ISLAMABAD: The nation commenced celebrations for Pakistan Day on Wednesday with a pledge to make the country stronger by wiping out the menace of terrorism, achieving sustainable economic growth and political stability.
The day marks the historic event of 1940, when the Lahore Resolution was passed demanding a separate homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent, dawned with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salutes in provincial capitals.
The highlight of the day is the joint military parade which was held at the Parade Ground near the Shakarparian hills in Islamabad.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif witnessed the parade, and were later joined by Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman on the podium.
Paratroopers from the three armed forces jumped with the national flag and the flags of the three services, landing smoothly on the ground.
The participating paratroopers represented the three services, with jumpers from the Shahbaz team of Army's Special Services Group (SSG) leading the jump, followed by the Sea Eagle team of Pakistan Navy and Shahpar team of the PAF.
The divers jumped from 10,000 feet. Paratroopers also have the capability to jump from a height of 25,000 feet, at any time of the day.
The national flag was carried to the ground by General Officer Commanding (GOC) SSG Major Gen Tahir Hussain Bhutta, who presented the flag to President Mamnoon Hussain. The president was also introduced to the paratroopers by GOC SSG.
Army Aviation fly-past
Multiple aircraft belonging to Army Aviation and Pakistan Air Force performed a fly-past and demonstrated aerobatic performances for the audience present.
Chinese Z-10 attack helicopters, AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, Puma transport helicopters and Mi-17 transport helicopters were part of Army Aviation's fly-past contingent.
Army Aviation's fly past was followed by an aerobatic performance from PAF's Sherdils, JF-17 Thunder and a F-16 fighter from the storied No.9 Squadron of the PAF.
Armed forces hold march-past
Contingents of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Frontier Corps and Pakistan Rangers held a march-past and performed a salute to President of Pakistan.
Troops of the parade included contingents of the Pakistan Army, navy, air force, Frontier Corps, Northern Light Infantry, Mujahid Force, Islamabad Police, tri-service Lady officers, tri-service Armed Forces Nursing Service, Girls Guide, Boys Scouts, Special Service Group from three Services, mechanised columns of Armoured Corps, Artillery, Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Army Strategic Force Command, Camel Band and President's body guards.
Pakistan Army's tanks, including the Al-Khalid and Al Zarrar, also presented gun salutes to the chief guest on the occasion.
Pakistan never took part in arms race: president
President Mamnoon Hussain delivered a speech to the participants of the parade in which he lauded Pakistan Army’s sacrifices and repeated that Operation Zarb-i-Azb, the anti-terror operation started after the Karachi airport attack, will not be stopped until the elimination of last terrorist from Pakistani soil.
He reiterated the country’s stance that Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is for country’s safety and it does not intend to go to war with any country unless forced to take such a route.
"We are a peaceful nation and have never participated in any arms race," the president said
"This parade shows our resolve to fight all the enemies of our beloved country. This display of weaponry and skills shows that our forces are next to none in bravery, courage and valour," said the president.
The president said many a detractors predicted a bleak future of Pakistan but today, the whole world recognises Pakistan as a reality.
"Kashmir is our jugular vein and we will continue our moral, political and diplomatic support for our Kashmiri brethren," he said.
Chief of Air Staff leads fly-past
Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sohail Aman led a fly-past of Pakistan Air Force jets presented to President Mamnoon Hussain over the parade venue.
The arrival of President Mamnoon Hussain, the chief guest of the event, started the proceedings at the joint military parade.
Personnel from all three services, Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force, are participating in the parade.
The ceremony began with the singing of the national anthem.
The celebrations for the day were kicked off shortly after midnight on Tuesday with a grand fireworks display at the Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore, the site where the historic Lahore Resolution was passed on March 23, 1940.
The national flag was hoisted atop all government buildings to mark the day, a public holiday.
Special prayers were offered in mosques after morning prayers for the integrity and solidarity of the country.
Pakistan held a similar parade last year to mark Republic Day after a gap of seven years in Islamabad.
This year, Pakistan Day will be celebrated at the United Nations for the first time, with a concert planned in the prestigious General Assembly hall.
Change of guard in Lahore
Earlier during the day a change of guard ceremony was held by the Pakistan Air Force at the mausoleum of national poet Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal in Lahore.
A 31-gun salute was fired before sunrise to commemorate Pakistan Day in the federal capital city. Similarly 21-gun salutes were fired in the provincial capital cities.
Stringent security measures were taken in view of the military parade.
Cellphone services will remain suspended from 5am to 3pm in twin cities.
Rawalpindi Police as part of security measures for Pakistan Day have depoloyed around 2000 policemen to avoid any untoward incident.
Heavy vehicles will not be allowed to enter the city on March 23 and all the entry and exit points of the city will be sealed.