A Lucky Pilot - Pakistan Aviation

Lucky Pilot Home | Concordia Expeditions

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.

June, 1955
Signing of the Baghdad Pact

In June, a month after my return from Indonesia, I got a call from the Air Force C-in-C's office that I should report to General Ayub Khan the Defence Minister at 3 p.m. I was required to accompany him as his ADC to visit Turkey for the signing of Baghdad Pact. I went to Napier Barracks at the Office of General Muhammad Musa Khan who was the Deputy Chief of the Joint Services, representing all the three Arms of Defence. General Ayub first enquired as to how was I and then disclosed his program leaving Karachi a day after.

He said that his son-in-law and the ADC, Captain Prince Aurangzeb, had suddenly fallen ill and he thought that I was the best person available to replace him on such a short notice. I am sure he must have observed me during my assignments as an aide to three Heads of States earlier that year and had all the necessary ceremonial uniforms. The question that embarrassed me most was, when he jokingly said "Ahmad, are you going to look after me or will I have to look after you" my reply was of course, courteous and to the point "Sir, I will do my best". He instructed me to collect three tickets from the PAN-AN Office including one of Brigadier Yahya Khan, who later was to be come the President of Pakistan.

The Field Marshal had to relinquish his office in 1969 due to ill health and the fast growing Opposition demand for his resignation after a 'non party' elections, which he had overwhelmingly won through the Basic Democracy system.

The fourth person in the delegation was Mr. J. A. Rahim, the Foreign Secretary, who was the architect of the PPP's manifesto and became a senior Cabinet Minister in Mr. Bhutto's government. He after sometime fell into disfavour of the Prime Minister, and was badly beaten along with his son by the Federal Security Force. They were physically abused and assaulted at three in the morning. This dastardly incident happened because once he left the Prime Minister's house dinner party after waiting for a long time, loudly declaring that he was nobody's servant. I was also instructed to find out as to where Brigadier Yahya Khan was staying and to inform him that we would pick him up at five in the morning of our departure.

With difficulty I located Commodore A. R. Khan's house where the Brigadier was staying and informed him about the program. His residence was at the Naval Barracks, where the hotel Taj Mahal now stands majestically. The next day, I was supposed to report that all the instructions were carried out. When I arrived at General Musa's house in the evening, he saw me carrying three Pan American bags in my hand. He asked if I could give one to him since I must be having many. I immediately obliged him and found him happy and smiling. Those were simple and unsophisticated days of Pakistan when even the Generals sometime behaved like subalterns.

The next morning, I picked up General Ayub and Brigadier Yahya for the Airport without their hosts as they were not allowed by the former to see him off. The first thing I realised that it was Brigadier Yahya Khan, who was doing the ADC's duties, carrying the General's briefcase and opening the car door for him. I did not want to make a point, as I saw that he was voluntarily and happily doing it most of time during the trip.

When we arrived in Istanbul we were put up at the recently built Hilton hotel, overlooking the Bosphorus Sea. It was known to be the best and most modern hotel in the world in those days. In the lift while we were going to our rooms, the General made a passing remark in Urdu, about the luxurious furnishing and carpetting of the hall. In those days, he was very cost conscious and austerity minded. He said that the Turkish people did not have much to eat, and questioned the money wasted on the luxurious hotel

He was given the Presidential suite and I had an adjacent room. He asked me to get some tea. In the meanwhile I scanned through a few pages of the Conrad Hilton book which was placed in each room. It was clearly mentioned that all the foreign exchange and 60% of the total expenses were incurred by the Hilton group. While having tea he made similar comments regarding the golden sanitary fittings, the glittering door knobs and the beautiful China tea set. I could not resist, and explained to him, about what I had just read in the Hilton book, and defended the colossal amount spent. I also said, that the investment would gradually be recovered from the rich guests staying in this fabulous hotel.

He changed the topic and asked for my opinion as to who was the most suitable Pakistani officer, eligible to become the next PAF C-in-C. I told him that being the Defence Minister, he was the best judge himself. He again, insisted that he was seeking my personal opinion. I told him about the PAF seniority list indicating that AVM M. Raza, Air Commodores Maqbool Rab and Asghar Khan were the three likely choices. I strongly recommended the last name who was still active in flying and the most popular. I also knew that Mr. Muhammad Ali Bogra, the Prime Minister, had already recommended AVM Raza's appointment on the file which was still at the Defence Ministry for the Governor-General's approval.

