ISLAMABAD: As the military showcased its might at the Pakistan Day parade, President Mamnoon Hussain reiterated on Wednesday the country’s commitment not to join an arms race and defended the nuclear programme.
He was speaking after receiving a guard of honour and watching a flypast by the air force, and before a stream of troops, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, military engineering equipment, air defence systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), telecommunication hardware and ballistic missiles paraded through the Shakarparian Parade Ground.
“Our weapons and combat equipment are only for our own defence and security. We never took part in arms race nor would we do so, but at the same time we want to tell that we would not avoid making sacrifices for the sake of defence of motherland,” the president said in his speech.
He said that despite enemies’ designs, Pakistan had become self-reliant in conventional weapons, besides achieving the status of a recognised nuclear power. This, he said, had established a military balance in the region.
Continued political, moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris pledged
The president underscored that Pakistan, as a peace-loving state, desired friendly relations with its neighbours.
Calling Kashmir Pakistan’s “jugular vein”, Mr Hussain pledged to continue political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris. He said Pakistan had always wanted a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
With a Kashmir float carrying a model of a floating restaurant in the India-held region’s Dal Lake leading the cultural exhibition, the government’s emphasis on the issue was clear.
The parade was attended by senior military and civilian officials and hundreds of security-vetted guests, who waved national flags as some 3,000 soldiers marched in front of them.
Taking an apparently defensive line on the nuclear programme, the president said: “I want to make it clear that Pakistan, as a responsible state, wants to spend its resources on development and wellbeing of its people. Our atomic capability should be seen in that context. Criticism in this regard is unwarranted.”
Conspicuously absent from the parade was the short-range (tactical) ballistic missile Nasr, which is facing intense criticism from the West, particularly the United States. The missile was displayed in last year’s parade.
But at the same time, Shaheen I-A having a range of 900km and Shaheen-III, whose range is 2,750km, the longest in the national arsenal, were displayed for the first time. Other missiles exhibited on the occasion were the 290km Ghaznavi and air-launched Raad, which has a range of 350km.
Mr Hussain also touched on the internal threat posed by extremism and said the military operation Zarb-i-Azb, which had almost dislodged terrorists from North Waziristan, would continue till the country got rid of the menace.
“Today we have a new enemy in the shape of extremism and terrorism that does not only threaten the country’s security and existence, but also wants to stop our march towards development.”
Reflecting on other issues that prevented the country from realising the dream of the founding fathers, he said that injustice, nepotism, violation of merit and disrespect for rule of law were behind the misfortunes.
But the government was taking steps to address these issues, he added.
President Hussain arrived at the venue in a horse-drawn carriage which was escorted by a traditional unit of Presidential Guards. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received him. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee’s Chairman Gen Rashad Mehmood, Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah and Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Muhammad Saeed Khan were present at the stage.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, who led the flypast, joined them later.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2016