Lahore : The country’s first Muslim and the youngest commander of the Pakistan Air Force Air Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan breathed his last Friday morning, after a protracted illness.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced a state funeral for the late air chief, “in recognition of his patriotic services and great contribution in building the Pakistan Air Force into one of the best air forces in the world,” a PM Office statement said.
President Mamnoon Hussain lauded the former air chief “as an upright and brave man whose contributions for national defence and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) would be remembered for long.”
President Azad Jammu Kashmir Masood Khan in his tweet described the former Air Chief “as a man of principles, a zealous patriot and a great airman.”
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa described him as “an iconic soldier who will be remembered for his historic contributions for laying foundations of a strong Pakistan Air Force.”
Air Marshal Sohail Khan in his condolence message said; “Air Marshal Asghar Khan headed the PAF diligently and with courage. With his leadership capabilities, he played a vital role in transforming the PAF into a modern air force.”
The Pakistan Air Force as a mark of recognition had re-named the PAF Academy Risalpur in the name of its first Muslim Commander in March 2017.
The social media was flooded with tweets from politicians, former and present services chiefs and a huge fan base, who described the country’s youngest air chief as an “Iron Man”, “brave, bold and gentleman” and an “unsung legend” and his demise as a great loss to the nation. He was also remembered as an “icon of professionalism, integrity and discipline”.
Imran Khan, the head of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf said; “He transformed the PAF and was a man of steadfast principles and integrity.”
Air Marshal Asghar Khan breathed his last just 12 days short of his 97th birthday (January 17) in Islamabad. He was born in Jammu and Kashmir in 1921 in a family with distinctive military traditions. After completing his education at Aitchison College, Lahore, he joined Royal Indian Air Force in December 1940. He was a World War II veteran fighter pilot and served in Burma.
He served as the first Commandant of Royal Pakistan Air Force College, Risalpur after 1947. He also actively participated in the Kashmir war between India and Pakistan which broke out immediately after the independence.
Asghar Khan also had the honour of receiving the Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on his maiden visit to Royal Pakistan Air Force Training School, Risalpur in April, 1948.
At the age of 36, he became the youngest ever Pakistani Commander-in-Chief of PAF in July 1957.
He also served as the president of Pakistan International Airlines and founded Tehreek-i-Istaqlal in 1970 that merged with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in 2012.