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.

March, 1949
V.I.P. Flight to Miran Shah

My first V.I.P. flight, as a Captain of the Dakota Aircraft, was on the 14th of March 1949 from Peshawar to Miran Shah, a tribal town near the Afghan-Pakistan border. The second pilot was Flying Officer Maksowich, a Polish citizen expatriated to Pakistan due to the shortage of Pakistani pilots. Our worthy passengers were Khan Abdul Qayum Khan, the Chief Minister of the North West Frontier Province and General Muhammad Yousaf, the General Officer Commanding of the Peshawar Division of the Army.

Qayum Khan was a staunch Muslim Leaguer who was responsible for defeating the Indian Congress Ministry led by Dr. Khan Sahib, the elder brother of Khan Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi. It was reported to the Quaid by the British Governor that both the brothers did not honour Pakistan Flag on Pakistan Day. A Referendum was held whether the people of N.W.F.P should choose to remain in India or to join the newly created Pakistan. Qayum Khan with his fiery speeches, won the self-determination issue and was made the first Chief Minister by the Quaid-e-Azam.

At Miran Shah, after an impressive guard of honour, by the contingent of Tochi Scouts, a fabulous breakfast was laid out in the Mess. It consisted of a full roasted young lamb, chickens with delicious stuffings and some beer to drown the heavy meal. In the afternoon, after the sumptuous lunch which also included Afghan mutton leg pilao, we returned to Peshawar.

It was Qayum Khan's first flight in an Air Force Dakota, which in those days had only bucket seats. He seemed to have enjoyed the flight and was pleased with the visit's outcome. On arrival he thanked and said "Captain Sahib, can I be of some assistance". I immediately said "Sir, I don't have a driving license for the use of a motorcycle which I have recently bought". He asked me to come to his office at 0900 hours next morning. Subsequently, on my arrival I was promptly ushered into his office. He immediately pressed a button and soon after Mr. Ghulam Ishaque Khan, who later became the President of Pakistan entered the office. In those days, he was a handsome, smart and tall young man.

The Chief Minister introduced me to him by stating that a day before I had flown him and the G.O.C to Miran Shah and had a very comfortable flight. He also mentioned that I did not have a driving license for the motorcycle. Mr. Ghulam Ishaque Khan was then a Provincial Civil Service Officer and posted as the Chief Minister's Political Secretary. He took my particulars and within half an hour, while we were still having a cup of tea, the license was ready. It also included the permission to drive a car and truck. He must have thought that if I could fly a big plane, I would have no problem in driving any conceivable vehicle on earth.

I remember, while in Abu Dhabi when I applied for a U.A.E. driving license in 1979, although I was the Chief Pilot they failed me twice before they issued the license. There was nothing wrong with my driving but due to sheer arrogance on their part, the Police department never gave a driving license to any Pakistani on his first two attempts. It was because the U.A.E. had the left hand driving system. In spite of the fact that I had driven in Europe and America which they knew from my application form.

The first time I ever drove a car was a convertible Austin in 1943, belonged to Flying Officer Noor Khan, known as 'Nuru', later he became the Commander-in-Chief of the PAF. The car was parked in the late Col. Nasrullah's house, his class mate from the RIMC Dehra Dun. The latter's father was a close friend of my father from Mussoorie U.P. As I entered the bungalow, I noticed that the key was still in the ignition hole and it was very tempting to have a free ride. I did not even know how to use the gears and clutch properly. I stalled a number of times before I managed to have a complete round of Model Town, Lahore. I am sure nobody heard the car leaving and re-entering the porch. Later, I innocently entered the house but felt guilty having driven somebody's car without his permission. When young Noor Khan left, I told the inmates of the house about the mischief I had done. They just laughed over the incident as there was no damage done to the car. It was my first unauthorised solo in a car. If I knew that the owner of the car would one day, become the C-in-C and I would also join the Air Force, I dared had not touched it.

