KARACHI: Soul-lifting national tunes, lots of guests seated under the airy dark midnight blue and white marquee tent, their eyes covered by sun shades focused skywards as Pakistan Air Force (PAF) celebrated the first anniversary of Operation Swift Retort in a befitting manner with a spectacular air show at the Seaview beach here on Thursday.

February 27 marks one year to the date when PAF pilots retaliated following India’s uncalled-for air strikes in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. In between the music, there were also replays of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s powerful words warning India that in case of an attack, “Pakistan will not think about retaliating, Pakistan will retaliate”.

Sounds of sirens, alarms going off on the sound system brought back everything ... how Indian pilots at the time could only decimate a few pine trees while making bogus claims and how Pakistan replied by downing the enemy’s fighter jets while also claiming a trophy in the shape of India’s captured teetotaller pilot Abhinandan. And then the biggest victory in the gesture of goodwill which saw Abhinandan being returned to his country.

“The enemy was mistaken about our war preparedness and they were in for a huge shock,” the host was heard saying as he narrated last year’s episode before one heard the flares going off. They were for the pilots to know where the audience was and soon one after the other PAF’s fighter aircraft flew over the area to entertain them. The nicely planned sitting areas in the marquee had patches of ground where everyone was encouraged to come out and watch the F-16s, JF-17 Thunders, Mirages, Mi-171 and AW139 helicopters, K-8 aircraft doing flypasts, making the figure eight along with performing other aerobatics and manoeuvres as they tore their way through the skies.

It sure looked like the pilots who took part in the air show, including Wing Commander Mudassir Riaz, Wing Commander Zeeshan Ali Munawar, Wing Commander Tariq Waheed Malik and Wing Commander Faisal, were also enjoying as much as their enthralled audience. The PAF Sherdils team in a formation of nine K-8 aircraft giving off coloured smoke were equally impressive.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah attended the ceremony as guests of honour. Air Vice Marshal Ghulam Abbas Ghumman, Air Officer Commanding, Southern Air Command, was also present.

In Islamabad, addressing a ceremony held at the Air Headquarters to commemorate Operation Swift Retort, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of the Air Staff, said that there was no compromise on the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Pakistan. “While I assure Pakistani nation on the preparedness of PAF to counter threats, we will not compromise on sovereignty or territorial integrity of Pakistan. Let there be no doubt that PAF is, and would remain, reassuring the fundamentals of national defence.”

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020