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Asghar Khan (1921–2018)
|President of Pakistan International Airlines|
20 August 1965 – 30 November 1968
|Preceded by||Mirza Ahmad Ispahani|
|Succeeded by||Lt-Gen. Nur Khan|
|Commander in Chief of Pakistan Air Force|
23 July 1957 – 22 July 1965
|Preceded by||AVM Arthur McDonald|
|Succeeded by||Lt-Gen. Nur Khan|
|Chairman of the Independence Movement|
29 June 1970 – 12 December 2011
|Preceded by||Party established|
|Succeeded by||Imran Khan|
|Born||Mohammad Asghar Khan
17 January 1921
Jammu, Kashmir, British India
(Present day in Jammu in Jammu and Kashmir in India)
|Died||5 January 2018
Combined Military Hospital in Rawalpindi, Punjab in Pakistan
|Cause of death||Cardiac arrest|
|Resting place||Abottabad, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan|
|Political party||Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf|
|Children||Nasreen, Shereen, Omar and Ali Asghar|
Order of Crown
Order of the Crown of Thailand:vii
|Service/branch|| British Indian Army
Royal Indian Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
|Years of service||1939–68|
|Rank|| Air Marshal
|Unit||9th Deccan Horse, Armored Corps
No. 9 Squadron, RIAF
|Commands||Pakistan Air Force Academy
ACAS (Admin.), Air AHQ
Peshawar Air Force Base
|Military awards||Crosses of Aeronautical Merit|
Air Marshal Asghar Khan (Urdu: ائیر مارشل اصغر خان; 17 January 1921 – 5 January 2018) was Pakistani politician, aviation historian, peace activist, and retired three star rank air force general who served as the first native Commander in Chief of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) under President Iskander Mirza (1956–59) and under President Ayub Khan until resigning in 1965 prior to the start of the air operations of the PAF during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
Initially commissioned in the Indian Army, Asghar Khan was drafted into Indian Air Force in 1940, seeing actions in Burma Campaign and was later sent to United Kingdom where he graduated from RAF Staff College at Bracknell, completing his collegiate courses from Joint Service Defence College, and completed his post-graduate studies from Imperial Defence College. Upon return to British Indian Empire, Asghar Khan resumed his active duty with the Royal Indian Air Force and opted for Pakistan following the independence in 1947, and settled in West-Pakistan. Asghar Khan became first commandant of Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1947 and was also the first to head the Directorate-General for Air Operations (DGAO) in 1950. Finally in 1957, Asghar Khan became the youngest to-date and the first native Air Force Commander-in-Chief of PAF. His tenure as air commander saw the extensive modernization of the PAF, in terms of both technical and military equipment, after resigning he was controversially not consulted by the president prior to launch of Operation Gibraltar. After retiring from air force, Asghar Khan became president of civilian national flag carrier, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which he led until 1968.
In 1970, Asghar Khan founded the secular party, the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal, but performed poorly in 1970 parliamentary elections. However, in 1977, the party significant gained momentum and participated with full force in 1977 parliamentary elections, although the party failed to grasp any support in the public as compared to democratic socialist, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). He was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and conferred with the Gold Medal by the Human Rights Commission, and Jinnah Award Award by the Jinnah Society for the cause of democracy. After years of founding the Independence Movement, Asghar Khan merged his party with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, in January 2012.
Mohammad Asghar Khan was born in Jammu, Kashmir in India on 17 January 1921 into a Pashtun family.:iii His family belonged to Afridi tribe from the Tirah valley in the FATA region that settled in Jammu and Kashmir. His father, Brigadier Thakur Rehmatullah Khan, was an officer in the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and later emigrated to Abbottabad ater the partition of India in 1947. His elder brother, Brig. Aslam Khan, was an one-star army general in the Pakistan Army who earned his reputation as the "legend of Baltistan" after his participation in first war with India in 1947.
