Today marks the 39th anniversary of a national hero of Pakistan, Rashid Minhas Shaheed, Nishan-e-Haider.
He was a Pilot Officer in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), during the 1971 Pakistan-India War.
He sacrificed his life on August 20, 1971 to save the honour of his beloved motherland and fail the evil designs of the enemy country.
Rashid Minhas belonged to a famous Minhas clan of Rajput. He was born in Karachi. From an early age, Minhas was fascinated with aviation history and technology. He used to collect different models of aircraft and jets.
He studied from Saint Mary’s Academy, Lalazar and completed his O and A levels at the age of 18. He then attended Karachi University where he studied Military history and Aviation history.
Having joined the air force, he was commissioned on 13 March 1971 in the 51st GD(P) Course; on August 20 of that year, he was getting ready to take off in a T-33 trainer in Karachi when Instructor pilot, Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman, gained his way into the back of the plane.
He had been reported to have been watching Minhas closely for many weeks for his being new, young and inexperienced.
In mid-air, Rahman 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 communicated to the PAF Masroor Base at 11:30 AM, about his hijacking by Rahman.
After a tussle between the two pilots, the plane crashed. The precise cause of the plane crash is unknown, except that it was the result of the struggle between Minhas and Rahman. The crash site of the T-33 was later found 40 km from the Indian border.
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.
This act of bravery did not go unnoticed and his commandant gave him a letter of recognition. Rashid was a brilliant student and a brave soldier, and he proved it many times on and off the battlefield.
Minhas was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s top military honour, the Nishan-E-Haider, and became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to win the award. He also became a national hero.
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.
He is one of the most prominent and honoured pilots in Pakistan. The Pakistani Media and numerous documentary dramas have honoured him and films have been made on him.