ISLAMABAD  -    Excitement, thrill, confidence and contentment marked the Pakistan Day celebrations across the country yesterday.

The day dawned with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salute in the provincial capitals. Special prayers were offered in mosques after Fajar prayers for progress, prosperity and sovereignty of the country.

A marvellous display of machine and men of the armed forces Shakarparian Parade Ground near Islamabad was the highlight of the day. It was iced by the participation of troops from Pakistan’s close friends in the military parade.

The attendance of the ceremony by the distinguished world leader, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, as guest of honour added to the charm.

The day is celebrated every year in the memory of the historic moments of March 23, 1947 when Muslims of subcontinent formally announced their demand for a homeland of their own through the Lahore Resolution.

The change-of-guards ceremony was held at the mausoleum of Dr Allama Iqbal in Lahore. Pakistan Air Force took over guard duty at the mausoleum where Air Commodore Rizwan Malik was the chief guest.

In his address to the parade in Islamabad, President Dr Arif Alvi said that Pakistan believes in peaceful co-existence but its desire for peace should not be misconstrued as weakness.

Dr Alvi said participation of the representatives of Pakistan's friendly countries – Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Sri Lanka – has added valour to the military parade, and this signifies Pakistan's friendship with these countries.

He said Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state but it wants peace, not war. Islamabad respects integrity and sovereignty of other states, he added.

The president said India's irresponsible attitude has jeopardised peace in the region. But the neighbouring state will have to accept Pakistan as a reality, and it must realise that dialogue is the only way to resolve disputes.

He said we are a peaceful nation, but are not oblivious to our defence, and the same has been proved in the recent demonstration of Pakistan's defence capability.

Dr Alvi said the country is safe and moving on the path of progress and development after effectively combating the menace of terrorism. Now, he said, there was a need to focus our energies on dealing with the challenges of poverty, hunger, unemployment and extremist mindset.

Earlier, when the guests had assembled on stage, a round of handshakes ensued. Then After recitation of the Holy Quran and playing of the national anthem, the President Alvi was requested to observe the parade from a jeep.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Jawed Bajwa, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi attended the parade.

Besides, a large number of senior government and military officers and foreign dignitaries were also in attendance.

Air Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan himself led a fly-past as a salute to the chief guest. After which a formation of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets of Pakistan Air Force performed aerobatic skills, followed by formations of F-7PG and Mirage fighter aircraft.

 

This was followed by President’s speech in which he thanked the Malaysian prime minister, Azerbaijan's defence minister, the chief of Bahrain's armed forces and other foreign dignitaries for gracing the parade with their presence and participating in the Pakistan Day celebrations.

Officials of the Indian High Commission had attended the parade last year. Diplomatic sources said, they were invited verbally this time too but the Indian government decided to boycott the ceremony on account of Pakistan inviting Kashmir's Hurriyat leaders.

The president’s speech was followed by a march past of the contingents of Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, Pakistan Rangers, Mujahid Battalion, Tri Services Lady Officers, Special Services Group (SSG) and others.

Troops from Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and Sri Lanka also took part in the parade.

After the troops, contingents of armoured and mechanised infantry held a march-past.

The columns of Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank (MBT), Al Zarrar tanks, radar systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), cruise missiles and other modern weapons equipped with latest military technology featured in the parade.

A Pakistan Rangers band riding camels also held a march-past, playing national songs on bagpipes.

Floats from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir depicted culture of their areas.

Army Aviation’s combat and attack helicopters, including Mi-35, Mi-14, and AgustaWestland 139 helicopters, participated in the flypast.

SSG commandos of Pakistan Army’s Shehbaz Team and paratroopers from Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan made free-fall jump from helicopters and landed at the parade venue.

The aerobatic manoeuvres of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets and aircraft from friendly countries, including Turkey and China caught the imagination of the audience.

The parade showcased local cultures of all parts of the country. Cultural delegates and floats from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir were featured during the ceremony.

At the tail end of the parade, a Pakistan Rangers band played national songs on bagpipes while riding camels in unison.

Later in the afternoon, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other higher officials accompanied PM Mahathir to the Nur Khan airbase to see him off upon completion of his three-day visit of Pakistan.

Before his departure, the Malaysian premier got a detailed briefing on JF-17 Thunder fighter jets by PAF officials.