A Lucky Pilot - Pakistan Aviation

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Wing Commander Lanky Ahmad passed away on October 12, 2004 at Lahore, Pakistan where he was born in 1924 and is buried in the Pakistan Air Force graveyard located just before the landing strip of the Lahore International Airport runway.

February, 1951
Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case

In the early morning of 26th February, I was detailed to fly Mr. Ghulam Muhammad, the Finance Minister from Mauripur to Lahore. He later became the third Governor-General of Pakistan. As soon as the aircraft got airborne, the control tower directed us to land immediately at the Karachi Airport to pick up Mr. Iskander Mirza, the Defence Secretary. He, after four years ousted Mr. Ghulam Muhammad to become the fourth Governor-General and the first President of Pakistan.

Without making a proper circuit we landed on Runway 07 where the Defence Secretary's car was already waiting. As there was no wind and air traffic, the controller allowed us to take off from the opposite direction. Soon after we got safely airborne Mr. Iskander Mirza walked into the cockpit and asked me if I could drop him first at the Sargodha Airfield, where Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister was waiting for him for an urgent meeting. After a few minutes he entered the cockpit again and said, "Ahmad, the Finance Minister is not in a good mood and wanted to know as to why his aircraft was made to land at the Karachi Airport without his prior permission".

The Minister had an urgent meeting at Lahore, and since the aircraft was not required for his return flight, it could be at the disposal of the Defence Secretary. After dropping the V.I.P. at Lahore we took off and landed at Sargodha, which in those days had no control tower or any other facility. In his autobiography "Friends Not Masters", Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who was also called by the Prime Minister at Sargodha had written that the P. M. asked him "what had happened to this damned fellow" meaning, Mr. Iskander Mirza who arrived late by one and half hour because Mr. Ghulam Muhammad did not let him first get down at Sargodha.

Mr. Iskander Mirza was a very polite and considerate person and knew how to keep the pilots happy. Before leaving the aircraft, he informed us that the Commissioner's car which had come to take him to the Railway Station, where the Prime Minister was staying in a Saloon, would be sent back to us. We were required to join them at the Rest House for lunch. When we arrived, the Prime Minister, who was campaigning for the elections was already there. He was surrounded by the Noons and Tiwanas, conspicuous in their long and short coats with white turbans. General Ayub Khan was also there and on seeing me, directed to send his aircraft, a Bristol Freighter back to the base. He wanted to travel with us to Rawalpindi, for a brief stop over, to pick up his clothes on the way to Peshawar. He knew me very well, as I had been flying him since he became the C-in-C Army.

At Peshawar, it was again Mr. Iskander Mirza, who came into the cockpit and told us that he did not know for how long they would be staying. However, he would keep us informed about the programme. I mentioned to him that none of the crew members had any clothes apart from their overalls, as we were supposed to return to Mauripur the same afternoon. He immediately offered, some of his own clothes and invited me to say at the Governor's House with them. I gratefully declined the kind gesture and told him that we would be able to arrange some clothes from our friends in the Air Force Mess. After two days the Military Secretary to the Governor, I. I. Chundrigar, informed that our next flight was to Lahore and the Inspector-General of Police Mr. Qurban Ali Khan would also be on board. In Lahore, Mr. Iskander Mirza thanked each of the crew members individually, and told us that we could now go back to Mauripur.

The next day, I again flew to Lahore, with the Governor-General Khawaja Nazimuddin in his Viking, captained by Sqdn. Ldr. Dogar. In the morning, when I was listening to the news on radio, I came to know, that it was the Pindi Conspiracy case which had kept us in suspense for the last three days at Peshawar. I had wrongly guessed, that all the high level meetings, were about organizing some frontier tribesmen for the Kashmir Campaign. Little knowing, that all the secret activities were related to a Conspiracy Case. It had been hatched to overthrow the government, for not allowing the regular Army to fight the Indians in the Valley. The trial of the conspirators took about two years and all the senior officers involved, including two generals, Air Commodore M. Janjua and Mr. Faiz Ahmad Faiz the great poet with leftist leanings were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Mr. Suhrawardy was their lawyer, who got them a reprieve when he became the Prime Minister in 1957.

