Malik Nur Khan. Whatever he touched, turned golden. Distinguished and principled. He turned national into international. The world copied his setups. He was in every sense, a leader.
There’s no shortage of humans on earth. And there’s no shortage of humans in big offices. But there exists a rare kind. Humans which have an impact. Humans which leave a mark on history. We call them heroes. We call them legends. And here, I’d like to bring your attention to one such human.
A bit of biography:
Nur Khan was born in Attock in 1923. After graduating from a famous military college (Rashtriya Indian Military College) in 1941, he joined the Royal Indian Air Force. He participated in World War 2 on behalf of the UK. In 1947, after partition happened, Nur Khan joined the Pakistan Air Force.
In 1965, the world would know that he was a hero in the making. He was the air chief at that time. We all know of Pakistan Air Force’s successes during the war led by Air Marshal Nur Khan. Not only was he giving orders, but he was also carrying them out by himself. Nur Khan used to fly his sensitive missions himself. After proving his wits in 1965, he stunned the world again with his aerial skills against Israel. In the six-day war between the Arab world and Israel, Nur Khan was at the forefront of the aerial domain yet again. Israeli pilots witnessed his dogfighting skills firsthand.
In 1969, he retired as Air Chief. He served as Governor for West Pakistan until 1970. He passed away in December 2011. Having lived like an absolute legend. And no he wasn’t just reserved to the air force and government. He had raised Pakistan International Airlines to a world-class level and made Pakistan Hockey champions, known Cricket players and feared squash players.
Achievements in aviation.
Nur Khan saw the induction of the iconic F-86 Sabre jets into the Pakistan Air Force. In 1965, he led the Pakistan Air Force to gain air superiority in just 24 hours. He led bombing missions, piloting a C-130 Hercules to dangerous zones. In the 1967 Arab war, Israeli pilots acknowledged his aerial prowess. As Commander in Chief of the Pakistan Air Force, he made himself a distinct leader. And retired from the air force in 1969.
Pakistan International Airlines and the Golden Era.
Nur Khan made PIA into an internationally known, profitable brand. He was the chairman of the PIA from 1959 to 1965. In 1960, PIA became the first airline in Asia to have a jet airliner in its fleet. A Boeing 707 (leased from Pan Am). In aviation history, it is now wondered upon as to how Nur Khan turned PIA into a globally reputable airline. Such that other airlines would follow it.
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It became a profitable institution for Pakistan. In 1973, he was specially requested by the government to take charge of PIA again. And he did. And new heights were reached. PIA became the operator of the world’s then most popular jets. The Boeing 747 and The DC-10. PIA became a symbol of glamor. The iconic green and gold livery was introduced. Despite Pakistan’s stormy political situation, Nur Khan kept PIA strictly as a commercial enterprise and it shined higher than ever.
The Leadership & Skills
In 1978, a PIA plane was hijacked at Karachi. Nur Khan went into the airplane to negotiate with the hijacker himself. While trying to disarm the hijacker, he was hit by a bullet but still managed to subdue the hijacker.
When I said man of steel, I did not say without reason.
His personality was truly admirable. He once told a Pakistani journalist (Javaid Chaudry) that he had learned punctuality from flying. “Time and timing are the fundamentals of flying”.
Such was his principles. He wasn’t lucky that he had administrative skills. He made them. So he earned a place in the legends.
May his soul rest in peace.