Sultan M Hali
2020, the year that will be remembered for the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19, saw the Pakistan Navy (PN) participating in numerous multifaceted operational activities and initiatives. PN accomplished its objectives in various domains ranging from exercising combat readiness at sea and providing assistance to the local populace during various natural calamities through relief operations.
In the Combat Readiness domain, PN participated in various bilateral exercises that include Sea Guardians-2020 with PLA (Navy), White Star-2020 with Royal Britain Navy, MAVI BALINA 2020 and TURGUTREIS-V with Turkish Navy. In addition to bilateral exercises, PN ships while maintaining Regional Maritime Security Patrol in the region participated in passage exercises with naval ships of Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, South Korean Navy, Royal Navy and Coordinated joint patrol with Turkish Navy. The passage exercises encompassed various operational serials with aim to augment collaborative efforts to ensure maritime security in the region.
Additionally, PN’s major maritime exercise SEASPARK-2020 was also held at Karachi. The biennial exercise is steered to assess war preparedness & validate operational plans of the maritime force to meet emerging regional and global challenges. It was conducted in Arabian Sea along Pakistan Coast from Jiwani to Sir Creek. Naval platforms/ assets of PN, Special Forces & Pak Marines along with Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), Pak Army and Pakistan Air Force participated in the exercise. As part of overseas deployments, PN ships continued the regional patrols and visited various ports as part of foreign policy objectives, visiting ports of Oman, Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles, Turkey, Jordon and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
PN ships provided humanitarian assistance to further develop cordial relations with host Navies. The deployment of PN Ships effectively promoted a peaceful and progressive image of Pakistan.
The command of Multinational Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) was assumed by PN for the ninth time. CTF-151 is one of the three Combined Task Forces operating under Commander Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). Its mission is to suppress piracy in the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and adjoining ocean space under. PN developmental and acquisitions program continued throughout the year. The inductions include maritime patrol aircrafts (MPA) & unmanned aerial systems which enhanced the operational capability of PN air arm. Besides, induction of LUNA NG Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) also augmented PN’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities in maritime domain especially in Creeks area along the coastal belt.
Launch of 1st Ship of Type-054 A/P Class Frigate and Keel laying of 2nd Ship of the same type marked a significant milestone in the induction of cutting-edge Frigates for PN. The Type-054 Class, fitted with the latest Surface, Subsurface, Anti-air weapons, Combat Management System and Sensors is one of the technologically advanced additions in Pakistan Navy Fleet. In addition, keel laying of 2nd MILGEM Class Corvette was held at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KS&EW). PN also inducted two state-of-the-art corvettes PNS YARMOOK and PNS TABUK to its Fleet.
The inauguration of PN’s new state-of-the-art Joint Maritime Information Coordination Centre (JMICC) at Karachi was a major milestone. JMICC functions as a nerve centre to harmonize the efforts of all maritime related organizations/agencies.
It helps generate a coordinated response to maritime security challenges within Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), primarily through information sharing and inter department/agency coordination. During the entire year, PN remained vigilant in thwarting the criminal element in smuggling of drugs along the coastal belt.
In various joint intelligence operations with Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), Pakistan Customs and Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) intercepted and confiscated huge caches of narcotics/drugs worth billions of rupees in the international market. The successful execution of joint anti-narcotics operations against narcotics smuggling was based on prolonged surveillance, operational coordination and timely relay of information.
The prominent contribution was made by PN in the educational field during the year 2020. The inauguration of Pakistan Maritime Science and Technology Park (PMSTP) is a core objective to project jump-start the national blue economy through promotion of maritime sciences, technologies and businesses. Additionally, groundbreaking of Bahria University Dental College & Hospital was held to develop a Health Sciences Complex. In the first phase of the Health Sciences Complex, Bahria University Medical & Dental College will be constructed. During the second phase, Pakistan Navy Nursing College & Medical Training School will be established and in the last phase, Allied Health Sciences & College of Physical Therapy will also be established.
During the entire year, PN extended nationwide humanitarian assistance to aggrieved families during COVID-19 Pandemic and distributed food/ commodities & Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) at various cities/ towns, small villages/ Goths and hospitals across Pakistan.The year 2020 saw PN establishing free Medical Camps at far-flung rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan. In the aftermath of heavy rains in Sindh, PN rescue and emergency response teams conducted disaster relief operation in collaboration with civil administration in rain-hit areas. The team evacuated a large number of local inhabitants stranded in rain flooded areas and provided them relief goods/ ration bags. PN won laurels in different sports events, successfully defending the title of 27th National shooting championship consecutively for the 3rd time and also winning Nation Sailing Championship.
Pakistan Navy organized 14th CNS international squash championship in which players from 6 foreign countries participated. The 3rd PN international nautical competition was also held at Karachi in which six international teams participated. It is heartening to note that PN remains committed to defend sea frontiers and augment nation-building objectives and initiatives.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.