- Title: PAKISTAN-PARADE Pakistan military holds first Republic Day parade in seven years
- Date: 23rd March 2015
- Summary: VARIOUS OF WOMEN TROOPS MARCHING
- Embargoed: 7th April 2015 13:00
- Location: Pakistan
- Country: Pakistan
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA569OA7TOFO2J832CP19KFR3KC
- Story Text: Pakistan held its first Republic Day parade in seven years on Monday (March 23), full of flag-waving pomp and aerial military expertise, in a symbolic show of strength, months after a militant attack on a school killed 132 children.
The parade was held amid tight security. Cellphone networks were blocked as a precaution to thwart any strike by militants, who have often used mobile phone signals to trigger bombs.
No parades had been held since 2008, following an escalation in the military's conflict with the Pakistani Taliban.
But the military says the militants have been on the run since the army launched an operation last year to dislodge insurgents from hideouts in the northwestern tribal regions of Khyber and North Waziristan, on the rugged border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan Day commemorates March 23, 1940, when the Muslim League demanded the establishment of separate states to protect Muslims in the then British colony of India.
The day began with fireworks at the stroke of midnight in major cities throughout the country.
A 31-gun salute was fired before sunrise in the federal capital city, Islamabad. Twenty-one-gun salutes were also fired in the capital cities of all four provinces.
Various regiments, including army, navy and air force personnel, as well as Pakistan police and Pakistan rangers, took part in the parade.
Strategic weapons, including land-to-land, cruise and nuclear warhead-capable missiles, were driven past the dais, where President Mamnoon Hussein, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Raheel Sharif watched the parade, followed by a display of strength by fighter aircraft.
Colourful floats representing Pakistan's cultural diversity, depicting replicas of landmarks from the port city of Karachi to the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, also took part in the parade.
President Mamnoon Hussain, who addressed the parade, said the country faced many challenges, with civilians and soldiers alike being targeted by extremists.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who attended the parade along with chiefs of all three armed forces, issued a statement warning of the threat from anti-state elements bent on destroying the country.
"Pakistan is resolved to redeem its pledge given to its founding fathers that it will protect the homeland," Sharif said in the statement.
The show of military might has traditionally also sent a message to rival India.
The two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947 and continuing mistrust is a factor behind conflict in various parts of the region, including Afghanistan.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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