After his educating boarding school, Asghar was sent to attend the Prince of Wales's Royal Indian Military College in 1933 where he secured his matriculation in 1939, subsequently joining the Indian Army in 1939.:67 After graduating from the Indian Military Academy 1940, he gained commissioned in the Indian Army as the 2nd-Lt. in the Royal Deccan Horse attached to the Armoured Corps of the Indian Army in December 1940. In 1941, Lt. Asghar Khan was seconded to the Royal Indian Air Force, joining the No. 9 Squadron as its military adviser during the Burma fronts.:15 In 1942, Capt. Asghar Khan was transferred to the Royal Indian Air Force, where he saw actions in the first front in Burma against Japan, and flown bomer missions on the Hawker Hurricane.:14
In 1944, Sq-Ldr. (Major) Asghar Khan later served in the second front in Burma, commanding the No. 9 Squadron alongside with Sq Ldr. Arjan Singh who led the No. 1 Squadron during the aerial operations in Arkan in 1944-45.:content
After the end of the World War II in Asia, Sq-Ldr. (Major) Asghar Khan was posted at the Ambala Air Force Station where he was assigned to served as the flight instructor at the Flying Instructors School until 1947.:15 He was noted to be the first Indian to have qualified to fly fighter jet, a Gloster Meteor, in the United Kingdom in 1946.
During this time, Sq-Ldr. (Major) Asghar Khan decided to transfer to the Pakistan Air Force and went to Great Britain to attend the RAF Staff College at Bracknell, where he graduated in 1949. He was later directed to attend the Joint Service Defence College located in Latimer, Buckinghamshire and graduated in 1952.:v He continued his further education at the Imperial Defence College and graduated in 1955.:v
Upon returning to Pakistan, Wg-Cdr. (Lt-Col.) Asghar was appointed as the first Commandant of the Pakistan Air Force Academy in Risalpur in 1947 until 1949, he was attached to command the Peshawar Air Force base in 1949–50. In 1948–49, Wg-Cdr. Asghar Khan greeted Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah when Jinnah visited the famed Pakistan Air Force Academy. For a short brief of time in 1953, Gp-Capt. Asghar was taken in deputation in the services of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) where he served in the corporate administration.:38 In 1955, Gp-Capt. Col.) Asghar Khan was appointed as the commander of the No. 1 Group.:120:97
In 1955-56, Air-Cdre. (Brig.) Asghar Khan was posted in the Air AHQ and briefly met with the Brigadier-General Saxton of the U.S. Air Force to discuss the military advisory and equipment procurement for the Pakistan Air Force.:97 In 1957, AVM (Maj-Gen.) Asghar Khan was appointed as the ACAS of Administration and took initiative in establishing the Air Force Education Command that oversaw the establishment of the Air War College in Islamabad and the College of Aeronautical Engineering in Risalpur.
In 1957, the Government of Pakistan announced to retire the services of AVM Sir Arthur McDonald, and promoted Asghar Khan to the two-star rank.:v In 1957, AVM Asghar took over the command of the air force at the age of 36, becoming the first and the youngest commander in the military. In 1958, AVM Asghar Khan's rank was upgrades to three-star rank.:v
Soon after his promotion in 1958, Air-Mshl Asghar Khan soon become involved in the national politics and harboured strong feelings towards nation's politicians involved in monetary corruption.:104 He sided with army commander, Lt-Gen. Ayub Khan against navy commander, V-Adm. HMS Choudhri over the contingency plans and management of the Joint Staff.:381–382 He played role when he played a role in support of the martial law and consolidating the control in support of Gen. Ayub Khan, alongside with Admiral A. R. Khan and four army and air force generals: Azam, Amir, Wajid, who were instrumental in Ayub Khan's rise to power.:104
After leaving air force, Asghar Khan was employed at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and was appointed as the president of the national flag carriers, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). There, Asghar Khan learned to fly the commercial airline and obtained a Commercial pilot licence after passing the exam from Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. Asghar Khan introduced new uniforms for the air hostesses and stewards which earned words of admiration at domestic and international airports. During his tenure, PIA achieved lowest aircraft accident rate and highest net profit of Pakistan, and was a formidable competitor in the world airline business. His tenure as president is often reminded as "gold age of PIA". Despite urging of the government to extend his tenure, Asghar Khan took retirement and left the MoD in order to start his political career in 1968.
After leaving the MoD, Asghar Khan gave vehement criticism and blamed President Ayub Khan and Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for the causes of the 1965 war with India, and later turn his criticism pointing straight towards General Yahya Khan for the 1971 war failure, which resulted in the breakup of Pakistan when Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's Awami League, which had won the election, had not been allowed to form a government. In protest, Asghar Khan relinquished awards of 'Hilal-i-Pakistan' and 'Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam' as a protest against repressive policies of Field Marshal Ayub Khan in January 1969. In 1970, Asghar Khan founded the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal, initially a centrist secular party. Asghar Khan criticized Bhutto on numerous occasions, holding him responsible for tyranny during the 1970 elections. However, Asghar Khan and his party failed to score any big hits during the 1970 parliamentary elections, initially failing to secure any seats in the parliament.
