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 sound professional.
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 my boss.
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.