Pakistan showcases modern weapons in national day parade
Islamabad, Mar 23: Pakistan on Monday displayed its growing military might, including nuclear missiles and fighter jets, at a joint tri-service parade held after a seven-year hiatus to mark the National Day to which Chinese President Xi Jinping was invited.
The Pakistan Day parade - marked to commemorate the Muslim League's Resolution on March 23, 1940 demanding a separate nation for Muslims - was held amid tight security, with cellular phone networks being blocked as a precaution to thwart attacks from militants.
The day dawned with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salutes in provincial capitals, in a symbolic show of strength in the war against the Taliban.
The event started with joint parade of three services, paramilitary troops and police. It also featured cultural events, display of weapons and aerial show by the jets.
President Mamnoon Hussain, who is head of the state and supreme commander of armed forces, took the salute of the parade and paid tribute to those who had lost their lives in the Taliban attack on Army Public School on December 16, 2014.
The ceremony was also attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the services chiefs, ministers, diplomats and people. Chinese President Xi, who was expected to visit Islamabad for the National Day parade, gave it a miss.
"China-Pakistan relations are tested through time. We are now all weather friends to each other. We have shown high level of mutual understanding and support to each other and have come through ups and downs together with each other," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing congratulating Pakistan on its National Day.
Pakistan had extended an invitation to Xi soon after US President Barack Obama paid a high-profile to India to attend its Republic Day celebrations. During the parade, both modern and more traditional elements of military arsenal were put on display, from nuclear-capable missiles and the new home-made armed Buraq drone to a camel-mounted musical band.
Buraq drone armed with Burq guided missile system flew over the venue of parade as symbol of Pakistan's prowess in the field of latest arm technology. Several missiles including Nasr, Shaheen, Ghauri, Babur and Ghaznavi were paraded, most of which are capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
Most of the weapons system, including Al-Zarar, Al-Khalid tanks, armoured vehicles, missiles have been produced indigenously. A squadron JF-17 Thunder aircraft built locally was also part of the parade which for the first time featured a contingent of woman army officer. The army's Strategic Command Force, responsible for the safety of missiles, also took part in the parade.
The last parade was held on March 23, 2008, reviewed by General Pervez Musharraf as a civilian president, but was discontinued owing to security concerns.