ISLAMABAD, July 13: Two service chiefs of Pakistan armed forces have been given the highest French civil award by the French president. Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Shahid Karimullah, and Air Chief, Kaleem Saadat, were decorated with the Legion of Honour, by French ambassador Pierre Charasse in a reception held at the French embassy here on Wednesday. The ceremony was attended by senior military officials and diplomats.

A Navy spokesperson said Admiral Karimullah was decorated for promoting Pakistan-French naval collaboration in various fields at different posts he held during his service career, including induction of French submarines and aircraft in Pakistan Navy.

In addition to the two service chiefs, Air Marshal (retd) Zahid Anis (late) was also conferred with the Legion of Honour. Mrs Zahid Anis received the award on behalf of her husband.

Speaking on the occasion, the French ambassador said, “Air Chief Marshal Kaleem Saadat, the Chief of the Air Staff, is a distinguished friend of France.”

The ambassador said the air chief was a former student of the French Ecole Superieure de Guerre Interarmees in Paris, and had extensively piloted French aircraft during his career.

“France is very well aware of excellent cooperation existing between French defence industries related to aeronautics and the Pakistan Air Force, which happens to maintain the most important fleet of Mirages in the world, after France, and acknowledges the impulse given personally by the Chief of Air Staff,” said the French ambassador.

He said France was determined to expand mutual co-operation and to help the Pakistan Air Force to meet its goals.

A press release issued by Pakistan Air Force said, “the Ligion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) was first instituted by Napolion Bonaparte, First Consul of the French Republic, on May 19, 1802. It is one of the most prestigious French awards and the country’s highest civilian honour.”

In expressing his reasons for creating the Order through law, Napoleon had said, “It will be an institution which will further all our republican laws and strengthen the Revolution. It will remove all distinctions of nobility, which placed inherited glory above acquired glory and descendants of great men above great men.”

The order is conferred upon men and women, either French citizens or foreigners, for outstanding achievements in military or civil life. In practice, in current usage, the order is conferred, in addition to military recipients, to many entrepreneurs, high-level civil servants, sport champions and people of higher standing.