The next day we arrived in Ankara, our Ambassador Mian Aminuddin also accompanied us from Istanbul. After the guard of honour, the General told me that both of us would be staying at the American Ambassador's house, who had specially come to receive him. When we arrived at his house Mr. Warren showed us our rooms and the luggage was brought in by his valet. Soon after Mr. Aminuddin also arrived unannounced. When our host left for a few minutes to check about the tea arrangements, the Ambassador asked the General, that if possible he would also like to stay with him. His own house at Ankara was closed as his family was in Istanbul at their summer residence. I could easily sense that the General did not like this idea and told him to check from the American Ambassador himself, if he had an extra bedroom. After the tea, Mian Aminuddin asked Mr. Warren if a spare room was available, to which he immediately replied "No".

Our Ambassador then suggested that he could stay in the ADC's room who should be shifted to the Ankara Hotel where the Turkish Government had reserved four rooms for the delegation. To please our Ambassador, the General said that he did not mind this arrangement much against Mr. Warren's wishes. I came to know later that Mian Aminuddin was allegedly following the instructions from somebody in Pakistan to keep an eye on the General. If I remember correctly, Mr. Warren was posted in Pakistan before coming to Turkey and they had become very friendly with each other. The next day, was a Sunday and both of them went for a shoot without informing our Ambassador who must have felt neglected and insulted. Later in the day, he left the house in their absence to stay somewhere else.

I also noticed that the General did not give much importance to the Foreign Secretary who unfortunately had speech impediment due to a facial stroke. All the work of making a report and signing the Baghdad Pact was done by Brigadier Yahya Khan. No wonder, Mr. J. A. Rahim much later, when he was in the PPP Government accused the General in the newspapers, that he had purchased some gold from Beirut in 1955. I know for certain, that the only thing he bought was a piece of cloth known as "Kamkhab" a gold laced textile from a jewellery shop for his wife, who especially asked for it.

A day before leaving Ankara for Pakistan, the delegation called on the President of Turkey Mr. Celal Bayer to say good-bye. I also happened to be his ADC a few months before in Pakistan. He asked the General, if he could stay for another week in Turkey, because on the following day the King of Iraq and his uncle Abdul Illah, the Regent were scheduled to arrive. The President especially wanted the General to see the Turkish Parade which was going to be held at the end of their tour, in honour of King of Iraq. Mr. Bayar insisted that since he had already witnessed the Pakistan Army parade and the Air Force show, he very much wanted to reciprocate Pakistan's hospitality by this opportunity. The General looked towards us and agreed to the invitation. At one point when the President of Turkey asked him, about the latest situation in Afghanistan, he almost used some harsh words against Prime Minister Dauood.

There were a number of functions for the King of Iraq and his party. He was a bachelor and rumour was afloat that he would choose a young Turkish bride for himself. There was a Royal Ball in his honour at the main Banquet Hall, the roof studded with huge crystal chandeliers. The King led the dance with Madam Bayar which was followed by the Turkish dignitaries and their wives. I was introduced to a Minister's pretty daughter who was sitting at our table. She danced with me the entire evening. The General came in the dance hall at mid-night and tapped at my shoulder and said "to stay on" as long as I wanted since he was leaving with Mr. Warren. The girl's parents dropped me off at my hotel and on the way, she slipped one of her rings into my finger. This was in spite of the fact, that I had already told her while dancing that I was recently married to a beautiful girl in Indonesia. She refused to take her ring back and said that 'one day' I would remember her, which has literally become true after a long passage of forty years.

The King did not dance with any other lady present there after the opening dance with Madam Bayar. That also gave an indication that he either did not like any particular girl from that gathering or he was too shy. I also noticed that he hardly talked to anybody that evening. Perhaps, he had a premonition about his overthrow and eventual murder in the near future. All the Army Parade, Mr. Nuri-e-Said, the Prime Minister of Iraq, who was slightly deaf. was sitting next to our General. He made a remark a bit loudly, that the Pakistani soldiers were smarter than the Turkish. I was very happy to hear this and hoped that no Turkish V.I.P. sitting there overheard it.

