Air Marshal Malik Noor Khan, a three-star rank air force general, politician, sports administrator, and the Commander in Chief of Pakistan Air Force, serving under President Ayub Khan from 1965 until 1969, was a man born to lead and a name associated with heroic tales.
Born into a Punjabi Awan tribe in Attock, he gained commissioned in the Royal Indian Air Force after graduating from the famed Rashtriya Indian Military College in Dehra Dun in 1941. He participated in World War II on the side of the United Kingdom and opted for Pakistan as an aftermath of the partition of British India in 1947. He gained nationwide famed and public notability when he commanded and led Pakistan Air Force in the second war with India in 1965. In fact, even before he was commander-in-chief of the air force, Noor Khan served as managing director of PIA. The position is now associated with nepotism, corruption and inefficiency, all in the service of one the largest-loss making state corporations. It can be hard, then, to remember that back in the 1960s, thanks to the efforts of Noor Khan and other dedicated professionals, PIA was one of the most respected — and profitable — names in aviation. During the war with India in 1965, Nur Khan became a national fame and hero when he maintained an aerial supremacy against Indian IAF despite its shortcomings. He led the bombing missions during the war using the C-130 Hercules for that purpose in support to the army advances. His actions of valor and efforts won him the praise in all over the country after the war; he was credited with turning the tide of the war in his country’s favor that gained air superiority in the first 24 hours. After retiring in 1969, he started his career in national politics and served as Governor of West Pakistan under President Yahya Khan as well as serving cabinet minister in Yahya administration from 1969 till 1970 when resigning over mutual disagreements.
During his career in the Air Force and the politics, he took charge of country’s sportsmanship when he served as president/chairman of cricket, hockey, and squash where he introduced sport tactics and ideas that helped sporting performances and gained attention at the international venues. He was instrumental in establishing the Champions Trophy competition during his tenure as president of the Hockey Federation of Pakistan. As head of the cricket board from 1980-1984, he was responsible for improving cricket ties with India. He was also part of the organising committee for the 1987 World Cup with India, a tournament that went off without a hitch and was a great commercial success too. It is unlikely that Pakistan will ever see a person with the diverse resume of Nur Khan ever again. In addition, he also lobbied and pushed for the establishment of the Asian Cricket Council. Nur Khan, however, is regarded for his sharp intelligence and outstanding management skills that largely benefited the Pakistan’s military and the organizations that he presided over.
Noor Khan was also part of the Pakistani contingent that clashed with the Israeli Air Force during the Six Day War. Israel President Ezer Weizman, who was also Commander of the Israeli Air Force and the Minister of Defense of Israel, wrote in his autobiography that:
“He was a formidable fellow and I was glad that he was Pakistani and not Egyptian”.
The great legend of Pakistan left us on December 15th, 2011.