Air Marshal Asghar Khan, Indian Airforce

Air Marshal Asghar Khan

Born in 1921 Asghar Khan, who is a Kashmiri,began his long military career by joining the Royal Indian Military College in Dehra Dun. He was commissioned in 1940, and became the commander of Squadron 9 in the Royal Indian Air Force. During World War II, while on the Fighter Leaders' Course in England, Khan became the first pilot from the subcontinent to fly a jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor Mark III, the only jet employed by the Allies during the last stages of the War. After the partition of British India he became the first muslim commandant of the Royal Pakistan Airforce College at Risalpur.

After independence Khan became Pakistan's first Air Chief and also its youngest at the age of 36. He held the position of Air Chief for over 8 years(1957-65) during which the PAF underwent all its expansion, re-equipping, and training programs. Khan, who retired on July 23, 1965 i.e. six weeks before the 1965 Indo-Pak War, was not even informed nor consulted before the launch of the Operation Gibraltar. Air Marshal Asghar Khan squarely blamed Pakistan for the 1965 and 1971 wars and strongly opposed the war with India over the Bangladesh issue in 1971. He paid for his defiance, he was imprisoned for a few months and beaten many times. When General Zia-ul Haq took over Pakistan in 1977, he spent five years in jail.

After retiring from the armed forces Air Marshal Khan spent about 25 years in politics, mostly in the Opposition as chief of the Tehrik-e-Istaklal political party. Also known as the "Mr Clean" of Pakistani politics, he publicly called for the ISI's disbanding terming it the biggest destabliser in Pakistan. He strongly opposed the governments decision to detonate nuclear devices, fearing it would give a serious blow to the country's already weak economy. A strong advocate for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, Khan has consistently called for better relations with India. He recently visited India to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Rashtriya Indian Military College in Dehra Dun of which he is an alumunus.