Hyderabad: Former chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF), Air Chief Marshal Idris Hassan Latif, died here on Monday. He was 94. He breathed his last at a private hospital, where he was admitted last week with pneumonia, family sources said. He was the first Indian Muslim to become the head of the Indian Air Force. He is survived by three children. His wife Bilkees Latif, a noted social activist and writer, died in October last year.
Latif headed the IAF from September 1978 to August 1981 and after his retirement, served as the Governor of Maharashtra and India’s Ambassador to France. He will be buried at a burial ground in the old city of Hyderabad on Tuesday. Born on June 9, 1923 at Hyderabad, Latif joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941 at the age of 18 and was commissioned in 1942.
During 1943-44, he was one of the few Indian pilots to be seconded to the Royal Air Force in the UK, where he underwent training on more contemporary aircraft like the Hurricane and Spitfire. He returned to India in 1944 and took part in the Burma campaign. At the time of partition, he chose IAF and during the 1971 War with Pakistan, he was Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Plans). Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao have condoled the death of Latif.
The Chief Minister, in his message, said that Latif had served the nation in various capacities and was pride of the nation. “He was a product of Nizam College, Hyderabad and served in various capacities in the Air Force and rose to become the Air Chief Marshal,” he said.
The Chief Minister noted that Latif was also recipient of Param Visisht Seva Medal. Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao also expressed his condolences. “Latif created a distinct mark of his work as Air Force Chief and later as Governor of Maharashtra. During his tenure as Governor, Latif took keen interest in the development of the state,” he said.
“As chancellor of universities in Maharashtra, Latif made serious efforts to enhance the quality of higher education in the State. With his impartial and dignified conduct, Latif enhanced the stature of the post of governor,” added the Governor.