, often called Minhas-Kamra or Minhas Base. In Karachi, he was honoured by the naming of a main road, ‘Rashid Minhas Road’. Pakistan Post also issued a two-rupee postage stamp bearing his image in December 2003.