Written By: Maj Muzaffar Ahmed
Shakarparian parade ground, lying at the base of Margalla and Shakarparian Hills, saw the dawn of another peaceful morning on Pakistan Day. Under a clear sky, 1.5 kms stretch of parade ground was fluttering with national, armed forces’ and regimental flags. Multicoloured flowers and lush green grassy plots were adding to the aroma of the morning breeze and serenity. The portraits and panaflexes put on display were showing the conception of Pakistan’s dream on March 23, 1940 and the journey that followed in making this dream a reality.
While approaching towards the parade ground, portraits of our heroes placed astride roads emotionally charged everyone. Exuberance of the people including media persons, artists, politicians, military-men and others from different walks of life was evident with long queues of vehicles on Islamabad Expressway. Meticulous planning and elaborate security mechanism emplaced on the venue helped cars and thousands of people entering the parade ground parking area through various laterals in getting to their respective seats.
The parade started with points-men taking position in the parade ground while the troops marching column, elegantly dressed up in their regimental uniforms, appeared from the east and positioned in formations facing the spectator stands. They were followed by flag bearers who marched in carrying national standards and held in position facing the dais.
Excited Pakistanis who couldn’t make it to the parade ground had their eyes pinned on their television screens, anxiously waiting for the Pakistan Day Parade broadcast. The wait was over once the transmission aired with Subedar Major Zafar Iqbal handing over the parade to the Parade Commander Brig Amir Amin. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa NI (M), Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi NI (M) and Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Arshad Malik HI (M) (who was representing the Air Chief) arrived at the parade venue. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mehmood Hayat NI (M) and Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan reached the venue before the arrival of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The guest of honour, the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, was received by the Prime Minister. Earlier in the day, the guest of honour expressed gratitude and appreciation for Pakistan’s unequivocal moral and material support during Sri Lanka’s successful war on terror. He also appreciated successes of the Pakistan Army in its ongoing war against terrorism.
With the announcement of trumpeters, President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain arrived on a horse drawn buggy with a smart group of equestrians of President Body Guards who have a unique honour of receiving National Flag from Father of the Nation on June 7, 1948. The Presidential salute was followed by the national anthem, sung by all participants of the parade and audience with zeal and vigour–their voices reflecting the passion and the unity of the nation.
After President Mamnoon Hussain’s review of the parade, the impressive ceremony started with traditional flypast of aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy led by Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, NI (M). The Air Chief Marshal flew over the parade venue in his F-16 aircraft, presented salute to the President and disappeared in skies by performing a vertical roll, earning a big round of applause from the audience. Flypast continued on with 5 participating fighter aircraft which included Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 (Fighting Falcons), JF-17 Thunder, Mirages (The Eagles), F-7PG (The Tigers) and F-7P. Fighter aircraft were followed by PAF airborne early warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft comprising K Eagle-3 and SAAB-2000 aircraft. Following them were combat support aircraft (The Big Guys) IL-78 and C-130, including the P-3C Orion of the Navy.
After the flypast, Corporal Technician Rashid Arshad recited few verses from the Holy Quran, after which President Mamnoon Hussain addressed the nation. During his speech, the President spoke on the Kashmir issue and drew attention of the audience to the Indian ceasefire violations and human rights abuses which have put the regional peace at stake. Stressing on peaceful coexistence and continuing support for peaceful resolution of Afghan issue, he appreciated the nation’s unity and resilience to face the challenges. The president also acknowledged the role of Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies which have endeavored to dismantle the remnants of militancy and enabled an environment conducive and integral for the new era of economic prosperity. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and other mega development projects are a testimony to this reality. He urged the nation to once again reiterate the resolve to take Pakistan to the heights of glory as envisioned by our forefathers. During his speech the President thanked Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and contingents of brotherly Islamic countries which included the United Arab Emirates, Jordanian military band and paratroopers as well as the Turkish Aviation Contingent for their participation in Pakistan Day Parade. At the end of his speech, the President announced new medal “Tamgha-e-Azm” for all Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies’ personnel who have participated in the war against terrorism.
It is important to highlight that Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam also witnessed the parade among other foreign diplomats and dignitaries.
After the foot columns, elegantly dressed 85 members parade column of UAE Armed Forces led by Captain Khalid Hamid Alblushi marched in with their band playing tones “captain my captain, brave of the unit”. Their senior delegate Major General Faisal Muhammad Alshi said, “Participation of the UAE Armed Forces in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s National Day is in the spirit of historical and unique ties between UAE and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The participation of the UAE Armed Forces represents different leagues of the UAE Armed Forces; the Marine Forces, the Air Force, the Land Forces and lastly the military band”.
