Mushaf Ali Mir
Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir (Urdu: مصحف على مير; March 5, 1947 – 20 February 2003) NI(m), HI(m), SI(m), SBt. was an influential statesman and a four-star rank air force general who served as the Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), appointed in 20 November 2000 until his accidental death in a plane crash on 20 February 2003.
A fighter pilot and a strategist, he briefly served at command level in the ISI before controversially promoted as a four-star air force general to command the air force in 2000. In 2001-02, he also commanded and provided the strategy to deploy troops during the military standoff with India. In addition, Gen. Mir later went onto facilitate the United States military's war logistics for war operations in Afghanistan. His appointment was cut short when a former PAF Fokker F-27 in which he was a passenger crashed near Kohat, Pakistan.
Mushaf Ali Mir was born in Lahore, Punjab in India on 5 March 1947.:11 He hailed from the lower middle class family and was of the Kashmiri descent, that practiced the Shia'a principles of Islam.
His father, Farzand Ali Mir, was a calligrapher who died when Mushaf was still young. He attended Govt. Wattan Islamia High School in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Upon his matriculation from a local school in Lahore, Mir initially attended the Government College University but joined the Pakistan Air Force in 1966 which directed him to attend the famed Pakistan Air Force Academy in Risalpur, after the second war with India.
At the PAF Academy, he qualified to fly the F-6 Farmer fighter jet, and was posted to join the No. 25 Squadron Night Strike Eagles in 1970. In 1971, F/Off. (Lt.) Mir successfully flew his F-6 Farmer against the Indian Air Force's MiG-21, and was credited with shooting the Indian Air Force's jet down with his missile.:103–104
After the war in 1971, Flt-Lt. (Capt.) Mir attended the Air War College where he attained his masters in War studies, and later went on to attend the National Defence University where he graduated with masters in Strategic studies. During this time, he became acquainted with then-Brig. Pervez Musharraf.
War and command appointments in the military
In 1970s, Mir joined the Combat Commander's School, first serving as a student before joining its faculty, eventually commanding an Aggressor squadron composing of Dassault Mirage IIIER to act as an Indian IAF's MiG-29M.:104–105 Wing-Commander (Lt-Col.) Mir was an commanding officer of the No. 33 Wing attached at the Northern Air Command and later took over the command of the Southern Air Command as its AOC. In 1980s, Gp-Capt. (Col.) Mir was posted as an air attaché at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. in United States.
In 1994–95, Air-Commodore (Brig.) Mir, as an ACAS (Plans) at Air AHQ, visited Poland to hold discussions to acquire the Russian Su-27 Flanker but returned since the aircraft was not available.:94–95
In 1995, AVM (Maj-Gen.) Mir was appointed as Project-Director of Project Green Flash, aiming to acquire Mirage 2000-V from France, and begin his lobbying to acquire the aircraft after test piloting the fighter jet.:97–98 In 1996, Maj-Gen. Mir was appointed as s Project-Director of Project Falcon that was started negotiating with Turkey and Jordan to acquire F-16As/Bs.:99–100
In 1996-99, Maj-Gen, Mir took over the command of the Northern Air Command headquartered in Peshawar, and became associated with the ISI, where he aided in providing the aerial support during the civil war in Afghanistan. During this time, Maj-Gen. Mir was posted as a military adviser to the Saudi Arabian Army and later assumed the short-time command of the Pakistan Armed Forces-Middle East Command before returning to Pakistan for the command appointments.
Chief of Air Staff
At the time of promotion to the four-star appointment, there were six senior air force generals who were in the race which included in seniority:
- Air-Mshl. (Lt-Gen.) Farooq Qari–Vice Chief of Air Staff at Air AHQ in Islamabad.
- Air-Mshl. (Lt-Gen.) Zahid Anis–DCAS (Air Operations) at Air AHQ in Islamabad.
- Air-Mshl. (Lt-Gen.) Qazi Javed Ahmad–DCAS (Personnel) at Air AHQ in Islamabad.
- Air-Mshl. (Lt-Gen.) Pervez Iqbal Mirza–AOC Southern Air Command headquartered in Karachi.
- Air-Mshl. [Lt-Gen.) Riazuddin Shaikh–DCAS (Administration) at Air AHQ in Islamabad.
- Air-Mshl. (Lt-Gen.) Mushaf Ali Mir–Chairman of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra.
On 13 November 2000, President Rafiq Tarar surprisingly approved the appointment of junior-most Air-Mshl. (Lt-Gen.) Mir to be promoted to as the four-star general in the air force, and appointed him as the Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force. The surprise promotion and command appointment was said to be at the behest of special and personal requests made by then-Chairman Joint chiefs Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
This appointment was one of the center of controversies in the Musharraf administration when superseding air force generals had sparked off "rumblings of resentment" at the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) in the country. All five superseding air force generals tendered their resignations to President Tarar despite Chairman Joint chiefs Gen. Musharraf's efforts to have all five air force generals to complete their respected terms. In news media, the appointment was also given a strong criticism when the Gen. Musharraf's clique attempted a damage control exercise by pointing out that supersessions were nothing new in the country's military establishment having happened five times in the Air Force and at least four times in the Army.