During the Bangladesh Liberation War, Asghar Khan did support the East-Pakistan morally, alleging the West-Pakistan under Bhutto, of depriving East from their political and economical rights. He also demanded power to be handed over to the people of East Pakistan. In 1972, after Bhutto was made president, Asghar Khan accused Bhutto for the break-up, later noting that: "We are living virtually under one party state.... The outstanding feature is suppression."
During Bhutto's rule from 1971 to 1977, Air Marshal Asghar Khan played a major role in opposition to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. During the 1977 elections, Asghar Khan allied his party, the Tehreek-i-Istiqlal with the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against the People's Party. It was during this period he and his party faced frequent attacks by Pakistan Peoples Party supporters and from the brutal paramilitary Federal Security Force. He was imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat and Sahiwal prisons from March to June 1977.
He contested two seats, one from Karachi and the other from Abbotabad, despite alleged rigging by the PPP, Asghar Khan was elected by a huge margin from both seats. The PNA rejected the election results as rigged and launched a nationwide agitation against the results. Asghar Khan resigned from both National Assembly seats as a mark of protest against massive rigging in the elections.
While imprisoned, Asghar Khan wrote a much criticized letter to the leadership of Defence Forces, asking them to renounce their support for the "Illegal regime of Bhutto", and asked the military leadership to "differentiate between a "lawful and an unlawful" command... and save Pakistan.". This letter is considered by the historians as instrumental in encouraging the advent of the far-right Zia regime. However in television show, Asghar Khan strongly defended his letter as according to him "nowhere in the letter had he asked for the military to take over", and he had written it in response to a news story that he had read in which a Major had shot a civilian showing him the "V sign". After the overthrow of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government by the military in the summer of 1977, Asghar Khan was offered a cabinet post by General Zia-ul-Haq, Asghar Khan refused to join the cabinet and also withdrew from the PNA after a growing split between the various parties.
After successfully calling for Bhutto's "judicial murder", Asghar Khan decided to take on the far-right regime of General Zia-ul-Haq who announced to hold the general elections in 1979. The Tehrik-e-Istiqlal became the most favorite party and benefited with large number of high-profile civilian political figures, including Navaz Sharif, Khurshid Kasur, Aitzaz Ahsan, Rashid Ahmad, Javed Hashmi, Akbar Bugti, Mushahid Hussain, Nadir Pervez, Gohar Ayub Khan, Zafar Ali Shah, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, Sher Afgan Niazi, Manzoor Wattoo, Syeda Abida Hussain, Syed Fakhar Imam and many others. All of these members left Asghar Khan under Navaz Sharif who founded the largest conservative party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N).
However, at the last moment, General Zia-ul-Haq indefinitely postponed the elections, ordering the arrests of Asghar Khan who remained under house arrest for more than five years. In 1983, Asghar Khan decided to join the left-wing alliance, the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) led by Benazir Bhutto but he was detained by the government. He was kept under house arrest at his Abbotabad residence from 16 October 1979 to 2 October 1984 and was named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
In 1986, Asghar Khan left the MRD, as a result of which many of the Tehrik's members resigned in protest. Asghar Khan boycotted the non-partisan elections held in 1985. However, Asghar Khan and his party took full part in 1988 parliamentary elections. But this time, he was accused by Pakistan Peoples Party for having called for Bhutto's death sentence and the martial law, which Asghar Khan himself failed to justify. His party members disintegrated and allied with conservative Nawaz Sharif, a major set back for his career. Asghar Khan's public rating plummeted and faced a complete annihilation and defeat in 1988 elections. He conceded his defeat but again contested in 1990 parliamentary elections from Lahore, Asghar Khan once again faced defeat. Briefly retiring from active politics in the late 1990s his party faced another one of its many splits. Since 1990, Asghar Khan has not held a significant position in politics.
