Malik Nur Khan

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Malik Nur Khan
Noor khan.jpg
Governor of West Pakistan
In office
1 September 1969 – 1 February 1970
President Yahya Khan
Preceded by Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan
Succeeded by Lt. Gen. Attiqur Rahman
Air Force Commander in Chief
In office
23 July 1965 – 31 August 1969
President Ayub Khan
Preceded by Air Mrshl Asghar Khan
Succeeded by Air Mrshl A. R. Khan
Managing-Director of the Pakistan International Airlines
In office
Preceded by Zafar-ul-Ahsan
Succeeded by Air Mrshl Asghar Khan
President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation
In office
Preceded by Gen. Muhammad Musa
Succeeded by Lt. Gen. K. M. Azhar
Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board
In office
Preceded by Lt. Gen. K. M. Azhar
Succeeded by Lt. Gen. Safdar Butt
Personal details
Born Malik Nur Khan
(1923-02-02)2 February 1923
Tamman, Attock District, Punjab, British Indian Empire, (now Pakistan)
Died 15 December 2011(2011-12-15) (aged 88)[1][2]
Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan
Resting place Westridge cemetery
Citizenship British Subject (1923–1947)
Pakistani (1947–2011)
Political party Independent
Pakistan Peoples Party (1987–89)
Alma mater Rashtriya Indian Military College
Profession Politician
Civilian awards Yellow Crescent, Symbol of Islam.png Hilal-i-Quaid-e-Azam
Order of Pakistan.png Sitara-e-Pakistan
Military service
Nickname(s) Man of Steel
Service/branch  Indian Air Force (1941–1947)
 Pakistan Air Force (1947–1969)
Years of service 1941–1970
Rank AM Pakistan Air Force.pngUS-O9 insignia.svg Air Marshal (Lieutenant-General)
Unit No. 11 Squadron Arrows
Commands Chaklala Air Base
Pakistan Air Force Academy
ACAS (Air Operations)
Peshawar Air Base
Masroor Air base
No.1 Tactical Operations Group

World War II

Indo-Pakistani war of 1947
Indo-Pakistani war of 1965

Six Day War
Military awards Hilal-Jurat Ribbon.gifHilal-e-Jurat
Hilal-e-Shujaat (1957-86) Pakistan.svgSitar-e-Shujaat
Order of Independence Jordan.svgOrder of Independence (Jordan)
Order of the Cedar - Officer (Lebanon) Ribbon.pngOrder of the Cedar (Lebanon)
NLD Order of Orange-Nassau - Grand Officer BAR.pngOrder of Orange-Nassau

Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan (Urdu: ملک نور خان ‎; 22 February 1923 – 15 December 2011) SPk, HJ, HS, HQA, OI(J), NOC, OVN, commonly known as Nur Khan, was 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.[3]

Born into a Punjabi Awan tribe in Attock, he gained commissioned in the Royal Indian Air Force after graduating from the famed Indian Military College in Dehradun in 1941.[4] 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 as well as noted for his aerial skills when he participated on Six Day War on behalf Arab countries fought against Israel. After retiring in 1969, he started his career in national politics and served as Governor of West Pakistan under President Yahya Khan from 1969 till 1970 when resigning over mutual disagreements.[2]

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.[1][5] In addition, he also lobbied and pushed for the establishment of the Asian Cricket Council.[6] 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.[2]


Background, early life and World War II[edit]

Malik Nur Khan was born in the Tamman town located in the vicinity of the Attock District in Punjab, British Indian Empire, on 22 February 1923.[2][7] He hailed from the MalikAwan Punjabi tribe and had come from a family with a military tradition who served in the military of the United Kingdom.[7] His father, Malik Mehr Khan, was an army captain in the British Indian Army who served with the 20th Lancers.[7] His family roots traces back to the family of Nawab of Kalabagh Amir Mohammad Khan.[7]

