The martyrdom anniversary of Nishan-i-Haider recipient Rashid Minhas is being observed today (August 20). Born on February 17 1951, he remains the youngest officer to receive the Nishan-e-Haider award and was the first recipient of the highest honour of gallantry for the Pakistan Air Force.
Minhas was fascinated with aviation history and technology. During his childhood days, he used to collect different models of aircraft and jets. After schooling, he attended Karachi University where he studied Military history and Aviation history. He was commissioned as a pilot in the Pakistan Air Force in 1971.
Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas was taxiing for takeoff on a routine training flight when an Instructor Pilot forced his way into the rear cockpit, seized control of the aircraft and took off. When Rashid Minhas realized that the absconding pilot was heading towards India, he tried to regain control of the plane but was unable to do so.
Knowing that it meant certain death, he damaged the controls and forced the aircraft to crash 32 miles short of the border on 20 August 1971. Minhas was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s top military honor, the Nishan-E-Haider, and became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to win the award.
After his death, Minhas was honored as a national hero. In his memory the Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra was renamed PAF Base Minhas, often called Minhas-Kamra.
In Karachi he was honored by the naming of a main road, Rashid Minhas Road. A two-rupee postage stamp bearing his image was issued by Pakistan Post in December 2003.
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