After UAE contingent, the Jordanian Armed Forces Band comprising 55 individuals led by Major Meher Rawashdi followed. On reaching infront of the dais, they made beautiful formations in the shape of a heart and particularly the figure 78 commemorating Pakistan’s 78th Pakistan Day. The band played melodious and patriotic notes of music of both the nations, out of which one was Jeeway Jeeway Pakistan. The emotionally charged crowd gave a standing ovation to the Jordanian military band. It requires special mention that Pakistan and Jordan enjoy historically deep rooted trust-based relations. Pakistan’s Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Saiful Azam, shot down Israeli aircraft in 1967 war while on deputation in Jordan. In reciprocity, King Hussain of Jordan sent two squadrons of aircraft to support Pakistan against India in 1971 war.
The band was followed by the mounted and mechanized columns. First were the President Body Guards marching across the parade ground saluting the dais with tamed horses and smartly donned up riders. It followed mechanized columns led by indigenously produced main battle tank Al-Khalid and other tanks such as Al-Zarrar and T-80 UD which presented barrel salute with fascinating barrel turn while moving past the dais. Mechanized infantry passed while mounted on Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) with their TOW missiles (tube-launched-optically tracked-wire guided missile system) and Mine Resisitent Ambush Protection Vehicles.
While the marching columns and drum beats were raising the adrenaline of the spectators, the commentary team led by Lt Col Muhammad Shafiq Malik was also warming the hearts of the audience at the parade venue and millions on the TV screens. Their words were powerful, expression full of patriotic fervor and the poetic tinge was touching the deeper chords of patriotism. It was also appreciated by domestic and foreign media like The Washington Post as it wrote the next day about “the amplified commentary” and how “as each weapon system or marching unit passed the reviewing stand, it was described in detail, with rolling gusto and snatches of patriotic poetry”.
In the Artillery column the leading were 155 MM Self Propelled (SP). The columns from Army Air Defence included Oerlikon Guns, Giraffae Radars, FM 90 Missiles. Moreover, LOMADS LY-80 system were also 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. A contingent from Army Engineers was also part of the parade. The equipment of 314 Assault Engineers Battalion comprised Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB), Troll Anti Mine (TAM), Rocket Delivery Mine System (RDMS), Assault Track Way, Ribbon Bridge, AM 50 Bridge, and Field Tracks. The Signals Battalion displayed the communication equipment of Pakistan Army. It had a ‘Concept Vehicle’ mounted on the float. The vehicle displayed satellite equipment, radio and microwave equipment, combat radios/VHF sets, and End User Data Services. Pakistan Army Tactical Communication (PATCOM) vehicles and Satellite Communication (SATCOM) vehicles, Electronic Warfare equipment, and Mobile Data Hub were also part of the contingent.
The contingent of Strategic Plans Division (SPD) was once again the recipient of an awed audience. The indigenously produced weapon systems that formed part of the column included Shaheen-1,2 & 3 Missiles, NASR Missile system and Raad. The indigenously produced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) ‘Buraq’ and ‘Shahpar’ were also part of the parade. To display the different colours of Pakistan, each province was represented by a float which reflected different angles of their everyday life, their traditions and culture.
The flypast of Army Aviation led by Maj Gen Nasir Dilawar Shah, HI (M) including Cobra Attack Helicopters, Fennec, Bell 412, Puma, MI-17 and Zulu-9 attack helicopters was eye-catching. The flypast became special when first time participating Turkish gunship helicopters T-129, hovered across the parade venue.
After Aviation, PAF Sherdil team led by Wing Commander Khalid Matin and Braveheart formation lead by Wing Commander Ahmer Zia performed aerobatics and did criss-cross maneuvers, wingover and parallel loop with utter mastery. Thundering aerobatics of F-16 and JF-17 Thunder were matchless too, fetching due applause from the audience and then disappearing in the heights of the sky. Then came the moment everyone was looking forward to. With the announcement of free fall jumps, all eyes went up in the sky to look for the paratroopers from SSG, PAF, Pakistan Navy and the Jordanian Paratroopers team who conducted free fall jumps from 10,000 feet. Brave commandos from tri-services displayed exceptional skills of para-trooping and landed safely in front of the audience. Maj Gen Tahir Masud Bhutta, General Officer Commanding SSG, was the last one to jump and landed safely with a Pakistani flag tied to his parachute. He presented the flag to the chief guest and also introduced his team to him.
The parade ended with a colorful entry of Inter-Services Public Relations’ float carrying children and renowned singers Sahir Ali Bagga, Akhtar Chinal, Arif Lohar, Asim Azhar, Qasim Azhar, Bano Rehmat, Mubarak Ali Sawan and Gul Panra singing the inspiring national song “Aman ka nishan ye hamara Pakistan” thus ending the show on the climax of patriotic note.