ISLAMABAD: Pakistan marked its Republic Day, popularly known as Pakistan Day, on Saturday with gun salutes, prayers, and a grand military parade at which Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed was the guest of honour.
Pakistan Day commemorates the anniversary of a 1940 resolution calling for a separate homeland for Muslims in India. In 2015, the tradition of holding the parade was resumed after seven years in a symbolic show of military strength by a nation which has been badly affected by militant attacks for over a decade.
The day dawned with a 31-gun salute in Islamabad and a 21-gun salute in the provincial capitals. At the break of dawn, special prayers were offered at mosques around the country and the national flag was hoisted on all major government buildings, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported. The change-of-guards ceremony was held at the mausoleum of Dr Allama Iqbal in Lahore.
The military parade was held at Parade Ground near the Shakarparian hills in Islamabad. Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad was the guest of honour while the Pakistani president, prime minister, ministers, members of parliament, the three armed services chiefs and diplomats also attended. The defence minister of Azerbaijan, the army chief of Bahrain and government officials from Oman were also in attendance.
On the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed the "need to achieve the goal of a true Islamic welfare state as envisaged by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah," the founder of Pakistan, Radio Pakistan reported. He also expressed solidarity with the people of Indian-administered Kashmir "who have long been victims of Indian state terrorism and forced to lead a life of misery."
In his address to the ceremony, President Alvi said Pakistan's sovereignty had been challenged many times in the past and "wars were imposed on us" but lauded the nation for fighting off those assaults. He said "Pakistan respects all the countries' sovereignty and wishes peace" but made it clear that the "desire for peace should not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness.”
Alvi said Pakistan had overcome the challenges of extremism and terrorism but still had some ways to go to succeed on the socio-economic front.
Aircrafts from the Army Aviation and Pakistan Air Force demonstrated aerobatic feats for the audience and combat and attack helicopters and skydivers of airborne units from the three armed forces showcased their skills.
Contingents from Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Turkey also participated in the parade.
Cultural delegates and floats from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir also featured in the ceremony to showcase the diversity of Pakistan’s provinces.
An investiture ceremony will also be held at the presidential palace in the evening where the president will confer civil awards on individuals who have excelled in a range of fields. Around 171 personalities, including foreigners, have been selected for the awards this year.