Completing his education from the famed Aitchison College, he was accepted to join the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) at Dehra Dun where he secured his graduation. He perform exceptionally well in RIMC where his British principal once noted as:"An excellent military family from a very military center. The boy has been well educated and is more advanced than many Awans of his age. He is physically fit and should make an officer anyhow, he is the right type".[7]

Upon graduation, the family paid for his flying lesson to learn to fly the de Havilland Tiger Moth and got qualified as a pilot from the Lahore Flying Club. In 1940, he was in the Royal Indian Air Force reserve and trained as an air crew from the United Kingdom.[7] He gained commissioned as Pilot officer (2nd Lt.) in the No. 1 Squadron of the RIAF on 6 January 1941.[7][8] In the United Kingdom, his additional training took place as a gunnery and Bomber pilot with the RAF. Upon returning in 1942–43, he was sent to participated in the Burma campaign with the RIAF on the side of the United Kingdom, and served against the Imperial Japan in 1945.[7]

In 1946, Nur Khan was made commanding officer of the No. 4 Squadron of the RIAF which he commanded until 1947.[2] After the partition of British India which resulted in the establishment of Pakistan, Nur Khan opted for Pakistan and joined the newly formed Pakistan Air Force (PAF) where he was the base commander of the PAF Base Lahore.[2]

Commander-in-Chief and between wars[edit]

In 1948, he was elevated as base commander of the PAF Base Chaklala but later posted as air attaché at the High Commission of Pakistan in the United Kingdom.[2] However, this position was short-lived when he was asked to return to Pakistan to be be posted as commandant of Air Force Academy in Risalpur, Punjab, also the same year.[7]

His career in the Air Force progressed well as he was posted at the AHQ in Rawalpindi as the Director of Organizations,which he remained till 1951. He served as a F-86 Sabre program director where he oversaw the induction of the jet fighter as he played an influential role in the opposition against acquiring the F-84 Thunderjet.[7] From 1955–56, he was promoted as Group Captain and served base commander of the PAF Base Peshawar, followed by commanding the PAF Base Mauripur and PAF Base Chaklala until 1957.[8] Before posting at the AHQ in Rawalpindi as the ACAS Air Operations in 1957, his last field assignment included his role AOC of No. 1 Group stationed in PAF Base Peshawar as an Air Commodore (a Brigadier in equivalence with army).[7]

From 1958–65, he served on the deputation as chairman of civilian organizations and his appointment to three-star appointment was approved by President Ayub Khan in 1965.[7] Air Marshal Asghar Khan resigned from the command of the Air Force as its chief when he cemented conflict of interests issues with President Ayub Khan.[7] Air Vice Marshal Nur Khan was a populist military figure in the country due to his involvement in sports management and managing-director of civilian Pakistan International Airlines, and his name was included in the nomination papers for the command of the Air Force.[7] On contrary, Nur Khan was never achieved to the four-star rank of Air Chief Marshal but appointed to serve as an air force commander under President President Ayub.[7] In 1965, Nur Khan was appointed as Commander in Chief and promoted as Air Marshal— a three-star rank equivalent of the Lieutenant-General in army.[7]

Nur Khan was also part of the Pakistani contingent that clashed with the Israeli Air Force during the Six Day War. In fact, the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, who was also the 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".[9][10]

Air Marshal (retd) Malik Nur Khan, the veteran of the 1965 Pak-India war, who later served as the Governor of West Pakistan died on Thursday at Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Rawalpindi after protracted illness. Nur Khan was also part of the Pakistani contingent that clashed with the Israeli Air Force during the Six Day War (Arab Israel war 1967).[2][9][10]

Civilian and Sports management[edit]

Nur Khan was gifted with administration skills. After the halcyon days of management at Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), he made a show of his talents in sports administration. Nur Khan, who at one time headed national sports bodies of Hockey, Cricket and Squash, enabled Pakistan to reach the top in all these games.

