It was a beautiful cloudy morning with pleasant weather. Shakarparian Parade Ground, lying at the base of Margalla Hills, was decorated with national, armed forces’ and regimental flags. The panaflexes put on display had portraits of Founding Fathers of Pakistan, Shuhada-e-Pakistan, prominent personalities like sportsmen, scientists, social workers, actors and singers among others. The display also depicted rich cultural heritage and tourist attractions of the country.
On this fine March morning the Islamabad Expressway was queued with vehicles rushing towards Parade Ground since dawn. Meticulous planning and elaborate security procedures carried out at the venue helped ensure that vehicles and people entered the Parade Ground parking area smoothly while effectively screening off any unauthorized entry.
The team of commentators included Lt Col Shafiq Malik, Farah Sadia and Aneeqa Nisar who were warming hearts of the audience at the parade venue and millions on the TV screens. This day was dedicated to sacrifices of architects of Pakistan Movement and to pay tribute to Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and other leaders. It served as a reminder that although Pakistan gained independence on August 14, 1947, but the idea was adopted on March 23, 1940.
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 took positions in formations facing the spectator stands. They were followed by flag bearers of the tri-services who marched in carrying national standards and took position facing the dais. Parade Subedar Major Muhammad Ashraf handed over the parade to the Parade Commander Brig Naseem Anwar. Chief of the Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa NI (M), Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi NI (M) and Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Aasim Zaheer 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 Pervez Khattak, reached the venue before the arrival of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Mahathir bin Mohamad who attended the event as the guest of honour, was escorted by Corps of Military Police's Captain Khudadad Mand to the stage, where he was received by Prime Minister Khan. Earlier in the day, the guest of honour expressed appreciation for Pakistan Army’s success in the war against terrorism. Among other foreign guests, Commander National Guard Bahrain, Lieutenant-General Sheikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa and Defence Minister of Azerbaijan Colonel General Zakir Hasanov were also present.
Arrival of President Dr. Arif Alvi was announced by the call of trumpeters. The President arrived on a traditional horse-drawn carriage escorted by President’s bodyguards who have the 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 fervour, reflecting jubilation and unity of the nation.
Squadron Leader Muhammad Abubakar recited a few verses from the Holy Quran. After the recitation, Brigadier Naseem Anwar formally requested the President to review the parade. President Dr. Arif Alvi reviewed the smartly turned out marching columns of the three services, paramilitary forces, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides from a jeep. The impressive ceremony started with traditional fly-past led by Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, NI (M). The Air Chief Marshal flew over the parade venue in his F-16 aircraft, presenting salute to the President and disappeared in skies after performing a vertical roll, earning a big round of applause from the audience. Fly-past continued on with participating fighter aircraft which included PAF’s F-16 (Fighting Falcons), JF-17 Thunder, Mirages (The Eagles), and P-3C Orion of the Navy.
After the fly-past, President Dr. Arif Alvi addressed the nation. He congratulated the nation on the National Day and said, "March 23 is that milestone of our national history in which the Muslims of the subcontinent aimed for their liberation through Pakistan Resolution.” He continued, “Pakistan is a peaceful country that respects integrity and sovereignty of other states but it is not oblivious to its defence”. The President further said, “Pakistan has overcome the menace of terrorism but there is still a lot of work to be done”. The President paid rich tribute on behalf of the nation to the Armed Forces for the response which they gave to India after Pulwama attack. In the end, the President thanked Malaysian Prime Minister, Azerbaijan's Defence Minister, Commander National Guard Bahrain, other foreign dignitaries and participating troops for gracing the parade with their presence and participating in the Pakistan Day celebrations.
