Obituary: National icon Air Marshal M Nur Khan, flies no more

Published: December 16, 2011
Air Marshal Nur Khan was a highly decorated officer and a recipient of the Hilal-e-Jurat, Sitara-e-Pakistan and Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam.

Air Marshal Nur Khan was a highly decorated officer and a recipient of the Hilal-e-Jurat, Sitara-e-Pakistan and Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam.


Pakistan on Thursday lost one of its leading icons Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan, who passed away at the Combined Military Hospital in Rawalpindi at the age of 88. During a long-spanning career, Nur Khan made the transition from the air force chief (succeeding Air Marshal Asghar Khan in July 1965) to Pakistan International Airlines executive and then sport administrator.

It was under his watch that sports flourished in the country and Pakistani cricketers as well as hockey and squash players distinguished themselves in their fields, earning laurels worldwide. His dynamism and spirit of patronage made the difference.

Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, chief of the air staff, expressed grief over the demise of the PAF legend, recalling how the man who led the Pakistan Air Force achieved parity over the three times bigger Indian Air Force in the 1965 war and was “the beacon of inspiration for all rank and file” of the air force.

He was born on February 22, 1923, in Tamman, Attock district in a family with distinctive military traditions. He joined the Royal Indian Military College (RIMC) at Dehra Dun in 1934, and joined Indian Air Force Volunteer Reserve (IAFVR) during World War II. He was commissioned as a fighter pilot in the Royal Indian Air Force on 06 January, 1941.

The man who was widely respected not only for his integrity but also for his razor-sharp intelligence and outstanding management abilities was transferred to the Royal Pakistan Air Force after the creation of Pakistan and was given the command of Lahore Air Base. After a short stint at Lahore, he was entrusted with the command of PAF Base Chaklala. In January, 1948, he proceeded to London and served as a liaison officer in the Pakistan High Commission, after a brief stay, he returned to Pakistan and was posted as Commandant PAF College, Risalpur in September, 1948.

After completing his tenure he was posted to Air Headquarters from January, 1950 to March, 1951, and remained fully involved in the induction of aircraft from the United States. He commanded Peshawar Base in 1955-56 and then commanded PAF Base Mauripur in 1956-57. During this tenure he converted PAF fighter squadrons from piston to jet-engine aircraft.

Later, he served at Air Headquarters before he was appointed as Air Officer Commanding of the first re-organised Operation Group.

He was seconded to PIA in March, 1959 as managing director, where he worked till 21 July, 1965. In February, 1964, he was appointed as chief administrator of civil aviation and tourism. In 1970s, he was again given the charge of PIA as its chairmen in 1973.

In July 1965, Nur Khan was decorated with the rank of air marshal and was appointed as commander-in-chief of PAF. Four years later, the government of Pakistan appointed him as the governor of West Pakistan.

Air Marshal Nur Khan was a highly decorated officer and a recipient of the Hilal-e-Jurat, Sitara-e-Pakistan and Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam. He was also awarded the Order of Istiqlal (2nd Class) by the King of Jordan, and decorated as Commander of the National Order of the Cedars by the president of Lebanon and Grand Officer in the order of Range Nassau with Swords by the Dutch government.

His funeral prayers will be offered at 10:30 am at the PAF Complex cricket ground, Sector E-9 Islamabad and he will be buried with full honours at 4:00pm in his native village Tamman, Chakwal district.

(Read: The art of war)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Ch Allah Daad
    Dec 16, 2011 - 6:41AM

    Very sad news. May God Almighty bless his soul.


  • sam
    Dec 16, 2011 - 6:51AM

    Hats off for our late hero.Rest in peace sir.You started your career in war and left us when we are still in war. Nation has not seen any stability. You did your part best.


  • Bhinder
    Dec 16, 2011 - 7:17AM

    Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan was an outstanding professional pilot of PAF.He rendered valuable services in PAF and practically proved the saying “second to non”.May his soul rest in peace.


  • Ich Dien
    Dec 16, 2011 - 8:19AM

    with the demise of AM Nur Khan, an era comes to end an era of integrity, honesty, dedication, commitment and selfless service.


  • Raj
    Dec 16, 2011 - 8:32AM

    “He was born on February 22, 1923, in Tamman, Attock district in a family with distinctive military traditions. He joined the Royal Indian Military College (RIMC) at Dehra Dun in 1934.”

    Ohhhhh, I am enlightened that RIMC accepting cadets at the age of 11 years. Now I know, why I was rejected when I was 21 years old.


  • Khan Jr
    Dec 16, 2011 - 9:17AM

    I knew the Air Marshal well. In person he truly was a wise, intelligent and thoughtful person blessed with a gift of natural leadership. I always believed it was a great pity we never fully utilised his abilities in governance. Sadly we now bid farewell to a remarkable man, a giant among his generation.