Mr. Ishaque Khan was the Chairman, WAPDA when I was posted as the Station Commander PAF, Lahore from 1960 to 1964, and we used to meet quite often at official functions. However, I never introduced myself lest I should remind of the incidence in 1949 when I got my first driving license without a road trial and a written examination. One day in 1961, I flew him and the World Bank team in a Bristol Freighter over the Indus Basin projects. After the landing he thanked me for the successful and smooth flight, I casually mentioned that I was building a house in the Cantonment and could not rent it out to the US-Aid people. I also added that the Administrator had shown interest in hiring it for himself, but he wanted a house that had a three phase electricity. In those days, there was only one phase line from the MES in the Cantonment.

He asked me to see him the next day in his office. Upon my arrival he called the Member Power and told him about my requirement. The latter asked me as to how many houses had already been built in the C.M.A. Colony, to which I replied that there were only five or six. He further inquired as to how many more would be constructed in the next two years, while I was still thinking of an answer, the Chairman said that about one hundred bungalows might be built in the area. I promptly agreed with him. My house is across the Railway line from the main Gulberg area. As such, it was not difficult and expensive to extend the 11KV line, much before my house was complete. For this help I have always been grateful to Mr. Ghulam Ishaque Khan, who did a favour not just to me but for the entire Cantonment. We all got the three-phase electricity at least two years earlier than the residents would have normally obtained it.

This was my second and the last favour from my important official in Pakistan who really mattered. The first one was to get the driving license in just half an hour and the other was to expedite the three-phase electricity line for my house.

My owning the first and only house and how I managed to build it, is an interesting story. Mr. Khan Zaman, the Director of Lands and Cantonment in the General Headquarters Rawalpindi came to see me in my office in early 1960 and requested for a family accommodation in the PAF Officers' mess for a week. He wanted to show them the Horse and Cattle show. After the completion of the event he came to thank and asked if I had a residential plot in the Lahore Cantonment. I told him that I had no intention of building a house since I had no money. I also informed him that I had recently surrendered half a square of agricultural land in Thal that was allotted to me by the Air Force for my services in the Kashmir Valley.

The main reason for not accepting the land in the desert was that I could not afford to pay the installments and spare any time or money for the development. He insisted that I should not turn down this unique opportunity as I had to pay only fifty or sixty Rupees as annual rent, extendible beyond one hundred years period. He accompanied me to see the four kanal plot which had an awkward shape with five corners, the last one left in the CMA Colony. Reluctantly, I accepted his kind offer although I was dreading as to how to raise the money during the next two years for the construction of the house, which was one of the conditions for the allotment. When we returned to the officer he himself dictated the application to my P.A. and wanted to take it with him, I did tell him that according to the rules it should be channelled through the AHQs. He said, it was his problem.

On the insistence of the late General Nazir Ahmad, who had a soft corner for me, I applied for the house building advance of maximum thirty-three thousand rupees from the PAF. To complete it another sixty thousand were arranged by selling the car, the air-conditioner and the household goods including a gold watch which was presented to me by King Hussein of Jordan in 1955. I also borrowed some money from my father and the elder sister. When I managed to get the three phase electricity I got a two years advance from the US-Aid. This is how the great God helped many a Defence Service Officers in those days that could hardly have built a house from their hard earned and meager pay.

Today, I am still living in its annexe built in half a canal land that was constructed in 1975, while serving as the Chief Pilot in and outside Pakistan for ten years. This is the only property I owe in the whole world after 33 years of service. Due to the sale of the main house in 1985 that I luckily invested in the Government Saving Schemes has enabled me to lead a comfortable and honourable life. My greatest assets are, of course, my children who with the Almighty's blessings are settled and doing well in their professions and occupations in the United States. I managed to provide them with the best education mainly because of my foreign exchange earnings in Abu Dhabi, where I earned about one hundred thousand U.S. Dollars in two years.

I clearly remember, before building the house I used to say, that since I had wedded the Air Force in 1945, I really had no need for a personal house. I am happy and grateful to God for giving me a shelter at this stage of my life when the prices have indeed soared very high. Apart from my regular morning walks I still play golf and sometimes indulge in the game of Bridge with my friends. I am trying to catch up with my reading and writing for which I never had much time while on active service. They say, "It is never too late."

Thank God, I am at peace with myself.