NFANCY TO INDEPENDENCE (1933-1950)
When Karachi, Pakistan’s coastal mega city of over ten million was a tidy small town of 250, 000 in 1933, the British colonial government of India established the subcontinent’s first air force station near Drigh Road, now called Shara-e-Faisal Air Force Base. In 1934, this element of the Indian Air Force was extended to the north and the first air operations were launched in the North West Frontier Province to keep peace in the border areas along the Hindu Kush mountains. As World War II began in Europe reconnaissance aircraft, operating from a string of coastal air bases including Drigh Road, patrolled the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Then came the big test for the fledgling air force in India: providing air support to the British-led land and naval forces attempting to roll back the Japanese military expansion into the subcontinent. The IAF of that time, manned mostly by British personnel but also some Indian nationals including a handful of Muslim pilots, engineers and ground crews, was hardly a decade old when the war ended. This IAF’s outstanding contribution to the defeat of the Japanese invasion was greatly praised and in a gesture of the colonial times, the prefix Royal was added to its name, which became the RIAF.
The end of World War II left Britain too weak to resist any further the long standing demand by the South Asian people for independence. Two sovereign states of Pakistan and India came into existence on August 14 and 15, 1947. in the distribution of resources, the lion’s share of military assets went to India and owing to India’s hostility attending the Muslim nation’s birth on the subcontinent, the Pakistan’s Army, Navy and Air Force were denied even the officially agreed small portions of weapons and equipment allocated by the departing British as the legitimate share of Pakistan. The RPAF got just 16 fighter aircraft at its foundation.
Within three weeks of independence, India illegally began airlifting troops into the still-uncommitted Muslim-majority state of Kashmir, and coerced its Hindu Maharaja fraudulently to accede to India in October 1947. This sparked off the first war between Pakistan and India and a spontaneous revolt by the Kashmiri people. The conflict demanded from Pakistan’s young air arm around the clock effort to airlift and airdrop badly needed supplies to the Pakistani troops, who eventually halted further advance of the Indian aggressors. In the narrow valleys of Kashmir, the stirring tale of Flying Officer Mukhtar Dogar defiantly scissoring his lumbering Dakota with pursuing JAF Tempests defined the fighting doctrine of the PAF — defend the fatherland with what you have and learn to fight outnumbered. In January 1948, the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, decided to have the dispute taken before the United Nations and a ceasefire agreement ended the war with the Kashmir territory under the divided control of both countries. Pakistan, confident of its strong legal and moral stand, readily agreed to have the injustice resolved through the world body. Fifty five years later, India was still using circular arguments to dishonor the pledge Nehru had made (broadcast by All India Radio on November 2, 1947) to the Indians and the Kashmiris — as well as to the UN member states — that the Kashmiri people will be given the right of self-determination through a UN-supervised plebiscite.