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.

July, 1948
Quaid-e-Azam's Last Flight to Quetta

I still remember, a solitary figure standing in an Achkan and Rumi topi (Cap) with a Chooridar-Pajama and a stick in his hand. He came to see off the Quaid-e-Azam at 4 o' clock in the morning on 26th July, 1948. It was none other than Khawaja Nazimuddin, the President of Muslim League, who after the Quaid's demise, in the same year on 11th September, became the second Governor-General of Pakistan.

I was the second pilot on this flight that was kept extremely secret until the last moment. Probably, with the exception of the Captain, no other crewmember knew as to where we were going and who was our worthy-passenger. I figured it out only when Khawaja Sahib asked me "At what time the Quaid-e-Azam's aircraft is taking off for Quetta"? I said 'after one hour' and requested him to sit on a wooden bench available in the corridor of the terminal building of Mauripur airfield. It was also the seat of Air Headquarters of Pakistan Air Force after the Partition of the Indian Sub-Continent.

After briefing and clearance from the Control Tower, when we went to the aircraft I was surprised to see a temporary arrangement of white bed sheets that were hung up on either side of the aircraft. This was so arranged that an ambulance could easily back up to the entrance. I did not see any dignitary on the tarmac, not even Khawaja Sahib who was perhaps the only person who knew about the departure plan. No Air Force Officer was present to see off the flight although it was a protocol requirement. There were only a few Air Force ground personnel to remove the 'purda' arrangement from the entrance of the aircraft. Two ground crew members were also to be seen near the nose of the plane; their job was to clear the starting trolley and wheel chocks after both the engines had started. We went to the cockpit and the Captain still did not disclose who was our sick passenger.

The ambulance arrived exactly at five and we took off with the rising sun to avoid the turbulence. It normally began later in the morning over the rocky mountains of Quetta. We were instructed not to enter the passenger cabin during the flight and not to use the washroom, situated at the rear of the aircraft. To reach the toilet from the cockpit the crew had to pass through the area where our distinguished passenger was lying on a stretcher, surrounded by his paramedic attendants and personal staff.

At Quetta, the same kind of arrangement was provided for the reception by the Army Jawans. On the arrival of our aircraft, they immediately placed a screen on either side of the ambulance and the aircraft entrance. After about fifteen minutes, when all was clear, we came out of the aircraft and realised that our worthy passenger was indeed the Founder of Pakistan. Unfortunately, it was his last flight to Quetta, in a desperate attempt by his doctors to cure or at least alleviate, the cruel affliction from which he was suffering. From Quetta he was taken to Ziarat hill station, where the cool, dry and bracing climate with the pollution free atmosphere was beneficial for those suffering from tuberculosis.

During the next few days, I had some more flights to Quetta carrying Dr. Ilahi Bakhsh, the Quaid's personal physician, Mr. M. Isphani our Ambassador in the United States, the nursing staff and life-saving drugs as well as some medical equipment. On the 11th of September the same year, when I was flying to Fort Sandema from Peshawar we heard the sad and disturbing news on the aircraft radio. The father of our Nation had left us for good, the man without whom Pakistan probably would have never come into existence and become a reality.

We came to know later, that on his return flight from Quetta, the ambulance which was carrying him to the Governor General's house from Mauripur airfield broke down. It was foul smelling and stagnant water area of Keamari, where the fishermen dried their fish in the sun. This was the last journey of the great leader who founded our country.

Are we following his examples of integrity and leadership that he displayed and practised single-mindedly during his entire life? If we did, I am sure Pakistan would have been a different and better country to live after fifty years of his death.

Air Commodore Atta Rabhani has recently written an informative publication "ADC to Quaid-e-Azam" which is worth reading. The Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto performed the inauguration ceremony of the book.

At one place, the author writes that on his posting to Risalpore as Chief Flying Instructor, he requested the Quaid-e-Azam for a signed photograph. He showed him the area that had a lighter shade for the caption and autographs. Quaid-e-Azam did not approve of it and smilingly said that he did not want to spoil his trouser's crease. As we remember he was a meticulously dressed person and fond of well tailored clothes.