Name: Muhammad Zafar Masud
Pak No: 3314
Father’s Name: Zafar Hussain Khan
Date of Birth: 17-10-1927
Place of Birth: Lahore
GD(P) Course: Pre-Partition Commission
Date of Commission: 25 Feb 1946
Date of Retirement: 1 Jul 1971
Date of Demise/Burial: 7 Oct 2003/PAF graveyard Chaklala
Gallantry Award: Hilal-i-Jurat(HJ)
Early Life/Career: Coming from a Gujranwala family, Zafar Masud was brilliant since childhood. His father Zafar Hussain Khan, senior officer of Indian Western Railway Board, was a noble officer of enviable reputation. Being a strict disciplinarian, he played a key role in the character building of young Masud. The family was settled in Delhi long before partition and Masud did matriculation from Model High School in 1942. With a dream to become a fighter pilot, Masud joined RIAF and got commission on 25 Feb 1946. At the time of Independence, Zafar Masud opted for Pakistan and thus became the youngest pioneer of the newly born Royal Pakistan Air Force. In 1948, Flt Lt Zafar Masud was deployed in Dhamial Army Air Base where he was put as in-charge of air campaigns during the Kashmir War.
As the war intensified, Zafar Masud was sent to Skardu Airport where he took active participation in air missions under the command of Sqn Ldr (Later Air Cdre) Mukhtar Dogar. In 1948, after the war, Masud joined the RPAF College where he imparted flying training to young cadets of PAF. Zafar also saw action at Miranshah where No 9 Sqn was deployed to safeguard the western borders of newly born state. While flying Hawker Furies at Miranshah, he participated in numerous army close support missions against miscreants. As the PAF entered the Jet Age with the arrival of modern ‘Attacker’ jet aircraft, Zafar Masud was among the very few to get operationalised on the new weapon system. Being the member of No 11 Sqn, he was the proud member of the first PAF jet aerobatic team ‘Paybills’ under the legendary command of famous F S Hussain.
Career Achievements: In 1958 Air Mshl Asghar Khan chose Wing Commander Masud to organise, train and lead an aerobatic team of 16 Sabre jets that later set a world record, validating the PAF’s place among the well-regarded air arms of the world. ‘Flight’, an international aviation magazine of great credibility and reputation, published an article pressing PAF for the exceptional world record. Masud’s heroic feats made the headline world over. Within months of that event, Masud was assigned to set up and command the Fighter Leaders’ School, the premier institution of PAF that today runs under the name of Combat Commanders’ School. Masud worked day in and day out to establish the elite FLS with international standards. He was its first Squadron Commander as well. England was the next stop in the illustrious career of great Masud. At UK, he proved his mettle and made the nation proud by achieving the ‘Best Foreign Student’ award.
Heroic Feats in 1965 War: Since his early career, ever visible was the infectious idealism in his personality– the reason for his nickname (Zafar Masud), an allusion to the fictional ‘Walter Mitty’ – that drove him to set for himself and his subordinates difficult- to-achieve standards. An exceptional fighter pilot, Masud was at his best when given really challenging assignments, but even when asked to take on some ordinary tasks, he tackled those with great energy and inventiveness. Quite remarkably, within days of taking over a new unit, the men under him would begin to identify with his goals, and the experience always left them better trained and stronger advocates of professional values. In 1965, Gp Capt Zafar Masud became a war hero for his courageous leadership as commander of Pakistan’s key air base at Sargodha. The team of officers and men under Masud fought back the Indian Air Force assaults on Sargodha with skill and disciplined confidence. Simultaneously, they punished the IAF in other combat zones and assisted in halting the Indian Army from Sialkot to Kasur. Among his pilots were dead and living heroes the nation has come to know well: Rafiqui, Alam, Munir, Alauddin Ahmed, Yunus, Middlecoat, Yusuf Ali Khan, and Cecil Chaudhry. Masud’s men gave the best that he demanded of them, and for his war leadership he was given a high medal for valour, the HJ. Perhaps the biggest contribution made by brilliant Zafar Masud during the war was the defence of most vulnerable and strategically important installation of PAF, the Sargodha Air Base. Sargodha, under the command of Gp Capt Zafar Masud, was fully prepared to meet the challenge of IAF’s retaliatory attacks on 7 Sep. The Indian authors in their book ‘Fiza’ya’ have acknowledged the role played by PAF commanders in thwarting the IAF attack on 7 Sep against Sargodha Base.
