ISLAMABAD (Pakistan) – Pakistan on Monday held its first Pakistan Day parade in seven years, full of flag-waving pomp and aerial military expertise, a symbolic show of strength that the country has the upper hand in the fight against the terrorists.
Military jets looped the loop over the picturesque, low-rise city in the spring sunshine, with a sky-diving team showing off its skills against the backdrop of the Margalla Hills, the forested foothills of the Himalayas.
The Pakistan Day parade, complete with a 31-gun dawn salute, was held amid tight security to commemorate the historic Pakistan Resolution on March 23, 1940 – a day which marks the the birth of a separate state for Muslims.
Thousands of people witnessed the parade at a time when tight security measures had been taken in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Cellular phone networks were blocked as a precaution to thwart militants, who have often used mobile phone signals to trigger bombs.
No parades had been held since 2008, following an escalation in the military’s conflict with the Pakistani Taliban. The last parade which took place in the federal capital was on March 23, 2008, reviewed by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf as a civilian president, but was discontinued owing to ‘security concerns’.
Personnel from all three services, Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force, are participating in the 2015 parade.
The joint military parade had been a regular event with display of military power and show of Pakistan’s folk culture, which captured the imagination of the public quite like the traditional parade, with its impressive march-pasts and aerial shows.
The event, presided over by President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif, was held at the new Parade Ground, specially built near scenic Shakarparian.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who attended the parade, issued a statement warning of the threat from anti-state elements.
“Pakistan is resolved to redeem its pledge given to its founding fathers that it will protect the homeland,” Sharif said.
President Hussain paid tribute to soldiers fighting militants in the restive northwest, calling them his sons and pledging to go to the front line to hug them.
“I also salute the innocent martyrs of the Army Public School Peshawar, who by sacrificing their lives made it clear to the enemy that this nation cannot be defeated,” the president said.
Both modern and more traditional elements of Pakistan’s military arsenal were on display, from nuclear-capable missiles and the new home-made armed Burraq drone to a camel-mounted musical band.
Nuclear-capable Nasr and Shaheen missiles, which have a range of up to 1,500 kilometres (900 miles), and Babur cruise missiles were also paraded.
Fighter jets from the army aviation, including F-16 and J-F Thunder, and military gunship helicopters presented a fantastic air display over the parade ground at the beautiful Shakarparia that lies on a low hill between the capital Islamabad and Rawalpindi city. Paratroopers’ jumping out of airplanes was an amazing feature of the parade. Various types of nuclear-capable missiles were also shown during the parade. Cultural Floats of the four provinces also gave a colour to the parade.
Smartly turned out contingents of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Paramilitary Troops, Police, Frontier Corps and Special Services Group (Commandos) took part in the parade. Women army officers also participated in the parade for the first time.