Quaid-e-Azam and Pakistan Air Force

Quaid-e-Azam being received by PAF officer at Lahore Airport
"Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three. Hailed as 'Great Leader' (Quaid-e-Azam) of Pakistan and its first Governor General, Jinnah virtually conjured that country into statehood by the force of his indomitable will." ( Prof. Stanley Wolport)

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah is one of the most dynamic leaders of modern times. As is evident from Wolport's opening paragraphs of the Quaid's biography, 'Jinnah of Pakistan', he was a complete leader. His foresight was tremendous. During his stay in Europe, he had watched the emergence of air power very closely. From its limited role in the First World War to the unprecedented death and destruction unleashed on humanity by the use of this new weapon, the Quaid perceived the overriding role that airpower would play in future conflicts.

In 1936, Quaid-e-Azam met the Muslim Officers and men of Royal Air Force at Lahore. He was very keen to discuss their progress and participation in the Air Force. He urged them to work hard and acquire the knowledge requisite to flying and maintaining aircraft. This evinces his interest in air power and its emerging potentials.

Pakistan Air Force has been lucky to have received the Quaid's special attention. PAF Base Masroor then known as Mauripur has the unique distinction of welcoming the Quaid in August 1947 when he flew in the Viceroy's Dakota to take up his mantle as the Governor General of an independent Pakistan. People from all walks of life thronged to Mauripur to catch a glimpse of their 'Messiah of the promised land'.

As the Quaid alighted from the aircraft, accompanied by his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah and his ADCs' his face beaming with delight, the cries of Pakistan Zindabad, Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad, rent the air. A wave of unbounded enthusiasm swept the entire ground. The people broke the cordons put up by the police and rushed towards the aircraft. The Quaid stopped on the last step of the aircraft's gangway and with a wave of his hand, beckoned the crowd, to go back behind the barriers. They retreated instantly as if they had been pushed by a magic wand. The lesson of discipline had been driven home.

It was the Quaid's amazing prescience that convinced him of the inseparable link between survival and air power which would guarantee the security of Pakistan in the shadow of the neighbouring implacable enemy. It was his love of PAF which, on 13 April, 1948 brought him to the RPAF Flying School at Risalpur despite his poor health.

Accompanied by his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah, the Father of the Nation arrived at Risalpur. He was received by Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who was then Wing Commander and Officer Commanding of the RPAF Flying Training School and reviewed the ceremonial parade that comprised Flight Cadets of 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th GD (P) courses.

As the Quaid stood before this small band of adoring PAF Officers and Cadets of his, fledgling nation's air force, despite his frail health, the air reverberated with his famous speech which became a source of inspiration for PAF in the trials and tribulations of the years to come. It must be quoted in full. He said:

'I am well aware of Air developments in other countries and my Government is determined that the Royal Pakistan Air Force will not lag behind.

The Royal Pakistan Air Force has started with very few assets except loyalty and determination to succeed. But the Royal Pakistan Air Force is already taking shape; this school formed only seven months ago is a worthy example of this.

I know you are short of personnel but I understand recruitment is brisk and good material is coming forward. To fill up the gaps in the meantime the Royal Air Force Volunteers are coming forward and are welcome.

I know also that you are short of aircraft and equipment, but efforts are being made to procure the necessary equipment and orders for modern aircraft have also been placed.

But aircraft and personnel in any numbers are of little use, unless there is a team spirit within the Air Force and strict sense of discipline prevails. I charge you to remember that only with discipline and self-reliance can the Royal Pakistan Air Force be worthy of Pakistan.

I am pleased to learn of the progress which this school has made and as desired by the Air Commander and yourselves I name it from today 'The Royal Pakistan Air Force College. I thank you all and wish your school and yourselves all success.'

That was the text of the speech at Risalpur. The opening paragraph of the speech that he delivered on the occasion of his first visit to a Royal Pakistan Air Force unit must also be quoted. He said:-

'There is no doubt that a country without a strong Air Force is at the mercy of any aggressor. Pakistan must build up her air force as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient air force second to none and must take its right place with the Army and the Navy in securing Pakistan's Defence.'

These stirring words have rightly become enshrined in the creed of the Pakistan Air Force.

Quaid's towering personality radiated great courage and dynamism and his inspiring words serve as a beacon of strength in the PAF even today.

In the formative years, every officer, airman, cadet and civilian of the Air Force worked with untiring effort and never ending zeal to build PAF. The Quaid's dream of making the PAF second to none, did not take long to become a reality and the nation today is rightly proud of its Air Force as an impregnable shield of the country's airspace.

Successive leadership in the PAF pursued with continued resolve the task of building the nation's air arm from strength to strength. In keeping with the Quaid's aspirations, it behoves all of us in the PAF to indicate the Quaid's trust in our abilities to serve Pakistan with courage and dignity and make PAF a credible deterrent against our potential adversaries.

It is a unique coincidence that having received the first salute on Pakistan's soil in August, 1947 at PAF Base Mauripur, the Quaid replied his last salute also at a PAF Base. When he began his final flight from PAF Base Samungli at Quetta at 2:00 p m on September 11, 1948, Fatima Jinnah in her book Jinnah, 'My Brother', writes:-

....the pilot, and crew lined up and saluted him. He in turn lifted his hand feebly....'

The author is Group Capt Sultan M Hali

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