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.

November, 1957
President Iskander Mirza's State Visit to Spain and Portugal

It was the first state Visit of the first President of Pakistan and Begum Nahid Mirza to Spain and Portugal. A large entourage accompanied them. Planned as an elaborate and extensive trip of three weeks which also included two non-official visits to England and France. A standby aircraft was considered necessary, for such a long journey and I was detailed to fly this aeroplane. After staying for four days in London we flew to Paris for the same number of nights. Mr. Iskander Mirza stayed with Prince Ali Khan as his personal guest, who later on, was appointed as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the U.N.O. Our President also spent one day shooting trip with the President of France.

The crew of both the aircrafts was put up in a grand old hotel near the 'Chan's Elysee' square. One morning, I got a call from a partner of the Guisson and Guisson Company, who were supplying arms and ammunition to Pakistan. He asked, if I was free the following day as he would like me to fly a French four engined Nortlas transport aircraft. Their Company had been trying to sell these aircraft to Pakistan and they thought that I was the right person to promote and recommend the sale. I accepted the unofficial invitation and the next day he came to pick me up from the hotel. My reference was given to them by their counterpart in Pakistan, Brigadier Saifur Rehman, the son-in-law of General Sherjan. I did not like the performance of the aircraft mainly because when I asked the Captain to feather one of its engines, he made some excuses. After the flight he invited me for a lunch at the famous Maxim's restaurant.

He spoke good English and became friendly with me. That afternoon he was planning to go for the races at St. Cloud and requested me to accompany him, to which I reluctantly agreed. At the races, where we were already late, he wanted me to bet. I told him that a day after we were flying to Lisbon, and had no spare money for such a risky gambling. He insisted and lent me some money, on the condition that if I lose, it could be repayed in Pakistan on his next visit there, Luckily, I won with a considerable margin after selecting the winning horse and returned the loan immediately. In the second race, I placed all the winning money on a horse which came in the second position. Whereas, Mr. Guisson had lost in both the races.

Suddenly, he saw Prince Ali Khan sitting in his box, he thought that since the Prince had not gone for the shoot with the Presidents of France and Pakistan, his horse which was running in the next race should be a sure winner. He wanted me to bet all my winnings on it and said that I would then certainly have a good time in Spain and Portugal. The reason he expounded was not a sound one. It was not obligatory on the part of the French President to invite Prince Ali Khan just because our President was his house guest. I did not bet on his horse but instead found a good looking sterling, which came in the third position. Prince Ali Khan's horse did not come anywhere close to the placed horses. Mr. Guisson was surprised when I explained him that why I did not bet on his horse. He said Captain "please leave your job and settle down in Paris" I thanked him for the wonderful time and on enjoyable day, I had spent in Paris.

Lisbon, had its own charm with its ancient churches and old buildings. It was different from London and Paris. After four days of a quiet stay and rest in that picturesque but lonely city we left for Madrid. There, I remember some interesting episodes and incidents, worth narrating.

The Spanish are handsome people and their girls more beautiful than the other Europeans. The late, Sqdn/Ldr Bakhshi was junior to me, and flying the President's aircraft along with Sqdn/Ldr Shah. We explored the great city and with some difficulty found out Wing Commander S.I.R. Bokhari's inlaw's house, and delivered a few presents from his wife Gloria Bustamante. They have since long settled in Madrid, after the husband's retirement.

We were all invited for a last Dinner Party at the Ambassador's house, who was the elder brother of Mr. Suharwardy, our ex-Prime Minister. Begum Nahid Mirza was talking to us before the Dinner and asked how much did we enjoy the long but interesting trip. I mentioned to her that a day before we had gone to see a Bull Fight. She said that there was no such thing during the winter in Spain. I explained that there was one at the town of Orankhawez, some forty miles away from Madrid. It was in the aid of the people affected by the Valencia River flood. She asked to find her husband and beckoned me to bring him to her. I went and informed Mr. Iskander Mirza that the Begum Sahiba wanted to speak to him. He said "what for" I had to tell him a lie saying that I did not know, as other guests were talking to him. Escorted him to his wife, who in a loud voice said "Darling, I will never forgive you for not taking me to a Bull Fight in Spain". When he came to know that we had really been to one, he politely told her that since it did not take place in the main Arena of Madrid, they were not invited. Furthermore, it was not included in their official program.

