Name: Muhammad Iqbal
Pak No: 1431
Father’s Name: Muhammad Ali Asghar
Date of Birth: 16 Dec 1934
Place of Birth: Nangal, Sialkot
GD(P) Course: 13 GD (P)
Date of Commission: 11 Jun 1953
Date of Shahadat/Burial:11 Sep 1965/Nangal Graveyard, Sialkot
Gallantry Award: Sitara-e-Jurat (SJ)
Early Life/Career: Sialkot born Iqbal was the only brother of six sisters of the family of Mr Ali Asghar, an officer in the office of Municipal Committee, Sialkot. Iqbal lost his father at a young age and there on, his uncle Chaudhry Abdul Ghani took over the responsibility of looking after his family. Iqbal received early education from CTI School and Murray College, Sialkot and emerged as a brilliant student, making mark especially in Science subjects. He did BSc from FC College, Lahore in 1947 and was a die-hard worker of Pakistan Movement. After graduation, he joined PAF on 3 Jan 1952 in 13 GD (P) Course and got commission on 11 Jun 1953. Iqbal was among the lucky few who were selected for conversion on new B-57 aircraft and later did advanced course on RB-57 and Jet Instructor Course from USA. During his illustrious career, he commanded prestigious No 8 and No 24 Sqns of PAF, being their first OC. Popularly Known in PAF as ‘Professor’, owing to his sharp intellect, inclination towards and proficiency at mathematics and science subjects, Iqbal was always full of novel ideas.
Participation in 1965 War: Sqn Ldr Muhammad Iqbal was commanding the elite No 24 Sqn equipped with state-of-the-art RB-57 aircraft, fitted with electronic intelligence (ELINT) devices during 1965. The Sqn was tasked with daring recce (reconnaissance) missions deep inside enemy territory. These missions were highly challenging and required utmost dedication and commitment. However, keeping aside all the dangers to his personal safety, he led the Sqn from the front and participated extensively during the war. He in his unarmed bomber flew across the entire length and breadth of India and gathered intelligence information pertaining to concentration and movement of enemy troops, location of IAF bases, and their deployment to forward bases etc.
As the war broke out in early hours of 1 Sep, the destruction of Amritsar radar became the prime objective for PAF, as it had played a key role in directing IAF Bombers and fighters into Pakistani airspace. Moreover, it was the only hurdle for PAF in gaining complete air superiority in Chamb sector where the two armies were fighting head to head. Earlier, PAF tried to neutralise the Amritsar radar, but could not deliver accurate attacks due to difficulty experienced in finding the exact location of the radar. The radar was well-camouflaged, dispersed in the centre of thickly populated town and was guarded by heavy ack-ack regiment. The challenge was thrown to Sqn Ldr Iqbal’s Sqn to suggest ways and means of locating the radar. Being an innovative officer, he came up with a novel idea of locating the radar by using the electronic devices fitted in RB-57 ELINT (electronic intelligence) aircraft. Fully knowing the dangers of such a daring mission, he volunteered to lead a formation of four B-57 aircraft in broad daylight to collect intelligence and exact location of Amritsar radar.
In the afternoon of 9 Sep, he took off from Peshawar with the mission to first locate the enemy radar and then direct the PAF fighter strike to destroy it. He flew at high level and reached the target with no difficulty. While he was overhead the Amritsar radar, his aircraft came under heavy fire from enemy ack-ack guns and got severe damage on the right wing. The right engine flamed out; however, he remained calm and skilfully piloted his crumbled aircraft, flew at treetop height and headed for Peshawar. While returning, he directed the fighter strike formation to attack Amritsar radar; however, due to lack of intelligence gathering, considerable results were not achieved. On return from the mission, he did not seem to be satisfied with the results and decided to make one more attempt.
On 11 Sep 1965, he planned to make some practice approaches on Rahwali (Gujranwala) radar to refine the procedure of newly assigned role of path finding before launching a final assault on the Amritsar radar. He along with his most reliable and proficient navigator Flt Lt Lodhi took off from Peshawar in the afternoon and headed for their final and eternal journey. The gallant crew flew initially at high level and then descended to low level as they approached Rahwali radar. Due to lack of coordination and proper communication with the friendly radar, the ack-ack gunners at Rahwali were not aware of the practice attacks or perhaps they panicked and took their own B-57 aircraft for an enemy Canberra- the British version of B-57, which looked the same. In this utter confusion, the gunners opened fire on their own B-57. The valiant crew tried to make desperate attempts to avoid the heavy ack – ack fire but failed. The aircraft was hit and got severe damage. Sqn Ldr Iqbal ejected but was still fired upon and received the fatal bullet during parachute descent. Courageous Lodhi who was glued to his radarscope was monitoring the behaviour of received transmissions in the rear cockpit that was covered with curtain to darken the scope. Lodhi had no chance and went down with the aircraft. Luckily, the aircraft did not catch fire and after crash, his body was retrieved. The martyrs’ bodies were brought by helicopter to their home base at Peshawar. The great warrior, humble soul, and outstanding officer was given the hero’s farewell at his funeral. He was later buried with full military honours at his native town at Nangal Sialkot in the presence of thousands of mourners. The Shaheed was posthumously awarded with SJ.
Citation of Gallantry Award: “Sqn Ldr Muhammad Iqbal flew many operational missions which played a vital part in the success of Pakistan Air Force during the India-Pakistan War. He carried out these missions with determination, enthusiasm, outstanding ability and at great personal risk. His performance, throughout, was exemplary and highly inspiring for the personnel under his command. For his outstanding leadership, valour, loyalty, and invaluable services to Pakistan Air Force and the country, he is awarded SJ.”
Family Details: Sqn Ldr Iqbal married Hameeda Begum on 8 Apr 1956. They were blessed with four children. Eldest Tahira Naseem born in Sep 1957 is married and happily settled with her family. Javed Iqbal born in Nov 1959 joined PAF as a fighter pilot and later retired as Wg Cdr. He is presently settled in UAE. Pervez Iqbal born in Jan 1962 is an electrical engineer. Khalid Iqbal born in 1966, after the Shahadat of his father, is a doctor by profession and settled in his native town Sialkot.