DEFENCE NOTES

A HERO FADES AWAY

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Contributing Editor Air Marshal (Retd) AYAZ AHMAD KHAN writes a personal obituary for Air Vice Marshal MG TAWAB

They say that great soldiers never die, they just fade away. Group Captain M.G Tawab S.J of Pakistan Air Force, who later became Commander of Bangladesh Air Force was a great airman professionally and a noble and humane person. He died in Munich on February 23, 1999 from prostate cancer after several years of heroic fight against this deadly affliction. His untimely death will be deeply grieved by thousands of his friends and admirers in Pakistan and Bangladesh. His qualities of head and heart must be made known, to enable the posterity to emulate them. Tawab left the PAF in December 1971 with a sense of sorrow and pain at seeing his country axed into two by an enemy he had fought against valiantly. He was a great Pakistani patriot, who went to Bangladesh with a heavy heart. He found it very difficult to adjust to the new reality and to the emerging situation there. Unable to reconcile to the emerging developments,chaos and confusion Tawab left for Munich in West Germany in 1973. With his excellent record as a highly qualified fighter pilot, he with a little effort got a job as a test pilot with a German aircraft manufacturing company and as instructor pilot with a flying school there. I remember vividly a test flight with him in July 1975 when he astonished me by doing aerobatics in complete overcast ie inside clouds. He was a dare-devil and liked challenges whereever he found them. A few years later he was offered by the Government of Bangladesh to take over command of its air force. After a year and a half he was back in Munich. Apparently there was some kind of conspiracy against him, which forced him to exit pre-maturely. He returned to Munich Germany and started indenting business of sorts, ie did make a modest living without making much money.He had lived in Munich since with his wife and three children till his death. Air Vice Marshal Muhammad Ghulam Tawab a fighter ace of Pakistan Air Force and former commander of Bangladesh Air Force had a charismatic personality, and was greatly admired for his qualities of head and heart. He would be missed by his admirers and friends for a long time.

Born in a village near Sylhet on July 1, 1930, Tawab was commissioned with the 9th GD(P) course as a pilot officer in the PAF. He graduated from PAF College Risalpur on September 15,1951. After fighter conversion and a short stint in a fighter squadron, he was posted as flying instructor at PAF College Risalpur. After two years tenure there he was posted back to a fury fighter squadron. Flying instruction is a demanding job, but Tawab excelled at it. Tawab was a popular and well liked instructor and fighter pilot. In time he became a fighter ace, and made an effective contribution in the grooming of the group of fighter pilots who defeated the Indian Air Force and blunted Indian land offensives in the 1965 war. Tawab was a fighter leader of a high calibre. It requires knowledge, regular study, high professional skills, leadership qualities like integrity, tact, composure, persistence and patience to be accepted as a leader of top notch professionals. Tawab's integrity, devotion to duty, hard work and loyalty endeared him to his superiors and subordinates. It is for this reason that he will be remembered with affection and respect long after his departure.

He was one of the first PAF pilots to undergo jet conversion with the USAF in Germany in early 1956. In recognition of his capabilities he was posted as instructor pilot at the USAF run T-33 (T Bird) jet transition school at Furstenfledbruck Air Base near Munich in Germany. It was here that he met and married Henrietta, his constant companion in joy , happiness and adversity for the last forty three years. Wives are forgotten when husbands depart. Henrietta got married at a young age. She embraced Islam, became a Pakistani citizen, lived in bamboo huts with Tawab's parents in Sylhet, and encouraged Tawab to devote himself to his profession and serve Pakistan to the best of his ability. He has left behind a grieving wife, a daughter and two sons. It is to them that the rank and file of Pakistan Air Force both serving and retired wish to reach out with heartfelt condolence and prayers that may Allah grant Tawab a place in heaven-Amin, and courage to his dear ones to bear this irreparable loss.

Tawab had a very bright career in the Pakistan Air Force. Had the 1971 tragedy not taken place, Tawab was destined to be considered for the top slot in the PAF. He could have been the first Bengali who may have become Chief of the Air Staff PAF. His high profile professional career proves it. Between 1957 and 1971 he held command of No 11 and 14 front line PAF fighter squadrons. He was the chief instructor at the PAF Fighter Leader School , when this premier fighter training institution was commanded by Wg Commander M.Z Masud PAF's top fighter pilot, who later as Base Commander Sargodah emerged as the top hero of the 1965 war. Mitty Masud as he was affectionately called had regarded Tawab highly as a fighter leader. In recognition of his high professional expertise Tawab was given command of PAF's No 32 Fighter Wing in 1963, which he completed with distinction. After graduating from the PAF Staff College Tawab held key appointments at Air Headquarters PAF including Director of Projects and Director of Flight Safety. He was Director of Flight Safety before and during the 1965 war. Tawab was Base Commander PAF base Kohat before the 1971 war. Seeing the clouds of war on the horizon Tawab volunteered to fly operational combat missions. He was attached to No 19 Squadron commanded by Squadron Leader 'Nosey' Haider. Despite his seniority he flew 24 F-86 Sabre combat missions which included sixteen air defence sorties and eight ground attack missions. He was in the strike formation which bombed Srinagar airfield and Jammu radar during the 1965 war. His citation approved by Air Marshal Noor Khan C-in-C PAF reads as follows, 'Wing Commander Mohammad Ghulam Tawab started taking part in operations from the very first day the hostilities began. He provided top cover for the first strike against Pathankot. During the war he flew sixteen air defence missions and eight close support sorties. He took part in the bombing of Srinagar airfield and Jammu radar. He was responsible for the destruction of ten enemy tanks and twenty vehicles. Such active participation in operations set an excellent example for all the fighter pilots at Peshawar. Wing Commander Mohammad Ghulam Tawab is therefore awarded Sitara-i-Jur'at'. During the 'text book attack' on Pathankot airfield, Tawab flying one of the two top cover sabres counted fourteen fires burning ie destruction of 14 IAF Mig-21's and Mystere fighters by Squadron Leader Nosey Haider and his fighter boys. Tawab had an intuitive and alert mind. During a recce mission on 3rd Sept 65 Tawab reported heavy concentration of India armour for a major offensive towards Chawinda. This report helped Pakistan Army to deploy its armour in time to crush the India armour offensive. Tawab was a practicing Muslim and tried not to miss his prayers. He played his part in the creation and organization of Bangladesh Air Force, and to foster relations between the brotherly air forces of Bangladesh and Pakistan. Tawab was a warm hearted person with a ready sense of humour. He will be greatly missed by his friends the world over . May Allah bless him in the hereafter. Amin.

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