• On Birth Anniversary of Air Commodore Syed Abid Raza
  • By: Air Commodore M Adnan Khan (Retd), SI(M)

It was a pleasant surprise to receive an invitation from the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), PAF, to attend the “50 years’ celebrations of services of the Mirage aircraft in PAF”. Interestingly the present CAS, Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Babar is also a pilot of Mirage aircraft.

The ceremony was awesome with breathtaking supersonic maneuvers of the Mirage aircraft. The audience was mesmerized with the potential and capabilities of this aircraft and appreciated the selectors of this aircraft who had the vision (in 1966), that the aircraft could serve PAF for many coming years.

Among the pioneers was the then Wing Commander Syed Abid Raza, who earned a Mechanical Engineering degree from Aligarh University, India in (1945-1948). He graduated with honors by securing a 2nd Position & 1st Division. Not only an excellent student, he also captained the football (soccer) team of Aligarh Muslim University (1947-1948).

Born on November 11, 1927, Syed Abid Raza Sahib belonged to a literary family in Khujwa, Siwan District, Bihar, India. His father’s name was Syed Shahid Raza, who was the elder brother of the distinguished historian and eminent scholar, Professor Syed Hasan Askari. Askari Sahib was a literary laurate recognized internationally, who worked extensively on Indian medieval history, Sufism, Delhi Sultanate & Mughals, Persian manuscripts, and original sources. Decorated by successive presidents of India with the “Ghalib Award” in 1974, “President’s Certificate of Honor” in 1979, and “Padmashree Award” in 1985, he also received several other national, state, provincial, and local awards in India. The History Department of Quaid-e-Azam University (Islamabad, Pakistan) has also announced “Professor Syed Hasan Askari Post Graduate Research Fellow Endowment” for the scholars of M(Phil) and PhD.

Syed Abid Raza Sahib joins the family tree of Prophet Muhammad (Sallalho Alaehi- wasallum) in the 40th generation. His family is also linked to Syed Jalaluddin Surkhposh, a Sufi Saint of the 13th century AD and follower of Baha-ud-din Zakariya.

Abid Raza Sahib had met Quaid-i-Azam, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah during Quaid’s political campaign/rallies when he was a student at Aligarh Muslim University.

Impressed by his thoughts and inspired by his vision for an independent state for the Muslims of Hindustan, young Raza Sahib decided to migrate to Pakistan, leaving his family behind in India. Raza Sahib arrived at the seaport of Karachi via Bombay (Mumbai), India, on Sunday, September 12, 1948, and was grieved to see thousands of mourners attending the funeral of Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali in Karachi the same day.

Syed Abid Raza Sahib decided to join the Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF) as an engineer to serve the newly earned homeland. He was commissioned in November 1948 and was immediately selected for a two-year course in “Aeronautical Engineering for Technical Officers” at Britain’s Air University AST Hamble Southampton, UK (January 1949 – March 1951), where he topped the program with flying colors (March 2, 1951). During this training course, Pilot Officer Raza had an opportunity to meet His Excellency Habib Ibrahim Reheematollah, at the Pakistan High Commission, London, and came to know the expression of the newly created state’s image by diplomatic norms.

After the successful completion of this course, Raza Sahib was posted at Royal Pakistan Air Force Academy, (Now Pakistan Air Force Academy Asghar Khan) Risalpur, for “Technical administration and first line servicing” of training aircraft. Seeing his engineering enthusiasm, Flying Officer Abid Raza was selected as staff officer to the Engineering branch’s head. Judging by his brilliance, the Flying Officer was detailed for the “Officers Aircraft Electrical & Instrument Engineering Diploma Course” at the Royal Air Force Technical College, Henlow, United Kingdom, from where he graduated with honors.

After completing the course in March 1954, Raza Sahib’s skills were utilized at an engineering depot. Here he was employed to repair and overhaul aircraft and general and purpose electrical components and instruments.