Pakistan International Airlines[edit]

He was also known to turn around Pakistan International Airlines into a profitable and recognised entity[11][12] In 1960, PIA's very first jetliner (a Boeing 707-321 leased from Pan Am) took a gentle turn under the command of Malik Nur Khan. Nur Khan was PIA's chairman from 1959 to 1965.[2] His success in establishing PIA on a firm and profitable financial basis in six years is now a fact of airline history. Under his charismatic and inspirational leadership, PIA became one of the leading and respected airlines of the world. During his tenure, PIA became the third Asian airline to operate jet aircraft after India and Japan. The airline inducted modern Boeing 720 B jet in its fleet. PIA started flying to China and flights to Europe via Moscow were also launched during this period. In 1973, Nur Khan was specially requested by the government of Pakistan to resume control of PIA. During his second term as airline's head, PIA became operator of wide-body DC-10s and Boeing 747s. Popular Green & Gold aircraft livery was introduced, plus many more achievements were made by the airline under Nur Khan's leadership. He kept PIA out of Pakistan's turbulent political arena and returned it to a sound commercial basis. Nur Khan was a dynamic leader and believed in innovation and new ideas. He served as minister of Communications, Health, Labour and Science and Technology in Yahya Khan's cabinet.

On 20 January 1978, a PIA plane (while at Karachi) carrying 22 passengers was hijacked by a gunman and asked to be flown to India. The then chairman of PIA, Air Marshal (Retd) Nur Khan boarded the plane to negotiate with the hijacker. He was hit by a bullet while trying to disarm the hijacker but still managed to overpower him.


Nur Khan was handed the reins of Pakistan Hockey Federation as its president in 1976[13] and was President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation during 1967 – 1969, and 1976 – 1984. During his Presidency, The Pakistan Hockey Federation won 2 Olympic Gold Medals (1968 Mexico & 1984 Los Angeles), 2 Hockey World Cups (1978 & 1982) and 2 Hockey Champions Trophy (1978 & 1980.[14] Being a sports enthusiast, he not only ably facilitated the game at home for eight years. but also played an iconic role in international hockey arena. Conception of Champions Trophy, an annual hockey tournament, was his brain child that was realised in 1978 by his endeavours.

On his personal initiative, the FIH introduced the World Cup Tournament and the Champions Trophy Tournament, which are now rated amongst the major international tournaments, alongside the Olympics.

Being President Pakistan Hockey Federation, he donated World Cup Trophy and Champions Trophy to the International Hockey Federation. During his tenure Pakistan hockey team performed a grand-slam. The World Cup and Champions Trophy are the toughest events in Hockey.[14]

He made valuable and tremendous contributions in Hockey in Pakistan. During his first tenure (1967–1969) that Pakistan hockey team won the Mexico Olympics and in second tenure (1976–1986) Pakistani team won Los Angeles Olympics.[15]


In 1980, he was also brought in as President of Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP; currently known as Pakistan Cricket Board) to manage the disarrayed cricket affairs. He served as president from 1980 to 1984. In this capacity, he helped win the hosting rights for the 1987 Cricket World Cup with India. He was also part of the organising committee of the 1987 World Cup and was credited with bringing some of the World Cup matches to Pakistan.[16]

Omar Noman, in his history of cricket in Pakistan, said: "Nur Khan was an exceptional administrator. He did not know much about cricket, but his efficiency and vision had a positive effect on the development of hockey, squash, and cricket."[17]

He introduced the idea of neutral umpires in cricket.[citation needed]


