Written By: Maria Khalid
United We Rise Joint Staff Pakistan Day Parade 23rd March 2017
March 23, 2017 dawned with 31 gun salutes in the federal capital and 21 gun salutes in the provincial capitals as per the tradition. The sun and marching columns rose from the east, half covered with clouds and morning breeze fluttering the flags held in position by the flag bearers followed by columns of troops with their upright necks and broad chests facing the wind. The columns marched to the side of parade ground and assumed positions to receive flag bearers carrying national standards.
It was a beautiful morning and pleasant wind was blowing. Islamabad Expressway was lined with vehicles rushing towards parade ground since the first light. Long lines of cars were entering the parade ground parking area by various laterals marked with different colours and despite this meticulous planning thousands of people were doing all they could do to reach the parade ground well in time. An elaborate and stringent security procedure was being implemented to check and neutralize any undesired entry.
Sufficient guiding arrangements were also made to guide the spectators towards their respective stands. As we reached the parade ground and passed through passages to spectator stands we could see the large parade venue decorated with colourful seasonal flowers and panaflexes. Standing on the other side were two sixty feet tall portraits of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
The dais was located centrally, left and right of which were made the seating arrangements. The smartly dressed up uniformed troops stood in formation waiting for proceedings of Pakistan Day Parade to commence. Flag bearers carrying their national standards took their place opposite the dais across the marching venue. Marching columns entred the Parade ground led by Infantry and stood in marching order.
As the Parade was handed over to Parade Commander Brig Amir Hussain Nawaz, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah and Vice Chief of Air Staff Asad Abdur Rehman Khan Lodhi (who was representing the Air Chief) arrived at the parade venue. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mehmood Hayat and Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif reached before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived.
Arrival of President Mamnoon Hussain was announced by the call of trumpeters. President arrived with a smart group of President Body Guards who have a unique honour of being awarded the National Flag by Father of the Nation on June 7, 1948. A team of 57 horses escorted President to the dais and he was saluted by the parade at his arrival on the inspection dais.
National anthem was sung in unison by all participants of the parade and audience, greatly reflecting the unity of the nation. President Mamnoon Hussain reviewed the parade on invitation by the Parade Commander by standing in an open military jeep and inspected all the participating columns.
Aircraft of Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy presented fly past in compact form to honour the President. Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman flew over the parade venue in his F-16 and presented salute to the President by performing a vertical roll over the parade square. Fly past of Eagles of Pakistan Air Force followed with the first group of F-16, JF-17 and F-7. Worth mentioning here is that Mirage Aircraft have completed their 50 years of induction in Pakistan Air Force. This year seven of these aircraft participated in the parade. The Mirages displayed linear bomburst, followed by PAF AWACS led by KK-3 and yet following them were combat supplement IL 78 and C-130, and then the P3-C Orions of Navy.
After the blood warming fly past of PAF and Navy aircraft, the parade commander cautioned the parade. Formal proceedings started with the recitation of Qur’aan followed by President Mamnoon Hussain’s address to the nation. During his speech he not only stressed the need to unite and fight against terror but also elaborated upon the necessity of the peace for progress of the nation. He said Pakistan was fighting terrorism for the last many years and country’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies had been acting with courage in this war against terror. “It is because of the sacrifices of our martyrs that Pakistan today is safer than before. Let me make it clear that after Operation Zarb-e-Azb, actions against the remaining terrorists under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad will continue till their elimination,” he said. The President during his speech thanked Gen Zakaria Shoke Chief of South African National Defence Force and Major General Li Jianbo of Chines Liberation Army. He also appreciated participation of Chinese contingent, Saudi Special Forces group and Turkish Band in Pakistan Day Parade. Chief of South African National Defence Force, General Zakaria Shoke witnessed the parade among other dignitaries.
At Qaumi Naara the entire parade participants, 18 Punjab Regiment, 21 Frontier Force Regiment, 10 Northern Light Infantry, 760 Mujahid Battalion, Frontier Corps Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Rangers Punjab, contingents of Navy and PAF, Islamabad Police, Lady Officers, Armed Forces Nursing Service, Girls Guide, Boy Scouts and SSG 5 Commando Battalion raised slogans in one voice. March past started led by the parade commander Brig Amir Hussain Nawaz. The soldiers marched in a fine array, and their heels struck the ground at the beat of drum with great panache; upright chins, swing of arms and strike of heels everything was in perfect coordination. Most impressive to the spectators was the march past of SSG commandos as they ran across the parade ground saluting with their weapons held high chanting Allah Hu with every alternate step touching the ground.
