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1965 war hero Daudpota passes away

Updated April 04, 2017

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GEN Ayub Khan (above) awarding Sitara-i-Jurrat to Air Marshal Azim Daudpota after the 1965 war.
GEN Ayub Khan (above) awarding Sitara-i-Jurrat to Air Marshal Azim Daudpota after the 1965 war.

KARACHI: Air Marshal Mohammad Abdul Azim Daudpota — a former governor of Sindh, 1965 war veteran and ex-chairman of the Pakistan International Airlines — died in Karachi on Monday. He was 83.

Azim Daudpota, as he was commonly known, was born on Sept 14, 1933, in an educated family of Mumbai. His family, however, originally belonged to Dadu in Sindh.

His father, Umar bin Mohammad Daudpota, was a Sindhi research scholar, linguist and historian of the Indus Valley. He was also referred to as Shams-ul-Ulema.

After schooling at St Patrick’s in Karachi, Azim Daudpota completed his higher secondary education at D.J. Science College in 1951.

He joined the Pakistan Air Force Academy at Risalpur in July of the same year. After five months of military training, he was selected for further flying training in Australia. After spending four exciting years at Point Cook Air Force Base, he returned to the PAF in 1955 and started his career as a fighter pilot.

During the 1965 war, Squadron Leader Azim Daudpota flew 15 strike and five air defence missions and was responsible for wrecking many tanks, guns and vehicles in the face of heavy enemy ground fire.

His great moment came on Sept 21, when his formation destroyed a number of enemy medium guns at the Wagah-Atari sector. He was awarded Sitara-i-Jurrat for his leadership, devotion to duty and complete disregard for personal safety. Later he was also decorated with Sitara-i-Imtiaz and Hilal-i-Imtiaz (M).

After service as a pilot and then as Squadron Commander, he attended the PAF Staff College before serving on the staff of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

After a further period of training at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London, Azim Daudpota commanded PAF bases Rafiqui and Sargodha.

In 1983, Air Marshal Daudpota was selected as the first non-local ‘Commander of Zimbabwean Air Force’ on the request of President Robert Mugabe. Daudpota served as Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe from July 1983 to Jan 1986. During this time, he took the responsibility of rebuilding Zimbabwe’s air force as a challenge and proved equal to the task. On successful completion of his tenure in 1986, he was awarded the second highest medal of the country, the Zimbabwe Order of Merit, by Mr Mugabe.

Air Marshal Daudpota with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
Air Marshal Daudpota with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.

On his return to Pakistan, Daudpota took over as Managing Director and Chairman of PIA, serving in that capacity from Jan 1986 to April 1990. He also became the Chairman of Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation. He joined the Kashmir Corporation as an Executive Director in April 1990. From Oct 25, 1999, to May 24, 2000, Daudpota served as the Governor of Sindh. He was also the chairman of the board at Macpac Films Limited.

Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chief of the Air Staff, expressed his grief on the death of a national hero. “A daring fighter pilot, war hero, a patriotic Pakistani and a committed professional, Air Marshal Azim Daudpota was an icon and a role model not only for the PAF airmen but also for the entire nation,” he said.

Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair, in a condolence message to the air marshal’s family, said Azim Daudpota had done a lot for this province and his departure had left a void that can’t be filled easily.

In his condolence message, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah recalled the services of the 1965 war hero, praising his courage, sincerity and professionalism. The chief minister said Azim Daudpota was a role model for the nation’ youth.

“Air Marshal Azim Daudpota will always remain in our hearts and soul. His contribution during war and peace for the nation will be remembered for a long time to come.”

Funeral prayers were held at Pakistan Air Force’s Faisal base, Karachi, followed by burial at the PAF graveyard in Korangi Creek. The Sindh governor, Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Asad Lodhi, the Karachi corps commander and other senior military and civil officials attended the funeral.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2017