Ahmed Vasim Khan
Greatness comes from one’s desire to reach beyond the horizon and relentlessly chase one’s dreams. No one ever attains eminence by simply doing what is required of him: it is the excellence that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction. These words are an apt description of the 21st chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman!
He was bestowed the honour of commanding PAF three years ago, when Pakistan was going through turbulent times and the Pakistan Armed Forces were vigorously engaged in fighting the war against terrorism. Leading from the front, he himself carried out a bombing mission in an F-16 aircraft, which not only enhanced the morale of our armed forces but also struck fear in the hearts of our enemy. Under his gifted foresight, PAF successfully carried out counter insurgency operations in the most treacherous landscape without any collateral damage. The echoing triumph of PAF in these operations has further enhanced its image in the world as a professional air force.
Under his dynamic leadership, PAF in collaboration with Pakistan Army carried out successful air operations in operation Zarb e Azb. These joint campaigns manifest exemplary relations and conduct of operations between PAF and Pak Army against the terrorists. The PAF air support vouchsafed and helped our ground troops to move about freely and take actions to extricate the anti-state elements in treacherous areas of FATA. The government and the entire nation unequivocally acknowledged PAF’s role in the resounding success of these operations, which brought back peace in the country.
Turning impossible into possible is another character trait of Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman. He took the establishment of PAF Base Bholari as a challenge, andthe project, which was kept on back burner for decades, witnessed unprecedented infrastructure development under his personal guidance and close supervision. Resultantly, this monumental project was not only completed in record time but also made operational with the formation of a fighter squadron.
Under his visionary leadership, JF-17 program moved ahead at a fast pace and the maiden test flight of its dual seat aircraft at China in 2017 was a historic milestone in the pursuit of indigenization. Production of sixteen JF-17 Thunder Block II aircraft in a year is a testimony of his able leadership and a giant leap in achieving self-reliance. Successful trial of BVR missile fired from JF-17 Thunder at Somniani firing range is another milestone achieved during his able leadership. Moreover, sale agreements with brotherly countries Qatar, Turkey, Azarbaijan and Nigeria for the provision of Super Mushshak aircraft speak volumes of his commitment in making PAC Kamra a proud contributor in the progress of the nation.
Perhaps the most futuristic and visionary contribution made by Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman in the realm of indigenization and nation building is the establishment of Aviation City at Kamra. Although, PAC Kamra was serving the nation since long, however, the Air Chief envisioned capitalizing on PAF’s research and development potential. Hence, came up the idea of establishing a mega city, which could establish a much-needed industry Academia linkage at one location. This revolutionary initiative would prove to be a giant step towards indigenization and self-reliance in the country.
Being an embodiment of farsightedness, he always wanted to establish an institution in PAF that could link its operations, research and doctrine under one roof. To fulfill this long awaited vision, Airpower Center of Excellence was established at PAF Base, Mushaf. This, one of its kind institutions in the region, has been equipped with state of the art facilities to acquaint PAF combat crew with the latest techniques of air warfare in the ever changing airpower spectrum around the globe. The successful conduct of the first ever-multinational counter terrorism air exercise at this institution last year has authenticated its high credentials.
Being aware of the importance of education in the progress of any nation, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman earnestly contributed for the provision of quality education to the youth of our country. The establishment of Air University Campus at Multan &Kamra and Dr. Ruth Pfau Medical College at PAF Base Faisal Karachi is a giant leap in this direction which would usher in a new era of progress in the field of education.
Setting up state of the art vocational centers in the under developed areas of Pakistan is another humble contribution in the long list of nation building measures being taken by Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman. Capt Asfandyar Shaheed Vocational Training Center and Flying Officer Maryam Mukhtiar Shaheed Vocational Training Center for women have been established at PAF Camp Badaber (Peshawar) to provide respectable sources of earning livelihood for the unemployed men and women of these areas. Besides these vocational training centers, he also envisioned to replicate the flourishing model of Rashidabad Welfare Trust in different parts of the country. The construction of Yunusabad at Quetta and Alamabad at Swabi is the realization of the dream of serving the impoverished and the disadvantaged people of the far-flung areas. Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman is retiring after rendering 38 years of service in Pakistan air Force. He will always be remembered as an epitome of peer less excellence, matchless commitment, unwavering resolve and true son of Pakistan.