From 1951 to 1963, Pakistanis achieved remarkable success in Squash winning the most coveted title, the British Open, all those thirteen years. Thereafter, it was a barren period. Any Pakistani failed to land the title over the next decade except one Aftab Javaid who managed to reach the final. Nur Khan took over the charge of Pakistan International Airlines for the second time in 1973. He immediately took revolutionary steps. He initiated the PIA Colts scheme. Young promising boys were spotted and given a monthly stipend. They were coached and sent to participate in international tournaments with PIA bearing the travel expenses. Whosoever performed well on the international circuit was given permanent employment in PIA. The incentives didn’t end there. If any of the players achieved some major success in prime events, he was rewarded with a departmental promotion. All this led to a surfeit of world class Pakistani players in the 70s: Qamar Zaman, Gogi Allauddin, Hiddy Jahan, Mo Khan Junior and others. There used to be six to seven Pakistanis among the top 10 in the world rankings.[18]

In 1975, on Nur Khan’s request, legendary Azam Khan, four-time winner of British Open (1959–62), who was running a squash club in England, prepared Qamar Zaman and Mohibullah Junior for the British Open. Qamar Zaman brought back the title to Pakistan after 12 years. He gave the Squash World Jahangir Khan, a pure PIA colts product who became the greatest squash player of all time. Pakistan Open initiated in 1980 became a prestigious tournament and the country also hosted World Open.[19]

A marvellous PIA complex in Karachi was constructed in 1976. It was then the World's best and biggest.[citation needed] The First Pakistan Open Team and Open Championships for the Hashim Khan trophy, in 1976, was graced by the world's best and in the presence of Hashim Khan, Azam Khan, Roshan, and Mohibullah. Pakistan had become a major force in Squash, organisationally and competitively.[20]

Nur Khan gave Squash players employment and free travel. He gave the Squash world an international circuit which reached the four corners of the world. He made Squash into a TV Sport, the Squash players became household names. He is definitely the best that could have happened to Pakistan sport.[20]

Politics and governorship[edit]

In 1985 he leapt into politics and was elected member of National Assembly,He contested in 1988 election on a PPP ticket from NA 44 Chakwal II but wasn't successful. After defeat in the 1988 elections he decided to retire from politics and his cousin Malik Mumtaz Khan Tamman and Malik Allah Dad Awan began contesting elections from the same constituency(now NA-61).[2] Earlier, in August 1969, he was appointed as the Governor of West Pakistan.[4]

In 1985, Nur Khan participated in 1985 parliamentary elections for a technocratic seat and also contested on Pakistan Peoples Party's platform on 1988 parliamentary elections but conceded his defeat that eventually led to end his short political-technocratic career once and for all.[9]

Legacy and Commemoration[edit]

In commemoration of his services rendered to Pakistan Air Force, PAF Base Chaklala was renamed as PAF Base Nur Khan in 2012.


  1. ^ a b Obituary, daily The Nation
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Obituary, daily the Tribune
  3. ^ Obituary, daily The News
  4. ^ a b Khan,R., 1999, The American Papers: Secret and Confidential India-Pakistan-Bangladesh Documents, 1965–1973, Oxford University Press, p.265.
  5. ^ A tribute to Nur Khan, daily the Dawn
  6. ^ Publishing, Bloomsbury. The Shorter Wisden India Almanack 2013. A&C Black. ISBN 9789382951018. Retrieved 21 October 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "PAKISTAN AIR FORCE - Official website". Air Force ISPR. Retrieved 21 October 2016. 
  8. ^ a b PAF's Chief of the Air Staffs, a thumbnail sketch, PAF Falcons website
  9. ^ a b c Obituary, daily the Pakistan Today
  10. ^ a b Ezer Weizman, On Eagles' Wings: The Personal Story of the Leading Commander of the Israeli Air Force. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1977 (Weizman was former Air Force chief and President of Israel.)
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Presidents of Pakistan Hockey Federation PHF official website
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Omar Noman, Pride and Passion: An Exhilarating Half Century of Cricket in Pakistan, OUP, Karachi, 1998, p. 59.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Asghar Khan
Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Air Force
Succeeded by
Abdul Rahim Khan
Political offices
Preceded by
Tikka Khan
Governor of West Pakistan
Succeeded by
Attiqur Rahman