Survivors of August 17 Crash
ByCol. Riaz Jafri (Retd)
Westridge, Rawalpindi

Strange are the ways of Allah and Allah be praised. While a galaxy of the Pakistan army senior officers died in a mysterious C-130 Hercules plane crash on 17 August 1988 at Bahawalpur that included President Zia ul Haq, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Akhtar Abdur Rehman and the United States Ambassador to Pakistan, Arnold Lewis Raphel, the following escaped the ultimate through the sheer pull of their luck:
1. Lt Col. Arshad Hussain, AMC, (Retired as Maj Gen) - personal physician of the President. He was at the Chaklala airport with his usual Emergent & Life Saving medicine chest ready to board the C-130, when he was spotted by the President and told, “Hey Doc, what are you doing here? Go back, I shall be back by the evening.” The Doc saluted and left, little knowing his life was saved and that he had saluted the President for the last time in his life!
2. Brig. Muhammad Younas Khan - MS (Military Secretary) to the President. An essential Staff Officer who normally accompanies the President wherever he goes, he was told by the president himself to stay back and perform certain other tasks by the time he returned.

3. Gen. K. M. Arif, who had been by then promoted to 4 star General and appointed as the COS (Chief of Staff) in the President’s Secretariat while Gen. Aslam Baig Mirza had been appointed as the VCOAS in his place. Well – well -- something unbelievable happened in the annals of the military Staff Duties. General Rafaqat – the PSO (Principal Staff Officer) to the President was in the President’s Office and heard him talking to the US Ambassador Raphel on the phone. The president was asking the ambassador to accompany him to Bahawalpur to witness the field trials of the American M-61 Tank there that Pakistan was thinking to purchase. As an added emphasis, Zia told Raphel that Arif, who had recently watched the tank’s maneuvers in the States on a visit,would also be there. Gen. Rafaqat, while finalizing the list and tying up the details of all those who were to go to Bahawalpur, informed all except Gen Arif, whom he took it for granted that the President had already asked him to be there. To the good luck of Gen. Arif the President had not, and so he was not there on the fateful day.
4. Lt Gen. Rehm Dil Bhatti – IGTE (Inspector General Training and Evaluation). After the demonstration he was sitting in the fateful C-130 waiting for the President to board, who was at the tarmac being seen off by many including Lt Gen. Mian Afzaal the then CGS (Chief of the General Staff). Gen Zia was discussing something important with the CGS so he asked him to accompany him to Pindi to continue the discussion on the plane. Gen Mian Afzaal, who was to go to Multan to attend some function, on entering the plane saw Gen R D Bhatti and asked him to go to Multan in his stead. Little did Gen Bhatti or Gen Afzaal know that they were not only interchanging their destinations but their eternal destinies.
Besides, a haughty Major General (no names please) was informed by his Captain ADC that as there were many other senior generals attending the function at Multan there was no VIP No. 1 Room available for him and that he had been booked in a VIP No.2 Room of a mess there. The haughty general asked the ADC to cancel his visit to Multan and boarded the ill fatedC-130 to return to Pindi and thus became a ‘martyr’ to his ego.
Jissay Allah Rakhey usy kon chhakhy aur jis ki ani hoay usy kon taley?

 

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