ISLAMABAD - Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) directorate Babar Iftikhar has said, “Today we remember supreme sacrifice of Pilot officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed (Nishan-e-Haider) in the line of duty,” as the Armed Forces yesterday remembered the supreme sacrifice of the pilot on his 49th martyrdom anniversary.

An ISPR press release said, “Today we remember supreme sacrifice of Pilot officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed (Nishan-e-Haider) in the line of duty. Pilot officer Rashid Minhas lived up to great traditions of Pakistan Air Force serving the motherland”, followed by a hashtag “OurMartyrsOurHeroes”.

Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas NH, was an officer in the Pakistan Air Force. Minhas was the only PAF officer to receive the highest valour award, the Nishan-e-Haider. He was also the youngest person and the shortest-serving officer to have received this award.

Born in Karachi on February 17, 1951, Rashid Minhas spent his early childhood in Lahore and later shifted to Rawalpindi and then back to Karachi. The PAF pilot officer embraced martyrdom at the age of 20 while preventing a pilot from defecting to the enemy’s side during the 1971 war. On August 20, 1971, Rashid got ready to take off for his solo flight in a T-33 jet trainer. He started his engines and completed the checks. As Minhas was taxiing towards the runway, his instructor pilot, came on the taxi way and signalled him to stop. Thinking that his instructor might want to give some last minute instructions, Minhas stopped the aircraft. The instructor forced his way into the rear cockpit and seized controls of the aircraft; the jet took off and turned towards India. Soon the radio at Masroor Control Tower became alive and Minhas informed that he was being hijacked. The air controller requested him to resend his message and confirm that it was being hijacked. The events that followed later were the tale of great courage and patriotism. In the air, Minhas struggled physically to wrest control; each man tried to overpower the other through technically linked flight controls. The instructor wanted him to fly to India; however, the determined Rashid was not ready for it. The ferocious struggle continued for minutes and as the aircraft neared the Indian border. Rashid Minhas knew that the honour of his country was far greater than his life. Some 32 miles (51 km) from the Indian border, Rashid Minhas deliberately put the aircraft nose down and that made the jet to crash near Thatta.

PAF also paid rich tributes to its officer and also released a short documentary film on his life and career.