Pakistan Army on Thursday paid tribute to Rashid Minhas — PAF pilot officer who embraced martyrdom at the age of 20 while preventing a pilot from defecting to the enemy’s side during the 1971 war —on his 49th martyrdom anniversary.
Minhas was awarded with the highest valour award – Nishan-e-Haider – for his bravery. He became the youngest officer to have received this award.
“Today we remember supreme sacrifice of Pilot officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed (Nishan-e -Haider) in the line of duty. Pilot officer Rashid Minhas lived up to great traditions of Pakistan Air Force serving the motherland,” DG ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar said in a tweet.
Born in Karachi on February 17, 1951, Minhas spent his early childhood in Lahore and later shifted to Rawalpindi and then back to Karachi.
Minhas joined the Pakistan Air Force Academy in Risalpur as a flying cadet at the age of 17 and graduated from the academy as a general duty pilot in 1971.
On August 20, 1971, Rashid got ready to take off for his solo flight in a T-33 jet trainer. He started his engines and completed the checks. As Minhas was taxiing towards the runway, his instructor pilot, came on the taxi way and signalled him to stop.
Thinking that his instructor might want to give some last minute instructions, Minhas stopped the aircraft. The instructor forced his way into the rear cockpit and seized controls of the aircraft; the jet took off and turned towards India.
Soon the radio at Masroor Control Tower became alive and Minhas informed that he was being hijacked. The air controller requested him to resend his message and confirm that it was hijacking.
The events that followed later were the tale of great courage and patriotism. In the air, Minhas struggled physically to wrest control; each man tried to overpower the other through technically linked flight controls.
The instructor wanted him to fly to India; however, the determined Rashid was not ready for it. The ferocious struggle continued for minutes and as the aircraft neared the Indian border, Rashid Minhas knew what he was supposed to do.
He knew that the honour of his country was far greater than his life. Some 32 miles (51 km) from the Indian border, Rashid Minhas deliberately put the aircraft nose down and that made the jet to crash near Thatta.