ON February 21, 2019 5 Light Air Defence (Surface-to-Air Missile) Regiment celebrated its Day of Honour. Exactly 72 years ago, on the same day and month, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited the Regiment, thus making it the first unit of Pakistan Army to be visited by the Founder of the Nation. The visit, as monumental as it is in historical context, continues to serve as an elixir of motivation for the Regiment. Over the years, a lot of units, officers and soldiers from all arms and services have displayed keen interest to know the details of the visit. It is in this spirit that a detailed account of the visit is being narrated in the ensuing paragraphs.
On the independence of Pakistan, 5 HAA Regiment (Heavy Anti-aircraft Regiment) moved from Kharakwasla, Pune, Maharashtra (present-day India) to Malir Cantonment as it was allotted Karachi Lines and placed under command 2 AGRPA (Army Group Royal Pakistan Army). The train journey1 to Pakistan was fraught with peril and harrowing scenes of communal violence which makes for a separate narration. 2 AGRPA was commanded by Brigadier P. H. L. Findlay and his HQ (Headquarters) was stationed in Multan. On February 9, 1948, Lieutenant Colonel H. F. C. Horne, CO (Commanding Officer) 5 HAA Regiment was summoned by Major General Muhammad Akbar Khan, GOC (General Officer Commanding) 8 Division, who apprised the former of his intention of inviting Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah for a visit to Malir Cantonment. Elucidating further on the rationale of his decision, the GOC added that not only was 5 HAA Regiment located right at the entrance to Malir Cantonment but also possessed state-of-the-art equipment2 (latest guns, radars and imposing towing tracks), which Quaid-i-Azam would be pleased to see. A few days later, the visit was confirmed for February 21, 1948. Although, 7th Battalion, the Baloch Regiment3, earlier on August 15, 1947 had earned the honour of being the first battalion of Pakistan Army to present Guard of Honour to Quaid-i-Azam but the impending visit was destined to be different, for it were to be the first instance of Quaid-i-Azam inspecting an army unit. Realising the weight of the moment-in-waiting, CO 5 HAA Regiment immediately apprised Brigadier Findlay regarding Quaid-i-Azam’s planned visit to 5 HAA Regiment who then arrived at Malir Cantonment from Multan well in advance. Brigadier Findlay was an enthusiastic character who had immense war experience up his sleeves. He had gallantly fought in the Burma campaign and was injured when a hand grenade exploded in his hand during a training activity, resulting in loss of his right eye and arm. Such a trauma can potentially break the spirit of the best of men but not Brigadier Findlay, for he continued to be the rash driver that he was. The Brigadier along with CO 5 HAA Regiment, visited HQ 8 Division to discuss details of the Quaid’s visit with GOC 8 Division. Later on the same day, Brigadier Findlay and Lieutenant Colonel Horne ironed out the finer details of the visit. Captain Muhammad Ashraf4, Adjutant 5 HAA Regiment was appointed the Guard Commander of the Special Guard of Honour, Major Sher Jung, 2IC (second-in-command) 5 HAA Regiment was made responsible for the gun display and demonstration of bringing a Gun Troop in-action whereas Lieutenant Colonel Horne was to lead the march past. However, Brigadier Findlay recognising importance of the visit, had a change of heart and insisted that he would lead the march past of the Regiment in the presence of the Quaid. Notwithstanding the apprehensions expressed by GOC 8 Division, Brigadier Findlay’s exuberance prevailed and it was decided that he would lead the march past of 5 HAA Regiment, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Horne.
Lieutenant Commander Syed Muhammad Ahsan5 (Pakistan Navy), ADC (Aide-de-Camp) to Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah arrived on February 20, 1948 to the venue and was acquainted with the route, location of Special Guard of Honour, equipment display and the parade ground. Later in life, the smart and astute ADC, visited the Regiment again on February 21, 1968 this time around as Vice Admiral Ahsan, Commander-in-Chief Pakistan Navy, in reminiscence of Quaid’s portentous visit to 5 HAA Regiment. The Regiment was now set to receive the Founder of the Nation on his maiden visit to a unit of Pakistan Army.
On February 21, 1948 military officers and other distinguished guests arrived before Quaid-i-Azam. Captain Ashraf, the Adjutant of the Regiment was to bring the thirty two-men strong guard to ‘Present Arms’ when Quaid-i-Azam was to set his foot on ground whereas the Regiment band was to play a tune while the Quaid was being received and greeted by those present at the venue, following which, the Quaid was to inspect the Special Guard of Honour at ‘Order Arms’, as was and still is the procedure in vogue.
At 1000 hours sharp, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah along with his ADC arrived at the venue. Somehow, the ADC parked the car very close to the guard and somewhat confused, led the Quaid directly to inspect the guard while Captain Ashraf was bringing the guard to ‘Present Arms.’ A tense air engulfed the venue as the plan was under jeopardy, however, Captain Arshraf took an instinctive decision to continue with the review at ‘Present Arms.’ He was abetted by GOC 8 Division, who frantically yet quietly waved his command stick, urging Captain Ashraf to go with the flow. Captain Ashraf lowered his salute and started moving towards Quaid-i-Azam with the intent to lead the review, but in the meantime, a cameraman captured the moment making it eternal. Hence, the guard was inspected by Quaid-i-Azam at ‘Present Arms’ while the band was still playing a tune and without the Guard Commander leading the chief guest. A few days after the visit, a developed photograph6 signed by Quaid-i-Azam was received by CO 5 HAA Regiment. Later, as a special case commemorating the memory of the Father of the Nation’s historic visit, this faux pas was institutionalised in 1991 by GHQ approving inspection of Guard of Honour of 5 Light Air Defence Regiment [now 5 Light Air Defence (Surface-to-Air Missile) Regiment] at ‘Present Arms’ by Major Generals and above. The Regiment was also bestowed the motto of ‘Fakhr-e-Quaid’.
