ISLAMABAD: The 44th death anniversary of Pakistan's national hero, Rashid Minhas Shaheed was marked across the country on Thursday with tributes paid to his services.
Rashid, who was born on February 17 1951, remains the youngest officer to receive the Nishan-e-Haider award and was the first recipient of the highest honour of gallantry for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
He got his early education from Karachi and upon reaching the tender age of 17, he joined Pakistan Air Force Academy in Risalpur as a Flying Cadet. In 1971, Rashid graduated from the academy as a general duty pilot and was posted to PAF base Masroor in Karachi's Mauripur area to hone his skills as a fighter pilot.
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On August 20, 1971, as a pilot still under training, Rashid was taxing out a T-33 Jet trainer for take-off, when a Bengali pilot instructor, Flight Lieutenant Mataur Rahman, forced his way into the rear cockpit. In mid-air Rahman knocked Minhas out, seized control of the aircraft and headed towards India.
With just 40 miles of Pakistan territory remaining, Rashid regained consciousness and tried to regain control of his aircraft. Failing to do so, he did the only thing within his control to prevent the aircraft from being taken to India — he forced that plane to crash just 32 miles from the Indian border, deliberately sacrificing his life for the honour of Pakistan.
Rashid was laid to rest on August 21, 1971 with full military honours. The young trainee pilot's entire family attended the funeral, along with senior PAF and other Armed Forces personnel.
Rashid was posthumously awarded Pakistan's top military honour — the Nishan-i-Haider — announced by then president General Yahya Khan. He became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to win the award.
Following the death of his son, Abdul Majid Minhas had reportedly said:
"Although the grief of my son's death is unending, I am proud that he laid down his life for a noble cause and for the integrity and honour of the country and nation".
In an interview telecast on DJ Karachi Television on August 28 1971, Rashid's father had said that his son was, from the very beginning, interested in a career in which he could serve the country and nation according to the best of his capacities.
He had said that Rashid was fond of reading books on war during his student life and noted important quotations In his diary. One of the quotations from his diary said: "The greatest honour for a man is to sacrifice his life for the country and live up to the expectation of the nation."
Asked about Rashid's education, Majid Minhas had said that his son studied in St. Mary's Cambridge School at Rawalpindi and did his senior Cambridge from Karachi. He joined the Pakistan Air Force In 1968. Rashid passed his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics Examination with honours at the PAF Academy.
He said that his eldest son had a technical mind, having learned to drive at the age of 12. His personal library included books on electronics and astronomy, besides other subjects. His hobbies Included reading, photography, hockey and billiards.
He added that his late son was an idealist who had made up his mind at an early age about how to best serve his country. He refused to even consider appearing for the Central Superior Services Examination, he added.
According to Minhas, Rashid had been deeply impressed by his brother-in-law Major Nasir Ahmed Khan, a recipient of the Sitara-i-Jurat. He had said that his son was of a quiet disposition; a modest boy, not given to boasting, and not interested in making money.
Minhas had said that in a way, Rashid was linked with the PAF since his birth, having been born at the PAF Hospital at Drigh Road, Karachi. He had said that the supreme sacrifice made by his son had given him great pride.
"We are soldiers prepared to lay down our lives for the nation", he added.