Remembering a friend
(A Tribute to the Late Air Chief, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir)
Air Commodore (Retd) JAMAL HUSSAIN remembers his colleague, subordinate,
student and boss.
He was my colleague, subordinate, student and boss at different stages
of our career during the time span I had the privilege of knowing the
late Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir.
We first met when he joined the then PAF College (now PAF Academy) Risalpur
in January 1966. I was already a veteran final term flight cadet by then
and to the new inductees we must have appeared as demigods.
I graduated in July 1966 and Mushaf followed a year later. From there
onwards, we followed similar but independent careers. Both of us belonged
to the fraternity of what we vainly refer to as ‘blue blooded fighter
pilots – the Brahmin caste. From 1967 to 1980, we flew different
types of fighters and did our stint in the PAF Academy as flying instructors
but we never served in the same squadron or unit during that period.
I knew him as a colleague and he had built up a quiet reputation as a
In 1980, I was privileged to be given command of No. 5 Squadron, which
operated Mirages – the top of the line combat aircraft of the PAF
then. Mushaf joined us soon as my flight commander, essentially my deputy
or second in command. Commanding a premier combat squadron of the PAF
was an honour and challenge and with Mushaf as my right hand man, my
task was made that much easier and enjoyable. Here was a person dedicated
to his profession who lead from the front and whose subordinates willingly
and cheerfully followed him and gave their best. The two of us formed
a good team and I recall with great fondness and satisfaction the period
we spent together in No.5 Squadron.
Our ways parted when Mushaf took over command of his own squadron. It
crossed once again in 1986 when I was an instructor in National Defence
College and Mushaf joined the institution as a student.
I recall Mushaf’s performance as a student in NDC. Intense, industrious
and focused, he had that rare ability to cut through the maze of a complex
situation and determine the essentials needed to formulate a correct
response. That is the essence of military leadership. He was the top
PAF student of the course and graduated with honour.
After NDC our path again diverged. We were similar in many ways and differed
in some areas. His was a more gregarious personality and his conviviality
was contagious. I left the service initially on deputation in 1994 and
retired in 1997. Mushaf continued on and eventually was appointed as
the Chief of the Air Staff in November 2000.
Fighter pilots by nature are not very academically inclined but Mushaf
was one of the rare breeds who combined the aggressiveness of a fighter
pilot with the thinking of a scholar. He was aware of the importance
of intellectual pursuits and its application especially in the higher
planning of a service like the PAF. One of his first accomplishment as
the CAS was the establishment of the Centre for Aerospace Power Studies
(CAPS), a think tank, free from the encumbrance of day to day routine
work, which could focus exclusively on the various aspects of air power
as it affected our region in general and PAF in particular. He asked
me if I was interested in taking over the assignment as the director
of CAPS. I accepted his offer without a second thought. The unit was
set up as a non-governmental organization in June 2001. Mushaf was now
As the Chief of the Air Staff Mushaf shared his vision of the working
of CAPS with me and hoped that the organization would come up with fresh
and original ideas and not relegate itself to rehashing old concepts
and presenting them in new packages. CAPS has since then striven to maintain
the standard that Mushaf had desired for it to attain.
Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) is the highest position a PAF officer can
aspire for and achieve in the service. As people rise in rank, there
is a general tendency of a change in attitude, not always for the better.
Mushaf was different. Even as the CAS, he remained down to earth and
conducted himself with dignity, without any trace of arrogance. He treated
me as if I still was his instructor and gave me the respect and privilege
to the same degree as when I was one. This is a true reflection of greatness,
of a man confident of his own abilities and being comfortable with his
status. In short a man without any complexes. That is how I remember
Mushaf as my boss. The country has lost a valiant son, PAF has lost a
great Chief and I have lost a friend. While we grieve at the great tragedy,
we must look ahead and strive to continue to make PAF and Pakistan proud.
Mushaf would not have wanted us to behave any differently.