The nation celebrated 76th Pakistan Day on Wednesday with an impressive military parade and a renewed pledge to wipe out terrorism plaguing the country for the last 12 years.
The day, which marked the adoption of the Lahore Resolution in 1940 seeking a separate homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent, dawned with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salutes in all four provincial capitals.
It was a public holiday and national flag was hoisted atop all government buildings. The main highlight of the day was a military parade held at the Parade Ground near Shakarparian hills in the federal capital.
All roads leading to the Parade Ground were closed for traffic. Entry of heavy traffic was banned in Islamabad and a special traffic plan was in place in the twin cities for the day. Cellular services remained suspended till 3pm.
President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, and the three services chiefs were prominent among those who witnessed the parade, aircraft’s fly-past and paratroopers’ jumps.
Both modern and traditional hardware of Pakistan’s military arsenal were on display, from nuclear-capable missiles to indigenously-built JF-17 Thunder warplanes and locally manufactured armed drones.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman led the fly-past before joining the president and other dignitaries at the podium. Keeping the tradition of his predecessors, the air chief flew over the venue and presented salute to the president by performing a magnificent vertical roll over the parade square.
Following the air chief, a four-ship box formation of F-16 aircraft flew past the saluting dais. Immediately behind F-16s, was the formation of JF-17 Thunder aircraft. Besides the fighter jets, Air Borne Surveillance platforms of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) also participated in the fly-past for the first time.
The fly-past was followed by some breathtaking aerobatics of 09 ship formation of ‘Sherdils’, the aerobatics team of the PAF Academy Risalpur. After Sherdils, JF-17 Thunder aircraft entered the arena.
After the fly-past, contingents of three forces, as well as the Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers, each held an individual march-past, followed by a salute to President Mamnoon Hussain.
Participating troops included contingents of the Pakistan Army, Navy, Air Force, Frontier Corps, Northern Light Infantry, Mujahid Force, Islamabad Police, tri-service Lady Officers, tri-service Armed Forces Nursing Service, Girls Guide, Boys Scouts, Special Service Group from three services.
Mechanised columns of Armoured Corps, Artillery, Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Army Strategic Force Command, Camel Band and the president’s bodyguards also participated in the march-past. Army’s tanks, including Al-Khalid and Al-Zarrar, also presented gun salutes to the chief guest.
Later, skydivers performed their skills in midair before landing in front of the podium. The participating paratroopers represented the three services, with jumpers from the Shahbaz team of Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) leading the jump, followed by the Sea Eagle team of Pakistan Navy and Shahpar team of the PAF. The divers jumped from 10,000 feet.
Campaign against terror
Addressing the parade, President Mamnoon reaffirmed that Pakistan desires cordial relations with all the countries, especially its neighbours. “But our desire should not be misconstrued as our weakness,” he added.
He resolved to take the operation against terrorism to its logical conclusion. “The operation against terrorism has entered its final phase in North Waziristan Agency, and our destination is to end lawlessness and terrorism from all parts of the country,” he said.
He said the enemy would not be allowed to cast an evil eye on the country as its armed forces are fully equipped to foil their designs. “Our weaponry is only for the defence and security of the country. We have never indulged in the arms race but for the defense of the country, the requirements of the armed forces will be fully met,” he said.
Mamnoon said Pakistan is a peace-loving country and has contributed troops many times for the United Nations peacekeeping missions in different countries. He said Pakistan would continue to play its role to free the world of the scourge of terrorism and conflicts.
The president said Pakistan wants peaceful resolution of longstanding Kashmir dispute. “Pakistan will continue to extend moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their right to self-determination,” he said.
Earlier in the morning, a change of guard ceremony was held at the tomb of national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal in Lahore, while Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and his cabinet members visited the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi.
Pakistan Day was also celebrated with traditional zeal and enthusiasm in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Functions were also held at Pakistan’s missions abroad where ambassadors and high commissioners unfurled the national flag and read out messages of the president and the prime minister.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2016.