In a break with tradition, the synchronized, aligned, very smartly dressed, and diligently marching column of People’s Liberation Army Honour Guards took part in the parade. A 90 member contingent arrived for parade in Pakistan, out of which 72 members participated. The PLA Honour Guards take part in every significant event and welcome ceremonies for foreign leaders in China. Earlier on a rehearsal day of the parade, Major General Li Jianbo, head of China's 90-member contingent said, "We have come here to convey a message of friendship to Pakistan on behalf of the Chinese people and the Chinese army. We sincerely hope that Pakistan will progress day by day and its army will be stronger and stronger." President Mamnoon Hussain noted that the participation of Chinese troops marked a “historic moment.” This rare foray by Chinese Armed Forces underscores Beijing’s increasingly strong partnership with Islamabad.
It was followed by the President Body Guards marching across the parade ground saluting the dais with trained and tamed horses and smartly donned up riders. Armoured columns, artillery guns, radars and their towing vehicles roared as they passed, saluting their command. Mechanized columns were led by main battle tanks including, Al-Khalid, Al-Zarrar and T-80 UD. APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers) including APC-borne TOW missiles (tube-launched-optically tracked-wire guided missile system), were also part of the spectacle. These were followed by Heavy and Medium Artillery including various guns present in the inventory of Artillery Regiments such as M-11-A2 guns and 155mm howitzers, which can fire up to 30 kilometres, and 130mm medium guns having a range of 27km. SPD float carried Buraq, Shahper and Uqab drones. Nasr, Babar, Shaheen and Ghauri missiles passed as people looked mesmerized at these huge missiles. Army Air Defence contingent comprised Sky Guard Radar and 35mm Oerlikon Guns, one of the best air defence guns in the world. The contingent also included FM-90 system which can shoot down not only fighter aircraft of the enemy, but also cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles, drones and armed helicopters. LOMADS LY-80 system which has recently been inducted also made its maiden appearance as part of the Army Air Defence column . PAF Air Defence contingent comprised Mobile Pulse Doppler Radar, SPADA-2000, and the Air Defence Command and Control System. The Army Engineers and Signals contingents with state-of-the-art equipment also galvanised the morale of the spectators.
The emotionally charged crowd gave a standing ovation to the Turkish military’s Janissary Mehter band. All present at the parade venue waved national flags, repeating after the tunes played by the Turkish band. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also praised and thanked the Turkish band, members of which were attired in traditional Ottoman-style dresses.
A noteworthy development in this regard is the increasing defence cooperation between Islamabad and Ankara in the recent years. In November 2016, Ankara announced that it would buy 52 Super Mashaak training aircraft from Pakistan, in addition to a $75 million deal signed in May last year, under which Turkey would upgrade Pakistan Air Force's F-16 fleet. The fly past of Army Aviation including Cobra Attack Helicopters, Fennec, Bell 412, Puma, MI-17 and Zulu-10 attack helicopters was stunning, with the spectacular feat of hanging soldiers by a sling.
After Aviation, PAF Sherdil team comprising 6 jets performed aerobatics and did criss-cross maneuvers, wingover and parallel loop displaying perfection. Aerobatics of JF 17 Thunder and F-16 took the breath of audience away before disappearing in the sky.
As the aircraft disappeared, free fall of tri-services sky divers from 10,000 ft took over the show. GOC SSG Maj Gen Tahir Masud Bhutta who led the skydiving, presented National Flag to President of Pakistan. The parade also featured colourful floats showcasing the culture of the country’s provinces. The parade ended with a colourful entry of children and the beautiful song “Hum sub ka Pakistan” by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan inspiring awe in the ever-so-patriotic audience.
The breathtaking display of military prowess during the national day parade reinforced the notion that in these modern times, a country’s security can’t be served by obsolescence and technologically backward equipment that undermines the country’s combat capability. The parade remains a splendid corroboration of military prowess and the resolve of the Armed Forces that any aggressor who attempts to march on the country’s sovereignty would be crushed.