IN the passing of former air marshal Nur Khan Pakistan has lost a very capable son who was known equally as a thorough professional and a strict disciplinarian. In the course of his career — from being Pakistan's air chief to serving on secondment as managing director, PIA, to becoming the West Pakistan governor, and as head of Pakistan's hockey, cricket and squash squads — Nur Khan's management skills and vision brought the country many laurels. Under his stewardship, Pakistan lifted the titles of world champions in hockey, cricket and squash, the last mentioned under the aegis of PIA. He was also credited as the harbinger of a few of Pakistan's firsts outside the sporting arena: he modernised the Pakistan Air Force and its technical department to become a formidable air power despite its numerical disadvantage vis-Ã -vis India. During his tenure as MD of PIA, the national flag carrier became the first Asian airline to fly a jetliner. In his second stint, PIA inducted wide-bodied DC-10 and B-747 aircraft.
Though born in 1923 to a fairly privileged background in rural Punjab, which afforded him the best in early education at Lahore's Aitchison College, Nur Khan rose to his stature based on sheer hard work and sense of duty. From being a Royal Indian Air Force recruit posted on the Burma front in the Second World War, he rose to the post of PAF chief in July 1965, weeks before the war with India broke out. Nur Khan did his institution proud. In many civilian management positions too he left an enterprising mark on the management of the sectors he headed. Although he was decorated with several military and civilian awards, he will be remembered more for setting standards of excellence in his fields of operation.