  • Humayun
    Dec 16, 2011 - 9:27AM

    His native village is in Attock or Chakwal???


  • Aizaaz Ali
    Dec 16, 2011 - 10:38AM

    A thoroughly upstanding officer and a man of extraordinary integrity and courage. They don’t make them him anymore. Thank you, sir and farewell.


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Dec 16, 2011 - 10:41AM

    Heart warming to know that he pursued flying till his last breath.


  • Tipu Sultan
    Dec 16, 2011 - 10:53AM

    In the Air Force he had the best airforce.
    When in PIA , then PIA was the best airline

    Made friendship with CHINA

    If only he had been President of Pakistan


  • Hamid
    Dec 16, 2011 - 11:38AM

    I extend my deepest sympathies and profound condolences to the family over the sad demise of Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan (A true Hero of nation). I pray for the departed soul to rest in peace. May Allah grant his family the courage, strength and fortitude to bear this irreversible loss! Amen.


  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Dec 16, 2011 - 12:16PM

    May God bestow his Infinite Mercy on his soul.


  • Dec 16, 2011 - 12:34PM

    Allah Almighty may rest his soul in eternal peace………………………….


  • Dec 16, 2011 - 1:25PM

    Blessings surround The departed soul & Allah (swt) grant him place in highest of places in heaven ( REST IN PEACE ) Sir


  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Dec 16, 2011 - 1:26PM

    May Allah bless his soul. He was a true hero of Pakistan.!!!!


  • Noble Tufail
    Dec 16, 2011 - 2:11PM

    RIP Air Marshal.


  • K. Salim Jahangir
    Dec 16, 2011 - 2:13PM

    I have had the privilege of working under his command in PIA.Air Marshal Nur khan aside from being a great soldier, an administrator par excellence was also a great human being & extremely compassionate person.The nation as a whole & those who worked under him in PIA in particular will always remember the Air Marshal.He took PIA to great heights & gave his hand made airlines the slogan “GREAT PEOPLE TO FLY WITH “. The airlines he made has now been brought from the sublime to the ridiculous.The nation will miss you,we will miss you Sir!!May God bless his soul!!


  • Vaqar - UK
    Dec 16, 2011 - 2:32PM

    Farewell, a giant amongst men. You were a true inspiration in all spheres you served in.

    @Humayun. Is that all you could think of? Attock or Chakwal?


  • Hu Jintao
    Dec 16, 2011 - 2:34PM

    Inna Lillahi Wa Inna ilaihi rajiyoun

    May Allah grant him highest place in Jannah. This man was remarkable. a true national hero


  • SB Puri
    Dec 16, 2011 - 3:08PM

    Is it true that Air Marshall Noor Khan advised Ayub Khan against starting the 1965 war ?


  • Anjum Saeed
    Dec 16, 2011 - 3:29PM

    May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace. Ameen
    Great person.


  • Umair
    Dec 16, 2011 - 4:11PM

    This is a very sad day for Pakistan. He was perhaps the greatest administrator after Jinnah. In turbulent conditions, such as ours, his achievements are nothing short of legendary. A person held in high esteem by friends and foe.Recommend

  • Rashid Gujjar
    Dec 16, 2011 - 7:59PM

    RIP :'(


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Dec 16, 2011 - 8:23PM

    I am disappointed that there is no appreciation for his making PIA the finest airline in Asia in the 60s!

    His return to PIA in the 70s was brief and less memorable.


  • Adnan
    Dec 16, 2011 - 8:33PM

    Very sad day for all of us. Pakistan has lost one of its true heroes. He was an exceptional administrator and we will definitely miss him for years to come. My condolences to his family and friends.. RIP Air Marshal!!


  • muhammad tariq zafar
    Dec 17, 2011 - 1:05AM

    He was a great man and one of the true Hero ever born on this soial.He served the country with honesty which is lacking in these days.Allah may rest his soul in peaceAmeen.salute to you nur khan.


  • Chengez K
    Dec 17, 2011 - 2:58PM

    A hero in life & a hero in death

    A man of integrity, courage & intellect

    A Great Son of Pakistan!!!


  • Mohammad Mushtaq Awan
    Dec 18, 2011 - 8:11AM

    He was a great man. An honest, great, a man with dignity and trustable Pakistani Citizen. His services for Pakistan are immortal. He had a special and great leading qualities. He could achieve any dificuilt and impossible mission for his great country Pakistan. He was a great loyal and honest person. He had great abilities of management. Our country Pakistan could achieve much more by Great Air Marshal Nur Khan but he was not given a big chance. But whenever he was given a chance, he prooved that he was unique in his abilities. All Mighty Allah keep his Spirit and body in rest in Gannat ul Firdose. AAMIN.


  • Dr. Junaid
    Dec 26, 2011 - 3:49PM

    May Allah rest his sould in Peace. Sir, you were and are still a legend.


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