In April 1955, he was posted as “Chief Technical Officer” at RPAF Base Korangi Creek for technical management and maintenance of fleet, ground equipment, and training aids.

The same year he married Sanjida Fatima, daughter of Professor Syed Hasan Askari. They were blessed with their first son, Syed Nasir Raza in 1956. (Nasir has a Masters in Civil Engineering and is married to Dr. Sakina Fatima and has two sons, Dr. Ali Raza and Ammar Raza, an aerospace engineer by profession).
In April 1957, Raza sahib was posted to the “School of Aeronautics” as “Senior Trade Technical Officer”, at the same base. Here an important task of training the airmen of different technical trades was assigned to him.

Seeing his performance in the training setup, Syed Abid Raza Sahib was elevated to the higher office of training headquarters at RPAF Base Drigh Road (now PAF Base Faisal) in August 1957. He was made responsible for the overall training of PAF airmen in this assignment. The family was blessed with their second son, Syed Mansur Raza in 1958. Dr. Mansur Raza is married to the former foreign secretary, Mrs. Tehmina Janjua.

In March 1959, Raza sahib was posted at RPAF Base Mauripur (now PAF Base Masroor) for second-line servicing of all types of aircraft, aero-engines their components, and ground support equipment.

In May 1958, Squadron Leader Syed Abid Raza attended the “Personnel Management Course”, conducted by the “Personnel Management Mobile Training Team”, Headquarters Army Element, United States Military Advisory Group, Pakistan in Rawalpindi. After this training, the coveted appointment of “Officer Commanding Maintenance Wing” was the next career milestone at PAF Base Peshawar (January 1961 – March 1965).

As an Officer Commanding, Squadron Leader Raza attended the “Resources Management Advanced Course” by Headquarters, USAF, and C130B Maintenance Officers Familiarization Course AMF by USAF in May 24, 1963. Raza Sahib was able to create a team of dedicated engineers who ensured serviceability and operational capability of PAF aircraft during the war which erupted just six months after his departure from this seat.

In March 1965 he was posted at the Air Headquarters (AHQ) as Assistant Director of “Aircraft Engineering”, from where he and his team regulated all the engineering activities of war operations.

He was awarded the War Star (Sitara-e-Harb) in 1965, and the War Medal (Tamgha-e-Harb) the same year. Seeing his professional acumen, Raza Sahib was elevated to Director General (Engineering) at the AHQ in March, 1966. He was responsible for maintenance policies, directives, innovations, and evaluation for the induction of new equipment for the PAF. By now, he was considered an authority on maintenance, training, evaluation, and modifications.

Utilizing his credentials, S. A. Raza was posted as Deputy Director of Projects at the AHQ in December 1966. The key task was to technically evaluate the induction of the “Mirage” aircraft system in PAF. This new weapon system was being used by the leading air forces of the world at that time. PAF wanted to evaluate its efficacy considering its own tactical and operational requirements.

After a thorough evaluation, Raza sahib recommended the induction of the “Mirage” aircraft owing to its endurance, reliability, speed, structure, and multi-role functions that were much needed by PAF. He was also appointed the first Technical Attaché at the Embassy of Pakistan, in France. Wing Commander Raza and his dedicated team ensured the delivery of six mirages to Pakistan in 1967, which were flown to PAF Base Mauripur (now Masroor) Karachi on March 18, 1968. No. 5 Squadron of Pakistan Air Force had the honor to receive this new system. During their stay in France, Allah blessed the Razas with their first daughter (Shazia Fatima Raza) in 1968.

On return from France, Wing Commander Syed Abid Raza was posted at the AHQ as Deputy Director Aircraft Engineering in June 1970. He diligently formulated maintenance policies and upgrading PAF aircraft and aero engines. Due to consistent engineering support by the engineers of PAF, Mirage aircraft were fully operational by the 1971 War, and flew over 200 day and night sorties from PAF Base Sargodha (now Mushaff) and PAF Base Mianwali (now Alam). He ensured the availability of engineering facilities for all types of aircraft during the 1971 war. After the war of 1971, he was awarded the War Star (Sitara-e-Harb) 1971, and War Medal (Tamgha-e-Jang) 1971.

