KARACHI: Pilot officer Rashid Minhas, a national hero was awarded Nishan-e-Haider after being martyred in the Pak-Indo war in 1971.
He is the youngest person and the shortest serving officer to have received the highest valor award, the Nishan-e-Haider. He is remembered for his death in 1971 in a jet trainer crash while struggling to regain the controls from a defecting pilot (flight instructor Matiur Rahman.
Rashid Minhas was born on February 17, 1951, in Karachi. He got his early education from St Mary’s Cambridge School Rawalpindi and used to be infatuated with aviation history and technology.
He joined the air force on March 13, 1971, in the 51st GD (P) Course. He began training to become a pilot.
On August 20 of that year, in the hour before noon, he was getting ready to take off in a T-33 jet trainer in Karachi, his second solo flight in that type of aircraft. Rashid was taxiing toward the runway when a Bengali instructor pilot, Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman, signaled him to stop and then climbed into the instructor’s seat. The jet took off and turned toward India.
The young patriotic pilot radioed PAF Base Masroor with the message that he was being hijacked. The air controller requested that he resend his message, and he confirmed the hijacking. Later investigation revealed that Rahman wanted to defect to India to join his compatriots in the Bangladesh Liberation War, along with the jet trainer.
While in the air, Rashid struggled physically to squeeze control from Rahman; each one endeavored to overpower the other through the mechanically liked flight controls. Some 32 miles (51 km) from the Indian border, the jet crashed near Thatta killing both men.
Minhas was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s top military honor, the Nishan-e-Haider, and became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to achieve the award. Likewise, Rahman was honored by Bangladesh with their highest military award, the Bir Sreshtho.