After inspecting the guard of honour, Quaid-i-Azam proceeded to the open air seats to witness the display of a 3.7-inch HAA gun being brought into action. The gun display, however, was preceded by a brief and crisp display of physical training demonstration by the tall and well-built men7 of 5 HAA Regiment. The 9½ ton gun was capable of firing 24-26 rounds weighing 49 pounds each (‘Imperial System’ was in use back then) per minute with an effective range of 10 miles. Men of 18/5 HAA Battery proved their professional prowess by bringing the gun in-action within 5 minutes amidst roars and applause from everyone present at the venue. Meanwhile, in a departure from the visit program, Lieutenant Colonel Horne instructed Captain Ashraf to make necessary arrangements for tea at the Officers’ Mess since he intended to invite the Quaid over for a cup of tea with all available officers.
Quaid-i-Azam then moved to a specially erected stall to witness the display by 24/5 HAA Battery of bringing a Troop in-action. He was briefed on the gun in detail by Major Sher Jung while Captain Syed Abid Hussain explained the various actions being carried out to bring the Troop in-action over a microphone. Satisfied with the professional standards on display, Quaid-i-Azam returned to the open air seats to witness the next and the last event – the march past.
Partition of the Subcontinent had adversely affected the available manpower of the Regiment since Hindu and Sikh soldiers were repatriated to Indian Army. The situation stood further exacerbated since a good number of men were committed in Guard of Honour, equipment display, Physical Training demonstration as well as that of bringing a Gun Troop in-action. In order to address the predicament, CO 5 HAA suggested that 20-25 soldiers from 6 LAA Regiment may be included in the rank and file of the Ceremonial Parade so as to make it look numerically respectable. Brigadier Findlay agreed to the proposal and it was approved for implementation. Brigadier Findlay led the march past and was followed by Lieutenant Colonel Horne, a misnomer of sorts. Following Lieutenant Colonel Horne was the band of 5 HAA Regiment which was tracked by officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and men of 5 HAA Regiment8.
After the march past, Quaid-i-Azam addressed the parade of 5 HAA Regiment, the historic text of which is on display in all major museums of Pakistan Army. He then awarded OBE (Order of British Empire) to Subedar Fazal Dad and Jamadar9 Ghulam Muhammad of 5 HAA Regiment. Fate had ordained these men to be the only combatants of Pakistan Army who were to be decorated by Quaid-i-Azam during his lifetime. Before Quaid’s departure, Major Sher Jung Khan presented a purse contributed by officers and men of the 5 HAA Regiment to Quaid-i-Azam for the relief fund set up by the Founder to deal with the Muslims migrating from India. What is interesting though, is that towards the end of the visit, when Lieutenant Colonel Horne invited the Quaid for a cup of tea, the latter promptly inquired from his ADC if tea were a part of the planned visit which it certainly wasn’t. On being told so by the ADC, Quaid-i-Azam, being the epitome of a man of principles, politely declined and departed for dealing with the myriad problems the nascent country faced then.
The singular and unique interaction of the Regiment with Quaid-i-Azam stands as an honour sans parallel. The Regiment over the years has changed colours from being a HAA Regiment to a LAA Regiment and is currently a Lt AD (SAM) Regiment, yet it has always stood tall in all wars, zealously guards its honour and continues to derive strength from the visit of the great Founder of the Nation.
1 5 HAA Regiment was allocated three trains out of which one was detained enroute for having fired onto a Sikh mob perpetrating communal violence.
2 The Britishers had hastily equipped few Regiments of Indian Army with the best equipment available on their inventory prior to Burma Campaign.
3 Now 15 Baloch Regiment
4 Later, he commanded the Regiment in 1961, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, lived a full life and passed away on October 22, 2016 at the age of 100 years.
5 Later Chief of Naval Staff Pakistan Navy and Governor East Pakistan.
6 The only copy of this historic photograph was sent to Artillery Centre, Campbellpur (present day Attock) in 1959. Artillery Centre had the photograph painted for all Artillery Officers’ Messes across the country with a standard caption which read, ‘’5 HAA Regiment (now 5 LAA Regiment) Artillery has the honour of being the first Pakistan Army unit to be inspected by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Founder and the first Governor General of Pakistan on February 21, 1948, when a mass parade commanded by Brig PHL Findlay was held’’. Colonel Nanjiani, Commandant Artillery Centre (November 1960-October 1967) had the photograph painted from Hal Bevan-Petman – copies of which were then painted by a Rawalpindi-based painter named Muhammad Ali (late) and distributed to all Artillery Officers’ Messes – a renowned painter of Pakistan who is accredited with painting portrait of Quaid-i-Azam currently used in all textbooks and government offices. Unfortunately, Artillery Centre lost this precious photograph in the process and a painting is all that remains today.
7 During this time and till late in Pakistan Army, the height criterion for recruitment for gunners of HAA Regiments and Heavy Field Regiments of Artillery was different than it was for other arms and services and taller soldiers were recruited in the aforementioned Regiments.
8 Including 20-25 soldiers of 6 LAA Regiment.
9 Equivalent to present-day Naib Subedar.
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