Under the command of Zafar Masud, Sargodha and, to a lesser extent, Peshawar posed the greatest threat to the forward bases of the IAF. In addition, Sargodha, in conjunction with Sakesar radar, was the pivot of the PAF’s entire air defence system in the vital sector. He also played a key role in motivating the men behind the scenes, the maintenance personnel. These resolute men had a very difficult role to play. However, their heroic performance during the war was yet another prime factor in PAF’s overall brilliant performance in operations. Recovery of aircraft damaged by the enemy action, day and night arming, refuelling and maintenance were performed by the technicians, with the zeal, to achieve hitherto impossible flying rates. These unwarranted conditions were suddenly thrust upon them –no previous exercise could have possibly simulated this degree of realism-and they rose to the challenge like true zealots. A part of the overall credit also went to Zafar Masud as the commander of these operations.
The post war analysis of the war reflected that 33 IAF attacks on Sargodha caused negligible damage only. The IAF was defeated in the battle for Sargodha and lost the battle for air superiority and the urge to fight the PAF in the air; thanks to able command of Gp Capt Zafar Masud.
Citation of Gallantry Award: “As Commanding Officer of the most important operational station of the Pakistan Air Force, Group Captain Muhammad Zafar Masud showed great qualities of leadership, devotion to duty and organising ability in the conduct of air operations against the enemy. On the day and night of 7th Sep, 1965 in particular, when the enemy made five successive attacks on our air fields and their installations with Canberra bombers, Hunter and Mystere fighter bombers, the cool courage and determination with which the whole station faced the attacks and heavy damage inflicted by its fighters on the enemy aircraft clearly indicated the high morale and professional efficiency achieved by the station personnel under the command ofGroup Captain Masud. For his contribution to the success of the Pakistan Air Force operation against the enemy during the war, Group Captain Muhammad Zafar Masud is awarded HJ.”
In the post-war years, he continued to add to his reputation by excelling in other pivotal appointments including ACAS (Operations). By the late 1960s, Masud, now an Air Cdre, was widely respected and regarded as a probable future Air Force Chief. In Apr 1970, he was assigned to Dacca as the top PAF Commander in the Eastern Wing. However, the sequence of tragic events that came one after another at Dacca brought his illustrious career in PAF to an abrupt end.
Family Details: Masud married Elizabeth Harniette, a German Lady, on 26 Jun 1959 at Karachi. He remained happily married to his devoted wife for 45 years. Their son Salaar born on 10 Mar 1961 who works as a software analyst in Europe. Elizabeth Masud spoke Urdu fluently. She was a leading member of the PAF Women’s Association and made strong contributions to the families’ welfare schemes. She was especially supportive of her husband’s particular attention to the living conditions of the lower paid employees. Many still remember fondly her energy and enthusiasm in projects dealing with child care and pre-school education at the PAF Bases at which Masud served in various capacities. Elizabeth, despite her own frail health, remained by her husband’s side during his long and difficult battle against Parkinson’s disease.
End of the Hero: One of the PAF’s most courageous leaders, Air Cdre M Zafar Masud breathed his last on 7 Oct 2003 due to a cardiac arrest. The great warrior, epitome of leadership and a visionary commander was given hero’s farewell by the entire rank and file of PAF. Later, the gallant son of Pakistan was laid to rest with full military honours in his eternal abode at PAF graveyard in Chaklala.