After the deadly terrorist attacks in New York in the United States in 2001, ACM (Gen.) Mir successfully negotiated with the United States Air Force of releasing the spare parts and updating the software of the F-16s.:82
During his tenure, the PAF's F-6 aircraft were retired from service, and were transferred to Bangladeshi Air Force.:63 During the military standoff with the Indian Army, Gen. Mir placed the air force at war level command, issuing orders for targeting the Indian military posts.
In spite of his closeness to President Musharraf, Gen. Mir had strongly objected and opposed the Musharraf administration's policy on War on Terror, that he suspected of intelligence blowback and terror organizations that might be finding the foreign support for their operations to spread sectarian violence in the country.:contents
Death in the air crash
|“||This is a very sad day for me. I have lost a very good friend. This is a sad day for the whole nation. The death of Mushaf Ali Mir is a great loss for the country"||”|
|— President Musharraf, 2003, cited source|
On 20 February 2003, Gen. Mushaf Ali Mir boarded on a Fokker F-27 aircraft operated by the Air Force, alongside with his wife and 15 senior air force officers from Chaklala Air Force Base for a routine flight to Northern Air Command based in Kohat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan to review the U.S. military's war logistics in Afghanistan.
The plane lost contact from its military radars at the Norther Air Command and crashed after hitting the highest peak of the mountain at the Tolanj mountain range in Kohat due to a extreme fog and winter temperature. Among the casualties were other high-ranking officials of the Pakistan Air Force, including two Principal Staff Officers – AVM (Maj-Gen.) Abdul Razzaq, DCAS (Training&Evaluation) and AVM (Maj-Gen.) Saleem Nawaz, DCAS (Administration) – and the air crew.
The Air Force Flight Safety and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ruled out the "act of sabotage" and termed the incident as an accident. Additional inquiries in 2015 resulted by the air force and civilian investigations, the Government declared the aircraft as faulty, not an act of sabotage.
Further military insights revealed at the parliamentary committee noted that the aircraft was in fact faulty as it was earlier identified by first the Navy's inspected team as early as in 1993. The Navy purchased the aircraft for its reconnaissance missions before it was transferred to Army Aviation in 1993, which then transferred the plane to Air Force in 1994, which never reviewed the inspection protocol to assess the performance of the aircraft.
Iran: Iranian President Syed Mohammad Khatami convened a message to President Pervez Musharraf saying: "While expressing condolence and sympathy to Your Excellency as well as the noble people of Pakistan, I pray to Almighty Allah for forgiveness and Divine blessings for the deceased, and patience and fortitude for the survivors."
Afghanistan: Afghan President Hamid Karzai sent a cable where he noted: "On behalf of the people, government of transitional Islamic state of Afghanistan and on my own behalf, I would like to express deepest sorrow and condolences to Your Excellency and to the families of the victims and to the brotherly people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan."
Pakistan: Foreign Minister K.M. Kasuri termed the death of Gen. Mir a great loss for Pakistan and its military, and he quoted: "We have lost one of our great sons and a fine soldier; he was an outstanding soldier and his services to Pakistan will always be remembered."
Since the plane crash in 2003, Gen. Mir's death has attracted significant amount of attention and has been subject of conspiracy theories in media and literature. According to the Gerald Posner, an American journalist, Mir's death in a plane crash was not an accident but an act of sabotage, which he claimed in his book: "Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 911.", written in 2003.:105–194
Several American authors of counterterrorism studies have suspected him of having advanced intelligence knowledge on the planning of the terrorist attacks in the United States by al-Qaeda, during his time when Mir was serving in the ISI as its spymaster.:269:contents:conts.:contents
Subsequently, Posner and his American colleagues have claimed that Osama bin Laden and other Afghan Arabs had struck a deal with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) through Mir in 1996 to get protection, arms, and supplies for Al-Qaeda. The meeting was blessed by the Saudi royal family through Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud— the Saudi intelligence chief.
However, after the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, and a reversal of Pakistani and Saudi stances favoring the Afghan Taliban and their allies al-Qaeda, the three Saudi princes associated with the deals died within days, and seven months after that, Mir's plane crashed in Kohat region of Pakistan.
In 2015, the Air Force's Flight Inquiry Board and the CAA dismissed the claims of sabotage when they submitted their year long investigation reports to the Public Accounts Committee of the Pakistan Parliament, citing the poor maintenance of the aircraft. They backed up their evidence when identifying the faulty Fokker F27 Friendship that the Air Force had transferred the plane to Navy but the aircraft was returned back to the Air Force due to its faults during its flight.
According to the analysis written in 2003 by Najam Sethi, a Pakistani commentator, the claims might have been "untrue" but the allegations are very explosives directed towards the Pakistani military.
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The committee head Rana Afzaal, giving three months time to present report to the committee, said “due to a faulty aircraft we lost Air chief .”
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Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi
| Chief of Air Staff
2000 – 2003