Thereafter, march past of participating foot, mechanized and mounted columns began which greatly enthralled the audience. Contingents from three infantry battalions included 16 Punjab Regiment, 41 Frontier Force Regiment and 14 Northern Light Infantry Regiment. Other contingents included 649 Mujahid Battalion, FC KP, Pakistan Rangers Sindh, Pakistan Police (Islamabad Police), Tri-services lady officers, Armed Forces Nursing Services, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, ground troops from PAF, contingent of Pakistan Navy, and Special Services Group, who for their unique style of parade received huge applause from the audience. The last of the foot columns were represented by troops of Azerbaijan and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who also participated as a gesture of close ties.
The mechanized columns were led by indigenously produced ‘Al-Khalid’ and ‘Al-Zarrar’ tanks as well as the T-80 UD tanks, followed by Armoured Personnel Carriers. Artillery columns included 155 MM Self Propelled Medium Howitzers (M-109A2), 8 inch Self Propelled Heavy Guns (M-110), Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers and Multiple-Launch Rocket System. The columns from Army Air Defence included Oerlikon guns, Giraffe Radars, FM 90 missiles, Skyguard radar, and RBS-70 missiles (APC mounted). A contingent from Army Engineers was also part of the parade. The equipment of 314 Assault Engineers Battalion comprised Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge, Troll Anti-Mine, Rocket Delivery Mine System, Assault Track Way, Ribbon Bridge, AM 50 Bridge, and Field Tracks. Pakistan Army Tactical Communication vehicles, Satellite Communication vehicles and electronic warfare equipment were also part of the contingent.
The contingent of Strategic Plans Division was a big attraction. The indigenously produced weapon systems that formed part of the column included Shaheen-I missile, Shaheen-III missile, and NASR missile as well as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles ‘Buraq’ and ‘Shahpar’. To display the different colours of Pakistan, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh were represented by beautifully decorated floats reflecting different angles of their everyday life, traditions and cultures. The marching of Azad Jammu & Kashmir float ahead of all other floats signifies the importance given to Kashmir.
The map of world on the float was incorporated in order to draw attention of United Nations and the world for settlement of Kashmir issue as per the United Nations resolutions.
The audience was thrilled by the performance of pilots from PAF, and the Chinese and Turkish Air Forces doing thundering aerobatics of JF-17, J-10 and F-16 respectively. These aerobatics such as high alpha pass, inverted flights, vertical roll and thunder turn were matchless. Pakistan Army Aviation was no less impressive than any other contingent as the roaring sounds of Cobra Gunship helicopters, Bell 412, Puma and Mi-17 helicopters grabbed attention of the crowd and were given a big applause. These were followed by ‘Zulu Niner’ helicopters of Pakistan Navy Aviation. Commandos also demonstrated ‘Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction’ (SPIE) techniques as they were tied to a SPIE rope/sling hanging down from a Puma helicopter that flied above the venue. Then came the moment everyone was looking forward to. With the announcement of free fall jumps, all eyes went up to the sky looking for the paratroopers from SSG, PAF, Pakistan Navy as well as paratroopers’ team from Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Sri Lanka who conducted free fall jumps from 10,000 feet. Brave commandos from tri-services displayed exceptional skills of paratrooping 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 with pictures of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal on display along with March 23 theme for 2019 written in bold letters “Long Live Pakistan”. The float carried children from various schools clad in different provincial cultural dresses with Pakistani flags in their hands while renowned singer Sahir Ali Bagga sang the inspiring song “Har Dil Ki Awaz, Pakistan Zindabad” which captivated the audience and the whole venue was chanting Pakistan Zindabad, thus ending the show on a patriotic note.
The Pakistan Day Parade this year was very meaningful politically and diplomatically as in the aftermath of recent crisis with India, it was carried out in a highly dignified manner with a clear message to the enemies of Pakistan that such a strong nation cannot be deterred by any aggression. Participation of seven countries including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, China, KSA, Sri Lanka and Turkey shows that Pakistan is not isolated from the world. March 23, 2019 will be remembered for the times to come as the parade held against all odds, crushing the aims of terrorists, foiling the evil designs of our external enemy and bringing the public and their Armed Forces further closer. It reassured each one of us that we all stand united in the defence of our motherland.
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