As he grew older, he handed over his small party to his equally capable son Omar Asghar Khan, who had for a while joined the military government of General Pervaiz Musharraf, and became minister of Ministry of Environment (MoE). After his son's resignation from the cabinet, Omar Asghar Khan took over Tehrik-e-Istiqlal and subsequently merged it with assorted other Non-governmental organization and formed a new party called National Democratic Party, an event which caused another split in the party. Both Independence Movement and National Democratic Party suffered major shock and setback when Omar Asghar Khan was murdered in Karachi on 25 June 2001 prior to the elections. An inquiry into his death was ordered by the Sindh High Court and in spite of repeated requests, it was never started.
In a historic press conference on 12 December 2011, Asghar Khan announced his full support to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Imran Khan. He praised Imran Khan for his struggle and endorsed him as the only hope left for the survival of Pakistan. This endorsement came at a crucial time for Imran Khan, when many tainted politicians were joining his party. After announcing his party's support for PTI, Asghar Khan resigned as President of Tehreek-e-Istiqlal and left the future of his party in the hands of his workers. Contrary to many media reports, Asghar Khan never joined PTI.
Besides political activism, Asghar Khan has been engaged in peace activism. On various occasion, Asghar Khan called for normalization of Indo-Pakistan relations. Asghar Khan also renounced the nuclear tests operations conducted by Pakistan, targeting Prime minister Nawaz Sharif move for making that move. In 2011 Asghar Khan maintained that:
In the last over 60 years, India has never attacked Pakistan, as it cannot afford it. Indians know well, if Pakistan is destroyed, they will be the next target... It was made our problem that one day India would invade us. But we did so four times and the first attack was on Kashmir, where Maharaja was not prepared to accede to India for he wanted to join Pakistan and waited for this for 21 days. Indian forces came to East-Pakistan when people were being slaughtered there. Moreover, again at Kargil, Indian never mounted an assault...— Asghar Khan, 2011, 
Asghar Khan blamed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for Balochistan conflict and the East-Pakistan war, terming it "inflexible attitude" of Bhutto. Commenting of his political collapse, Asghar Khan accused the civil society for his failure, and marked that: " the majority in Pakistan voted for the (corrupt) politicians, as they also wanted their job done by "hook or by crook".
Asghar Khan also criticized Late Mr Bhutto on numerous occasions, holding him responsible for tyranny during the 1970 elections. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, Asghar Khan did support the East-Pakistan morally, alleging the West Pakistan under Bhutto, of depriving East Pakistan from their political and economical rights. He also demanded power to be handed over to the people of East Pakistan. In 1972, after Mr Bhutto was made president, Asghar Khan accused him for the break-up of the country.
AM (rtd) Asghar Khan had once filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1996. Till 1999 it was occasionally heard just to push away the time. During the same year Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, the then Chief Justice of Pakistan concluded the hearing but could not find courage to announce the final decision. The case file was shelved in the cold room.
The said Asghar Khan Case [challenging unlawful distribution of Rs:140 million amongst ‘some chosen’ politicians by the Pakistan Army’s ISI in 1990’s parliamentary elections] caught momentum when the apex court was moved once again in December 2011 [may be just by coincidence] on the basis of an article ‘Similar Looks wanted please’, appeared on internet media through www.Pkhope.com on 8 October 2011.
It is an educated guess that the PPP's high command had picked up that article; asked some of its veteran lawyers to make out a fresh reminder for the Supreme Court, not to malign the army or its ISI but to drag certain politicians into slippery mud of mockery and contempt who were the recipients of huge amounts of money from government exchequer through the then president GIK’s planning.
Later the same essay was made part of a book published in the UK which was picked up by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as a piece of evidence, attached it with case file and decided the case in February 2012 on the basis of its article titled Is Hamam Main Sab Nangay….
Asghar Khan has also authored 13 books, including We've Learnt Nothing from History, Pakistan at the Crossroads and Generals in Politics. Asghar Khan was married to Amina Shamsie in 1946 and they had five children, Nasreen, Shereen, Saira, Omar (deceased) and Ali Asghar Khan.
|url=value (help). Oxford University Press. p. 655. ISBN 9780195476606. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
The Tehrik-i-Istiqlal of retired air marshal Asghar Khan had also joined the MRD by  ... The so-called 'three Khans' – Nazrullah Khan of the Pakistan Democratic Party, Walid Khan of National Awami Party and Asghar Khan of the Tehrik – opposed [participation in the 1985 elections] and carried the rest with them.
Once the  National Assembly elections were over ... Air Marshal Asghar Khan, leader of the Tehrik-i-Istiklal party, has been swept aside, in both the constituencies where he contested the elections from.
|Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Air Force