Born in 1954, Rao Qamar Suleman come from a humble Rajput family of Okara district of province Punjab, Pakistan. He started his academic career from 17th entry in PAF School Sargodha. Suleman got commission in Pakistan Air Force Academy Risalpur after successful completion of his studies from PAF college Sargodha. In 1972, he was commissioned in Air Force as general duty pilot (fighter pilot). Suleman is an accomplished fighter pilot with rich experience in fighter aircraft. He has commanded an Elite Fighter Squadron, Wing and Base that includes No. 15 Squadron, No. 31 Wing, PAF Base Peshawar and Southern Air Command.
The Narrative Pakistan interviewed the former chief of Pakistan for our readers.
The Narrative: You reached to highest position in your career, Who was you inspiration?
Rao Qamar Suleman: I got my inspiration throughout my life from my father, my father was extremely hard working and a self-made man. Whole his life, my father continued to do something to improve his capabilities on the basis of which he continued to progress in his life. My earliest memory of my father is that he used to leave early in the morning for his office, come back in late afternoon and after a brief nap he used to go to the university as he was doing his masters at that time. This was the pattern, my father followed throughout his life and that’s what brought him success.
The Narrative: What makes you a successful person in life and career?
Rao Qamar Suleman: As far I am concerned, I belong to a middle class family and I had nobody in my life who could vouch for me or be my reference in any sphere of life and career. Throughout my life I continued to work very hard and I was lucky to have some very kind seniors in my career who guided me well.
The Narrative: Is it competitive being at PAF Academy Risalpur and PAF?
Rao Qamar Suleman: Life at PAF Academy and in Pakistan Air Force is quite demanding and challenging, you have to deliver throughout. Let me give you an example, in my batch at PAF Academy Risalpur 60 cadets joined from all over Pakistan out of 34 successfully graduated and got commission in Pakistan Air Force. Out of 34 cadets around 25 landed up in fighter squadrons. As the career progressed and by the time our course mates reached to the level of Air Commodore which was about after 28 years, we were only 8 people left. Out of 8 officers, I was the only one who rose to the next levels of the career.
Those who depend on others and look for references to succeed in life, they are on wrong side and at some stage of life they will fall down.
The Narrative: Would you call it, a destiny, struggle / sheer hard work or merit, what do you attribute the success to?
Rao Qamar Suleman: Destiny alone will not bring you success, you have to work hard to attain that destiny and if you don’t work hard the destiny will continue to wait for you and you will not be able to make it to that. Little bit of luck is also a factor as the kind of seniors, bosses and teachers you get in your life and career. I attribute my success to my parents, my teachers and my seniors in PAF.
The Narrative: Do you think the personal excellence in the career matters particularly in reference to Pakistan Air Force?
Rao Qamar Suleman: I have 37 years of career in Pakistan Air Force, it comes to 40 years if the tenure at PAF academy Risalpur is counted. I have experienced that boys from very humble background and at times from very small villages rise to very high positions through their sheer hard work and dedication in PAF. This is the hallmark of Pakistan Air Force, that merit is always rewarded and hard work pays back.
The Narrative: What is your message to the youth of Pakistan?
Rao Qamar Suleman: My message is to everyone particularly the Pakistani young boys and girls, they must work hard and only depend on their hard work to achieve success in life. Those who depend on others and look for references to succeed in life, they are on wrong side and at some stage of life they will fall down.
The Narrative: Do you think it is possible in today’s Pakistan also?
Rao Qamar Suleman: It is possible in today’s Pakistan also, let me give you an example, I had a driver once I was in Pakistan Air Force who belonged to a very small village of Manshera. He had four daughters and one son, his son was very bright and I encouraged my driver to continue to teach his son. Now the boy has done his Fsc and he had got admission in all leading medical colleges but joined Army Medical College. The boy of an ordinary driver thorough his sheer hard work and on his own capabilities got an admission in medical college, this should be an inspiration for everyone. My example is also in front of you, being from a middle class family with no references, i reached to the highest position in Pakistan Air Force.
The Narrative: Do you think the girls should join Pakistan Air Force?
Rao Qamar Suleman: If you look at the demography in Pakistan or the gender distribution, we have more women and less men. If we do not include the women in the work force and if the women do not contribute towards the development of the nation than the nation will not develop. My experience of women joining the armed forces is very pleasant, I don’t see any difference in boys and girls and if the girls work hard they can make it to the same level as of boys in Pakistan Air Force. I would strongly recommend that the girls who have the passion, they should join the Air Force
The Narrative: You always paid a very rich tribute to Air Mashal Noor Khan, may you comment on this?
Rao Qamar Suleman: Air Marshal Noor Khan was my “Hero” being youngster I saw him leading Pakistan Air Force in 1965 war, I saw his interviews and TV briefings. He was my inspiration to join Pakistan Air Force and throughout my career I kept looking towards him as an inspiration. To me he was a great personality and the greatest man our country has produced.
The Narrative: Your brother Babar Suleman, Sitara I Imtiaz made an attempt to circumnavigate the world in a single engine air craft with his youngest son Haris Suleman, Sitara I Imtiaz. Their aim was to raise funds to build schools for under privileged children of Pakistan but very unfortunately their plan crashed in the last leg of the journey and both father and son got martyred in the pursuit of a noble cause. Can you share some memories of him?
Rao Qamar Suleman: Babar was my younger brother, he was a lovely person with a mischievous smile on his face always. He was happy go lucky type of a person and was a dare devil kind of a person. He was too adventurous and courageous man, he lived his whole life like that and I think he was a great hero.
The Narrative: Was Babar Suleman (RIP) very keen to provide education to dispossessed?
Rao Qamar Suleman: Yes, he was keen about education. That is why he under took the adventure of circumnavigating the world in a single engine aircraft to promote education and the cause of education for dispossessed children.
Let me also say that Babar Suleman was a great son, brother and a father. He did a lot for his family, and we miss him a lot he was very charming and popular figure in the family. We the whole family loved him and miss him a lot.