Vice Admiral (Retd.) Asaf Humayun & Ms Gullain Nisar, NCMPR

Pakistan is blessed to be a maritime nation.  On gaining independence, like many other sectors, our small maritime assets needed focussed attention. Development of the maritime sector is not among the traditional roles assigned to a Navy.  However, our modest Navy has made great efforts in supporting maritime development. Due to the landward orientation of the government and lack of expertise, Pakistan Navy realized that it had to become the Flag bearer of maritime development.  The zeal of navy has positively affected the maritime arena in Pakistan and many of these efforts are worth remembering.

In undivided India, the export of jute took place mainly through Calcutta.  After independence, the small port of Chittagong in East Pakistan could not handle the jute trade. Another port was needed immediately.  Admiral Jefford the first chief of Royal Pakistan Navy realized that the navy could assist in identifying a site for a new port in the delta region of East Pakistan.  Under his guidance, the navy converted one of its only four frigates, ZULFIQUAR, for survey role by October 1948 and established a Hydrographic Branch.  After surveying two rivers in Sunderbans, the ship finally found a suitable approach channel 45 miles up the Pussur River for sea-going vessels. Here the port of Chalna was established on 1 Dec 1950.  The channel is named after the ship, as Zulfiquar channel.  Chalna was able to receive the first merchant ship on 11 December 1950. This was a remarkable achievement in a very short period. Later in mid 50s, Port of Mongla was established in the vicinity, which still is the second largest port of Bangladesh. 

Similarly, in 1960s, PN played a key role in spearheading the search for a secondary port in West Pakistan. After surveying areas west of Karachi along Balochistan Coast for  port locations, Admiral S M Ahsan, then Commander in Chief PN, turned his attention to survey of  the Phitti Creek, East of Karachi.  Hydrographic Directorate searched for a suitable site for a second port. In 1968, surveys by PNS ZULFIQUAR established that a port could be constructed near Gharo village. The uncertain political situation in country in 1970-71, slowed the progress. However, when the project of Steel Mill was shifted to Pipri near Gharo village, the secondary port project at Phitti Creek gathered momentum in 1973. Extensive research and surveys over 5 years ultimately led to the foundation of Port Mohammad bin Qasim.  First merchant ship entered Port Qasim in Sep 1980. This Second deep water port of the country is currently handling 40 % of our seaborne trade

Return of Gwadar territory to Pakistan is a historic event.  Pakistan had been negotiating with the Sultan of Muscat for the return of this territory since Pakistan’s independence.  Finally, it was handed over to Pakistan on 8 Sep 1958 and Pakistan Navy undertook the important task of overseeing the transfer. PNS BABUR conducted the operation under direct orders of C-in-C, Admiral HMS Choudri.  The cruiser provided communication and military support to SS Sirdhana, which was carrying official reps and police personnel for taking over the territory.  At that time, Pakistan had no wherewithal to project its authority on Makran coast except through Pakistan Navy.

To make better use of its operational assets, Pakistan Navy started to acquire land along the coast at Cape Monze, Sonmiani, Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar, Jiwani and Turbat.   Admiral K R Niazi, CNS in the early 1980s, realized the importance of development of the coastal region.  With intense determination, he personally planned and supervised the construction of a small gabion jetty at the Gwadar Head where a Base Ship could be secured for the Patrol Craft Squadron.  What PN had started in a small way, finally culminated into the third port of Pakistan at Gwadar in 2007.   A small breakwater was also constructed at Ormara.  In the absence of any infrastructure or roads, naval ships were used for transportation of cement, asphalt, and other building materials.  Even labour had to be obtained from Karachi.  Luckily, some units of the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) were available to undertake the Navy’s works on Makran Coast.  Gradually, Navy commissioned its establishments, and outposts at Jiwani, Gwadar, Pasni, and Ormara.  NHQ expected that any naval activity in these backward areas would also generate civilian developments. 

The real turn around came when the government sanctioned establishment of Jinnah Naval Base at Ormara.  The author had the good fortune of acting as Manager JNB for a year in 1995.  At that time, Ormara town was devoid of even a secondary school.  Quality of life was basic. No shop even sold biscuits.  With the naval activity along the Makran coast, general development for civilian population also took place.

In 1999, Government finalised plans for Coastal Highway.  The author was Chief Staff Officer to Commander Pakistan Fleet in April 1999, when he received instructions to facilitate the exploratory trip of Minister of Communications Raja Nadir Pervaiz, as only Pakistan Navy could provide facilities for boarding and lodging of the Ministerial party.  Pakistan Navy had created its facilities along Makran coast for operational reasons.  Nevertheless, the PN presence brought about positive developments all along Makran Coast. 

Navy has not forgotten its social responsibility while increasing deployment along the coast.  Navy has created a cadet college and a modern hospital “Darman Jah” at Ormara, fully available to the local population. Model schools are also operating in Gwadar and Jiwani. Navy has gone all out to win hearts and minds of coastal communities.  The locals also appreciate Navy’s effort.

The Pakistan Navy Hydrographic Department, which had surveyed inhospitable areas for creation of ports and coastal development, also created national awareness about oceanography.  On urging of PN, National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) was created in 1981 at Karachi.  Its first director was Commander G S Qureshi.  He remained DG NIO until 1990. Alhamdolilah, NIO has indeed become a vibrant entity under the Ministry of Science and Technology. 

Pakistan Navy has also made the nation proud by organizing and heading two Antarctic Expeditions, which signify presence of Pakistan in the continent of Antarctica.  In 1991, Prime Minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif approved Antarctic expeditions on navy’s urging. PN took on board the Ministry of Science & Technology & National Institute of Oceanography (NIO).  Teams of navy, army and scientists from NIO went on two voyages to the Greater Antarctica in 1991 and 1992.  Base facilities were quickly expanded and the polar station for the scientific research, the Jinnah Antarctic Station (JAS) was commissioned.   The automatic weather observatory station Allama Iqbal was also established.  In 1992, Pakistan became an Associate Member of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.  On PN’s recommendation, Pakistan has joined the Antarctic Treaty in 2012.

One of the best contributions for the nation occurred when the third Law of the Sea Conference convened in 1973 and started preparing draft of UN Convention on Law of the Sea.  Pakistan Navy’s Judge Advocate General Commodore Hafiz Abdul Majeed Malik was an active member of Pakistan’s Delegation.  During this period, Pakistan Navy also assisted in formulation of Territorial & Maritime Zones Act 1976, which declared 12 NM as limit of territorial waters and 200 NM Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  In 1996, PN hydrographic department got Pakistan’s base line notified which straightened our maritime boundaries.  Having secured 200 NM EEZ, Pakistan started an earnest effort to extend its continental shelf.  In 2009, claim for the Continental Shelf up to 350 NM from the baseline was submitted to UN.  This will give exclusive rights over the seabed and subsoil resources of an additional sea area of about 50,000 sq. km.  The Hydrography Department and Maritime law experts from Pakistan Navy have provided invaluable input for the legal basis of our claims.  UN Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) has forwarded the case to a sub commission for finalizing Pakistan’s claim.  In these activities, National Institute of Oceanography has also played an energetic role.

From these examples, one can see that Pakistan Navy has been in the forefront for maritime development in Pakistan.  The navy has always supported the contributions of other stakeholders also.  This has been possible because the service persists in maintaining an organized repository of maritime expertise.  In Sha Allah, Pakistan Navy will continue its stellar role in the maritime development of Pakistan.