Upon being promoted to the rank of Group Captain, Syed Abid Raza was honored to command the biggest aircraft engineering depot/maintenance unit at PAF Base Faisal in February 1972. Here his team, completed overhaul/modifications to aircraft, aero-engines, and other components. His team was also successful in manufacturing some spare parts, tools, test equipment, and ground support equipment. Being the only aerospace repair unit, it attained the status of the engineering backbone of PAF during his tenure. During the same posting, Allah tested him by recalling his beloved daughter back to the heavenly abode, who encountered a tragic death, in 1972. Finding Raza Sahib and his family submitting to Allah’s will, he was blessed with another son, Syed Ahmer Raza in 1974. Ahmer, who has an engineering and management background, is married to Sara, currently spearheading Professor Syed Hasan Askari Historiography Project.

Group Captain Syed Abid Raza also remains a member of the executive managing committee of Pakistan Defense Officers Co-operative Housing Authority (PDOCHS) Karachi (1976), now known as Defense Housing Authority (DHA), Karachi.

On completion of his tenure at this engineering depot, he was promoted to the rank of Air Commodore and was hand-picked for “Deputy Director P-721 Project” at Kamra in July 1976. This strategic project was conceived for an “Aeronautical Overhaul Factory” in 1972, where facilities for the repair and overhaul of jet aircraft, manufacturing of aircraft parts, and drop tanks were to be established.

Being the first of its nature, the project was placed directly under the Ministry of Defense. Raza managed to speedily steer this strategic asset of Pakistan. Later he was appointed as Project Director in September for this appointment. In September 1977, Raza sahib was elected as a member of The Royal Aeronautical Society established for the General Advancement of Aeronautical Art, Science & Engineering. In 1978, Raza sahib attended the “Joint Services Defense Resource Management Course” given by the Ministry of Defence by US Department of Defence.

For meritorious services, Air Commodore Syed Abid Raza was awarded the coveted medal of “Sitar-e-Basalat (Star of Good Conduct)” by the then President of Pakistan, Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry in 1978.

Air Commodore Raza was the last Project Director P-721 (till June 1979), which was upgraded to F-6 Rebuild Factory in June 1979. He was the first Managing Director (MD), which he continued till December 1980. Air Commodore Syed Abid Raza honorably retired from active military service on November 11, 1980.

Air Commodore Raza Sahib continued his innings at Shaheen Foundation (a subsidiary of PAF) as Director Shaheen Builders (November 1980 – October 1987) and Project Manager/Managing Director/General Manager SWE-PAK Pharmaceutical (November 1987 – April 1991). He has completed mega projects (incorporating Italian & Swedish resources and technologies). He also oversaw the completion of Shaheen Complex, with the first “Revolving Restaurant” in Karachi, Bini-Shells for warehouses & storage facilities, PTDC Restaurant at Daman-E-Koh, Islamabad, and the Cadets’ Mess, PAF Asghar Khan Academy Risalpur. He later established the SWE-PAK Pharmaceutical Plant in Hub Baluchistan (October 1987 – April 1991). Air Commodore Raza left Shaheen Foundation, PAF due to his deteriorating health in April 1991. He passed away in PNS Shifa Hospital, Karachi on April 4, 2000, at the age of 73 after a courageous battle with serious medical conditions, surrounded by loved ones who will continue to honor his legacy by living their lives to the fullest.

Famous poet John Aelia, had sarcastically termed the creation of Pakistan as the “Mischief of kids of Aligarh”. Proudly this mischief not only led to independence but also laid the foundations of sound engineering in support of the aerial defense of Pakistan by a team of engineers. Syed Abid Raza from Aligarh was one of them.

May Air Commodore Syed Abid Raza rest in eternal peace!

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