Although the Sunday piece, by precedence makes light and nostalgic reading, I cannot restrain myself from briefly touching upon a recent incident that greatly bothers me. The disturbance involves Mr. Bilawal Bhutto, who very recently made a public statement that echoes the enemy narrative with regards to Pakistan’s efforts in eliminating terrorism. This has led me to question the criterion by which some Pakistanis consider Mr. Bilawal to be a patriotic leader destined to make Pakistan great. If the criterion is dynastic, stemming from the fact that he is the son of Benazir Bhutto and grandson of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then these fellow citizens need to do a bit of honest introspection. The young man has little that qualifies him to be a national leader – he has lived abroad for most of his life and one can see his discomfort, when forced to behave like a ‘desi’. His thinking is totally western and if today he is tested on the Pakistan Movement and bloody sacrifices during its creation, he will in all probability fail miserably. If he had the wherewithal to do so, he and many of his party’s leadership (in conjunction with PML N and its top tiers) would reduce the invincibility of our Armed Forces without realizing the implications of such a mindset. Perhaps if the young Bhutto spends a few days under enemy fire on the LOC or in the frozen crags of Siachin, where each breath is torture, he will return adequately chastised.

With that off my chest, I can return to my Sunday thread. I do so with wet eyes, a racing heart and a renewed resolve to defend Pakistan against enemies lurking within and without our borders, in whatever way I can. I am on a high, because I have just finished watching the Pakistan Day Parade on television. The event must have come as another nerve racking unpleasant surprise for Narinder Modi. Who could have imagined that faced with imminent aggression and an almost warlike situation, the Armed Forces would celebrate Pakistan Day with undiminished élan? Who could have thought that in spite of the tension, the Malaysian Prime Minister would visit Islamabad and review the Parade as the Chief Guest and that contingents from China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sri Lanka would march, fly and parachute from the sky, sending a clear message to India and its allies, that a misadventure with Pakistan may not be worth the consequences?

The military spectacle also reminded me of the parades, I had seen during my childhood. In the 1950s, a military review was held once a year on 14 August to celebrate Independence. The venue for this event was a long stretch of the Mall, starting from Regal Chowk to the Aitchison College. The marching infantry would be followed by mechanized columns, which included World War 2 vintage Bren Gun Carriers. We would walk the short distance from our home on Queens Road to the first floor verandah of the Shah Din Building and courtesy of a family friend, who had a flat there, get a grandstand view of the proceedings. Soon families of other mutual friends would arrive and the ‘verandah’ would assume a festive look.

We would hear the sound of military music coming nearer, followed moments later by the rhythmic tramp of hundreds of hobnailed boots marching in perfect unison. Minutes later, the sound of engines mixed with the clank of treads would reach our ears, heralding the approach of the Bren Gun Carriers.

The columns would pass in front of the saluting dais, which was erected besides the Charing Cross Park with its marble pavilion over a statue of Queen Victoria. We sat on comfortable sofas, provided by our host, nibbling on cucumber sandwiches and sipping beverages from the ‘Zam Zam’.

This ‘Zam Zam’ was a light green colored war era army truck that had been ingeniously modified as a mobile beverage outlet on wheels. It had a permanent spot across the service road in front of Shah Din Building and served the best Lemonade and Vimto, anywhere in Lahore. I believe this ‘water hole’ is alive and well, but in a modern vehicle and with a modified menu.

For the youngsters, this parade was catalytic and immensely inspiring. Perhaps that was the reason, why many of the boys sitting in that upstairs verandah, later joined the Armed Forces and took part in the 1965 War with India. I can still recall the names of those who fell fighting the enemy and became heroes. Perhaps that is the reason, why I too am inspired by military parades, for they represent what is best in the nation.