GILGIT: The government and army have joined hands in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) after a decade to mark August 14 with much fanfare.
The festivities formally started on Wednesday morning as legislators of the G-B Legislative Assembly paid visits to the families of martyrs and laid floral wreaths on their graves. The decision was taken in the backdrop of Operation Zarb-e-Azb launched by the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan.
“This is a special occasion for us to pay tribute to our brave army fighting a war against militancy,” said G-B Minister for Information Sadia Danish on Wednesday.
The ‘Azadi polo match’ took place at about 5pm at Shahi Polo Ground, with the force commander participating as chief guest along with the chief secretary. At about 11pm, the armed forces held a march, followed by fireworks. The events are scheduled to continue well into Thursday.
Residents of G-B are not unfamiliar with 14 August celebrations. Until the mid-1990s, the day used to be marked on a massive scale in the region. The army and police would arrange parades to the beat of deafening drums and odes in front of huge crowds. Likewise, all cars, shops and homes would be adorned with Pakistani flags.
“I remember how schools would hold sporting events and speech competitions on the day,” says Afaq Wali, a resident of Gilgit. “But then it discontinued and the day passed almost unnoticed for years.”
“The official patronage of the festivities this time around has reenergised residents of Gilgit, especially the youth,” said a shopkeeper in Gilgit, Basharat Hussain. “The spirit with which shops and plazas have been decorated with Pakistan flags is very refreshing.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th,2014.