Air Marshal Rahim Khan’s was an enigmatic personality. On the one hand he was all heart, filled with compassion and the urge to do well to all those whom he commanded; on the other he was inclined to be unduly quick tempered over arguable issues and this retarded the flow of new ideas and concepts between him and his senior most subordinates, a process vital to progress. In the event, however, this characteristic bore little relevance to the march of events during his term of office, much of which was spent in trying to offset the effects of the nation wide political turmoil of 1970 and the enervating civil war of 1971.
Born in 1925, Air Marshal Rahim Khan was commissioned in the
IAF at the age of 18 and posted to No 7 Squadron. During his
post independence service in the PAF, he was the first
commander of its only jet squadron. In later years he
commanded Mauripur base as well as the PAF Staff College and
held appointments as chief of operations and, later,
administration, in Air Headquarters. In between, he also
qualified courses at the RAF Staff College, Andover and the
Imperial Defence College in London.
During his tenure as C-in-C which commenced when he was 44
years of age, he was responsible for the introduction of
concrete pens for aircraft at all bases, a measure which
vastly diminished their vulnerability. He also implemented a
partial reversion from centralized to squadron maintenance
which has proved operationally beneficial over the years.
Rahim Khan’s finest hour was his virtually lone struggle to
save the nation from abject disgrace in 1971. According to
his concept of honour, it was intolerable that the eastern
wing of the country should be at open war with India while
the western wing just waited and watched. Had the defeat and
surrender in the east taken place with West Pakistan still
in a state of paralysis, the country would never have been
able to lift its head again. His crusade for opening an
offensive in the west was an inspiring manifestation of the
courage and honour which the PAF has always upheld
During his tenure he visited China due to the military
co-operation between the two nations. He was awarded the
Hilal-i-Jurat for his command in 1971 Indo-Prakistani
Soon after the 71 war, a sequence of national political
events conspired to cast Air Marshal Rahim Khan in the image
of ‘king maker’ a notion he did little to disabuse. The
resulting clash with the prime minister led to the air
marshal’s premature retirement.
Rahim Khan was married to Princess Mehrunissa Khan, the
only child of the beloved but unofficial third queen of
the Nawab of Rampur. They got married in London when
Rahim Khan was a group captain.