Col. Ismail the Military Attache Turkey gave two bottles of premium whisky for our stay in Beruit where we were supposed to break our journey for three days. It was ostensibly to write the report on the Baghdad Pact but mainly to take some rest after the hectic ten days and nights in Turkey. Since we were late by one week our Ambassador in Lebanon and Syria Mr. Lal Shah Bokhari informed that he could only arrange three rooms at the St. George's, the best hotel and that one room was booked next door at the Velenicia hotel. When we arrived at our hotel, the Ambassador again asked the General as to who was going to stay at the other place. Brigadier Yahya Khan sensing the situation, asked the Ambassador whether the ADC's room had two separate beds, which he confirmed. He immediately looked towards me, if I had any objection. When we arrived in our room he inquired about the two bottles. I told him that I had put them in the General's suitcase. He suggested, if I could possibly retrieve one. When I went to the General's room he asked me to take both of them, he said that he had considerably reduced his drinking as per his doctor's advice. However, I took one bottle from his suitcase.

After dinner, our Ambassador invited us to the night club "La-Bourge" of Paris which was in the basement of the hotel. The General apologised by saying that he was very tired. I left the night club early as I was also exhausted. My room mate arrived late without making any fuss or noise. The next morning, he opened his suitcase and told me to select any two ties from the lot, which he had purchased them from Turkey for his friends. I still sometime wear them since they bring back the memories of that trip and the generosity of our former President. He was very brilliant soldier and a friend. Whenever, he saw me especially when I was the Airport Manager Karachi, he always had a kind word or two. At Brigadier Bilgrami's daughter's wedding with Captain E. D. Noon in Karachi he called me from a distance and asked as to why I did not see him more often. Thank God, I never requested any favour from him or Field Marshal Ayub Khan when they were the Presidents of Pakistan for over thirteen years. This might have been the main reason that I was always in their good books.

The Field Marshal had a lot of good qualities. He was honest and had a genuine love for Pakistan. He was far less dictatorial than some of the civilians who ruled our country. When I went to the United States for the first time in 1964 for a Civil Aviation Course he was very popular there. The Americans remembered his speech in the combined house of the Senate and Congress which was the subject of his autobiography "Friends not Masters".

In America, I toured very extensively to visit all the International Airports as the U.S. Government's guest for three months, where many officials asked me if I was related to our President. I told them that I was his personal pilot and he was always kind and treated me as his son. Before he became the President, I flew him for many years and I think that was why he had a complete confidence in a PAF Officer to accompany him to Turkey as his ADC. I had the opportunity to see the world's choicest places and did things that many young officers could only dream of. After my Air Force retirement in 1970. I was the Chief Pilot WAPDA and Mr. I. A. Khan was the then our Chairman. After a dinner at Kot Adu, the day Lui Armstrong put his foot down at the moon, he asked his executive members and me, "what would you like to be, if you get another life". My wish was simple and honest to join the "Air Force" again and his choice was to become a "Town Planner".

While working for Tarbela in 1971, I went and called on the Field Marshal without a previous engagement at Islamabad. He was kind to come out of the house and waited for me at the porch when the chowkidar announced my arrival on the Inter Com. I stayed with him for about one hour and talked on a number of subjects. I asked him, why he could not have better relations with India, when he was on top of his popularity. He said he tried his best and even suggested to have a joint defence system for both the countries. Mr. Nehru spurned it down by saying "Defence against whom"? He also told me that he had refused the Chinese offer to attack the Indian occupied Kashmir in 1962. When I showed him a picture of Mr. Bhutto, in the morning newspaper with a big crowd following him from Lahore to Gujrat for the coming elections. He replied "don't you know, he is farce".

He also narrated how he managed to get the approval for the Tarbela Dam despite much opposition. One day, when he was the President, Mr. George Wood the President of the World Bank was invited by him for breakfast in Karachi just before he was returning to Washington. He explained to him the necessity of having another Dam, after Mangla for our country. Mr. Wood was convinced by his arguments, and promised to reactivate the case with the donor countries. Sure enough it was finally approved. He was happy to know that I was still flying and working for the Tarbela Dam which is very close to his home town Rehana.

While in Ankara, we also visited the Ataturk's mausoleum. It is very impressive yet a simple monument standing on plain concrete columns. We also went to Jallaludin Rumi's tomb in Konia and saw his disciples wearing long "rumy topies" caps, dancing in trance and circling the shrine in the form of a "Wajad". The last dinner in Istanbul was hosted by Mr. Adnan Mendres, the Turkish Prime Minister at an Old Ottoman Challet built on a tiny Island in the Bosphorus. He presented us with the Turkish silver cigar and cigarette cases with his monogram.

It was a "Grand Finale" from a brotherly country of Turkey.