The 52nd martyrdom anniversary of Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed, one the youngest recipients of Nishan-e-Haider, was observed on Sunday across the country. He embraced martyrdom at Goth Ahmed Shah in Sujawal district on this day in 1971. Lt. Gen.Naeem Khalid Lodhi while talking to APP said that the defence of Pakistan is safeguarded by its venerable armed forces, which also monitor and watch the ideological frontiers of the motherland every moment. “At the time of need, sons of the valiant armed forces combated and defeated the cowardly enemy including the scourge of terrorism in a befitting manner,” he added. The brave armed forces and sons of the soil have a wide range of experience to deal with any aggression or the menace of terrorism and the entire world could learn from Pakistan how to cope with the enemy or terrorism, he said. He said that the nation, standing with its forces, displayed unanimous spirit in facing any challenge or enemy boldly and defeated them on all fronts. In fact, there have been rare examples of such extreme valour and courage in global military history which the Pakistani nation and its heroes and soldiers showcased at various occasions, Lodhi said. A similar poignant story is of Rashid Minhas Shaheed, who after having joined the air force, was commissioned on March 13, 1971, in the 51st GD(P) Course. He began training to become a pilot. On August 20 of that year, in the hour before noon, he was getting ready to take off in a T-33 jet trainer in Karachi, his second solo flight in that type of aircraft. Minhas was taxiing towards the runway when a Bengali instructor pilot, Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman, signalled him to stop and then climbed into the instructor’s seat. The jet took off and turned towards India. Minhas radioed PAF Base Masroor with the message that he was being hijacked. The air controller requested that he resend his message, and he confirmed the hijacking. Later investigation showed that Rahman intended to defect to India to join his compatriots in the Bangladesh Liberation War, along with the jet trainer. In the air, Minhas struggled physically to wrest control from Rahman; each man tried to overpower the other through the mechanically linked flight controls. Some 32 miles (51 km) from the Indian border, the jet crashed near Thatta. Both men died. Minhas was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s top military honour, the Nishan-E-Haider, and became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to win the award. Minhas’s Pakistan military citation for the Nishan-E-Haider states that he “forced the aircraft to crash” in order to prevent Rahman from taking the jet to India. This is the official, popular and widely known version of how Minhas died. Yawar A. Mazhar, a writer for Pakistan Military Consortium, relayed in 2004 that he spoke to retired PAF Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry about Minhas, and that he learned more details not generally known to the public. According to Mazhar, Chaudhry led the immediate task of investigating the wreckage and writing the accident report. Chaudhry told Mazhar that he found the jet had hit the ground nose first, instantly killing Minhas in the front seat. Rahman’s body, however, was not in the jet and the canopy was missing. Chaudhry searched the area and saw Rahman’s body some distance behind the jet, the body found with severe abrasions from hitting the sand at a low angle and a high speed. Chaudhry thought that Minhas probably jettisoned the canopy at low altitude causing Rahman to be thrown from the cockpit because he was not strapped in. Chaudhry felt that the jet was too close to the ground at that time, too far out of control for Minhas to be able to prevent the crash. On August 20, 2023, in various events, on his 52nd martyrdom anniversary, Armed Forces of Pakistan, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Services Chiefs have paid glowing tribute to Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed. In a media release, the ISPR said Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas’s martyrdom anniversary serves as a powerful reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by Armed Forces of Pakistan. It said in the line of duty, Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas lived up to great traditions of Pakistan Armed Forces in defending the motherland. Meanwhile, Pakistan Air Force Directorate General Public Relations has released a short documentary to pay homage to youngest recipient of Nishan-e-Haider, Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Sunday also paid a rich tribute to the courage and sacrifice of Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed. In a tweet today, the premier said observing the 52nd anniversary of martyrdom of Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed (Nishan e Haider) today, we as a nation salute his undying courage. His heroic act on 20 Aug 1971 preserved our national dignity and his legacy of valor remains undimmed. Mahboob Ali, a retired PAF officer told APP that after his death, Minhas was honoured 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, Minhas was honoured by the naming of a main road, Rashid Minhas Road and a two-rupee postal stamp bearing his image was issued by Pakistan Post in December 2003. Rashid Minhas was a very young and inexperienced pilot. The crash took place during his second solo flight on T-33 aircraft. In the run up to the 1971 crisis the PAF had grounded all East Pakistani pilots in PAF and assigned them ground jobs.