Mr. Iskander Mirza wanted to change the topic and asked use, if on our way back to Pakistan we were also going to see Cordoba, historic Mosque. It was built by the Muslims more than one thousand years ago. My second pilot, the late Flt/Lt Iqbal said that we would like to go there, if at all possible. The President said 'why not' and asked me to call Air Marshal Asghar Khan, the C-in-C PAF, who was standing with his wife in a group of dignitaries. When I informed him that the President wanted to talk to him. His first reaction was the same 'what for' I kept quiet and brought him to Mr. Iskander Mirza, who told him to allow the standby aircraft to visit Cordoba as well. The C-in-C did not like the idea and refused the President that it would not be possible to change the itinerary at the last moment. Much to the President's chagrin, because the way he was first treated and questioned by his wife and now by an abrupt refusal of the Air Marshal. He told us "Sorry boys next time we will include Cordoba in the program, whenever, you visit Spain."

At eleven o' clock at night I got a phone call from the ADC to the C-in-C, Sqdn Ldr. Waheed Butt informing that the C-in-C wanted to see me at the Royal Palace guest house, he following morning at 8 o' clock, before we were supposed to got to the Airport. I sent the remaining crew for clearance, and at the exact scheduled time the Air Marshal questioned me as to why one of my crew members spoke to the President about going to Cordoba. I tried to explain to him that it was the President himself, who suggested that we should also visit Cordoba's historic mosque. It was probably, also to make sure, that our aircraft might be required in case his own aircraft become unserviceable. He told me to convey his displeasure to my second pilot, which I never did until, we safely arrived back at Lahore.

I am sure the C-in-C felt unhappy, as he had to refuse a small request made by the President. The Air Marshal might not have been aware at that time that according to the latest rules no prior permission was required to fly over the IATAS approved international routes published in the weekly 'Jepson'. One could file the flight plan one hour before the departure and amend it at the last moment. It was futile to convince the C-in-C at that time, when he obviously looked annoyed. The possible reason, was that being a strict disciplinarian himself, he did not like a PAF crew member speaking directly to the President.

The matter was not forgotten and closed as I thought. After a few months, the C-in-C visited Lahore for an Annual inspection. Air Commodore Noor Khan being the Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group Sargodha also accompanied him. Poor Iqbal (who later died in the 1965) and myself were summoned at the Station Commander's Office. The Air Marshal, recounted the whole incident and gave both of us his verbal displeasure. Knowing him, I did not want to open my mouth and walked out of the office. Although, feeling greatly disappointed and helpless as I thought that we did a very good job and deserved some appreciation on the European tour of our President.

Once, I was travelling by Tezgam from Karachi to Lahore, my companion was Mr. Fazlur Rehman the Commerce Minister from East Pakistan. He and his wife were also in the entourage of the President during the Spain and Portugal trip. He praised Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who according to him had the guts to refuse the President. He said that the whole Cabinet liked him for his firm stand.

I hope, when the Air Marshal reads this part of the book he would forgive me for being frank and honest, as it was how, I perceived and observed the event. I always considered him as my ideal. He has also been my patron-in-chief, who kept me as Station Commander Lahore and concurrently gave me the responsibility of the Regional Controller of Civil Aviation of five years from 1960 to 1964. In addition, he posted me to some important jobs like Director of Aerodromes in Pakistan and the Airport Manager Karachi. My appreciations and memories are full of him as this book mainly portrays most of his activities. There is no doubt in my mind, that he has contributed a lot towards making the Pakistan Air Force a great and admirable Service.

It is ironical how an honest and a clever President like Iskander Mirza was ousted by his friend General Ayub Khan because a stage did come when the two swords could not be housed in one scabbard. The former settled in England where he had to work in an Indian restaurant as a manager. Such is life, how at times it treats even the high and mighty!