PAF has always had the fortune of having visionary leaders at its helm, especially when it mattered most. The last three years have been a testimony to this undeniable fact. From Ops Swift Retort to fighting the menace of Covid 19, the challenges seemed insurmountable. However, its leadership proved equal to the task on all fronts and led the force with razor-sharp intelligence. The legacy of the glorious command of Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan culminated on 19 March this year, only to be carried forward by his worthy successor, Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu. The day also holds historic importance in PAF as the tradition of ‘Change of Command’ ceremony originally dates back to 1957, when the first Pakistani Air Chief took over the command of the then nascent PAF. And there on, the legacy continued.
This March, the arrival of Spring Solstice in Islamabad not only witnessed the official change of seasons but also marked the change of command of Pakistan Air Force. 19 March, every three years, carries a historic importance as the new Chief of the Air Staff takes charge of the prestigious Pakistan Air Force. 19 March 2021 was no different. The weather was near perfect, the skies over Islamabad were clear with a cosy sunshine. In a solemn ceremony held at Air Headquarters, Islamabad the outgoing Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, NI (M) handed over command of the Pakistan Air Force to his worthy successor, Air Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, Chief of the Air Staff (Designate). A day earlier, the new Air Chief was appointed by Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
On arrival, the outgoing Air Chief was received by Air Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, Chief of the Air Staff (Designate). A smartly turned out contingent of PAF presented the guard of honour to the outgoing Air Chief. Later, he reviewed the parade, saluting Pakistan and PAF colours while marching past them. Back on the dais, it was the time for the address of the outgoing Air Chief. Amidst large gathering of Ex Air Chiefs’, senior serving and retired PAF officers and families the outgoing Air Chief delivered his farewell address. The Air Chief said, “Certainly, I cannot think of a greater honour than leading one of the finest air forces of the world.”
Recalling the PAF’s achievement in Operation Swift Retort, he added, “Alhamd-u-Lillah! PAF once again lived up to the Nation’s expectations and proved to be the guardians of our free blue skies through a timely and well-calibrated response, which kept the enemy at bay.” He further said that PAF had made great strides on its journey to excellence and continued transformation for a Next Generation Air Force – 2047.
Congratulating the new Air Chief he said, “My successor is a sound professional with extraordinary leadership qualities and above all he is an excellent human being.
I congratulate Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu on his appointment as Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force, and wish him success in his new assignment. I am confident that during his tenure of command, Pakistan Air Force shall scale to new heights of excellence, InshaAllah!
Next up in the ceremony was the flypast by the four-ship formation of Pride of the Nation, JF-17 Thunder from No 26 Multi-Role Squadron of PAF. Led by its officer Commanding Wg Cdr Shaharyar, the formation comprised Sqn Ldr Waqas (left wing), Sqn Ldr Monim (right wing) and Wg Cdr Omer (slot). The perfectly-timed formation appeared on the horizon at the prescribed time and pulled up right in the centre of the venue, bidding farewell to the outgoing Air Chief.
As the roaring JF-17 Thunder disappeared from the venue, it was time for the grand finale, the award of rank badges and command sword to Chief of the Air Staff (Designate). Amidst large round of applause, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan decorated Air Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber with the ranks of Air Chief Marshal and later handed over the command sword to his worthy successor. On assumption of PAF command, ACM Zaheer Ahmed Baber received general salute from the assembled parade. The ceremony concluded with a farewell general salute to the outgoing Air Chief.