The story would not be complete if I did not relate a connected incident, in which I was supposed to fly a VIP guest to Lahore at midnight. His identity was a closely guarded secret. He was coming from London on a BOAC Flight, which arrived two hours late. The passenger was brought in at Mauripur, escorted by the Army Station Commander Col. Ismail Khan and an Officer in the civilian clothes. I was surprised to see that it was General Nazir Ahmad, who had been attending the Imperial Defence College Course in England. As soon as he saw, that it was me, he warmly embraced and asked about the news of his family and my parents. At that time, I was not aware as to why a senior General was flown in such a clandestine manner.

I saw that the Superintendent of Police Malik Tiwana who was escorting him, took the Station Commander aside and told him that the Captain seemed to be his relative and might help him to escape to India or some other country. Col. Ismail told me later, about the police officer's apprehension. He assured him that I was fully trustworthy. We had been personally known to each other since the Kashmir Operations in 1950, when he was the Commandant of the Gilgit Scouts. At first light, when we landed at Lahore, the S. P. thanked me profusely for bringing them safely to the destination. In the later years, he always greeted me warmly whenever we met each other.

General Nazir Ahmad was also tried with the other senior officers and was awarded one day's suspended sentence for not informing the government about the conspiracy. He denied any knowledge of conspiracy in the court. It was solely master-minded, by General Akbar Khan who was known by his pseudo name as General Tariq during the Kashmir operation of 1948, and had served under General Nazir. Later, it came to light that the real motivating force, in this unfortunate drama was General Akbar's wife Naseem Shahnawaz, who was known to be very ambitious and aspired to become the first lady of Pakistan. Both have since died, thus it is not possible to verify as to who was the main conspirator and driving force in this unsuccessful and unfortunate attempt at the 'coup d' etat'.

In 1972, I met General Akbar Khan in an entirely different set up. He was the head of the National Security Organization created by Mr. Bhutto, the Prime Minister. I was the chief pilot Tarbela Joint Venture, and was informed by Mr. Shah Nawaz Khan, the G. M. Tarbela that I was summoned by General Akbar in his office the following day at 9 o' clock at Rawalpindi. He knew me since 1948 when General Nazir was his GOC. I was ushered into his office by his Deputy Brigadier Muzzafar Malik, who later became the Chief Secretary, Punjab. The General did not offer me a seat whereas the Brigadier occupied one of the chairs in front of him. He had a file in front of him and asked me, "Are you Wing Commander Ahmad". I said, 'Yes Sir', then he continued, that I was the Commander Afzal's party (a younger brother of Air Marshal Asghar Khan) on a particular date at Nathiagali which I denied. He mentioned the name of Lady Noon, Sher Baz Mazari and Mr. Mazhar Ali Khan, who was the publisher of a leftist magazine 'View Point'.

I was a bit annoyed and told him that I was not in that party, how did he expect me to meet those people? He insisted that his intelligence report could not be wrong. Then I suddenly remembered, that a week earlier I, along with my family had stayed with the Afzals at their house as guests. I informed him about this and mentioned that Air Marshal Rahim Khan was also present one evening, when we had a dinner together. He was till not satisfied with my answer and asked me the last question. "Since how long do you know Commander Afzal and his family?" I replied that since 1947. He let me go and said if need be, I would be called again which he never did. I always wondered as to how Mr. Bhutto made him the Chief of National Security, knowing fully well that he was involved in the Pindi Conspiracy Case and sentenced for many years in jail.

It reminds me of another character Mr. Masood Mahmood who was made the Chief of Security Force and responsible for bringing Mr. Bhutto to the gallows. He was one year senior to me in the Government College, Lahore and I personally knew him since then. He joined the Police and was unpopular with his colleagues and the superiors as such he was never given any important assignment. In the middle sixties I happened to meet him in an official capacity when he was the Director of Tourism and I was the Director of Aerodromes. I was also x-officio Secretary of the National Facilitation Committee, a highest body, to facilitate the international passengers in all the Air ports of member countries of ICAO.

In bi-annual meeting of 1966 which was prescribed by Air Marshal Asghar Khan, Chairman of Civil Aviation, Tourism and PIAC, Masood Mahmood raised a point of order that the NFC Secretary's post should be transferred to the Tourism Department. The President asked the D. G. Civil Aviation for his views. He replied that the post was affiliated and created by the ICAO and the Director of Aerodromes of all the member countries is ex-officio Secretary. When Masood Mahmood still insisted that the Tourism was the right Department to understand and solve the problems of the visitors entering and existing Pakistan, the Air Marshal asked him to put up a working paper, which he never did.