Islamabad: Pakistan marked its 74th Independence Day on Friday with fireworks, flag-hoisting ceremonies and get-togethers as the country continues to witness a steady decline in coronavirus cases.
Besides the celebration in urban cities, big rallies and crowds also turned out at midnight in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s tribal areas to mark the national day.
The day dawned with a 31-gun salute in capital Islamabad and a 21-gun salute in all four provincial capitals, followed by the change-of-guards ceremonies at the mausoleum of the founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, and the national poet Allama Mohammad Iqbal’s mausoleum in Lahore. In Karachi, Commandant Pakistan Naval Academy, Commodore Mushtaq Ahmed reviewed the guard.
The main ceremony was held at the President Office where President Arif Alvi hoisted the national flag and conferred Pakistan’s civil awards to 184 Pakistanis and foreigners in recognition of their services to Pakistan and demonstrating excellence in their respective fields.
“Stand firm and work for prosperity”
Remembering those who made sacrifices to secure freedom, President Alvi called upon the nation to “stand firm and work for progress and prosperity” of the country. In his speech, he noted that Pakistan had faced several challenges since its inception and was now at a “tipping point where improvements are being witnessed in various areas”. He praised the current government for working against corruption and for the development of the country.
On the occasion, both the president and the premier reiterated Pakistan’s support for the people in Indian-held Kashmir and Prime Minister Imran Khan said that “our hearts are profoundly grieved by the sufferings of our brethren facing military siege since past one year”.
“Unity, Faith and Discipline”
Wishing the nation a happy Independence Day, Prime Minister Khan said the day is an occasion “to pay tribute to the heroes who lost their lives defending and protecting the motherland.” He pledged to continue pursuing the ideals of the nation’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah while urging the nation to remain steadfast and embrace all challenges holding the torch of ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’ – the motto of Pakistan. In the past seven decades, he said, the country has confronted several internal and external challenges with resilience. “From the hostility of a neighbouring country, with its known hegemonic intentions, to the scourge of terrorism and from coping with natural calamities to fighting pandemic, our nation has always shown resilience and perseverance.”
Better days ahead
The premier also congratulated the nation on successfully tackling COVID-19 by following guidelines and appreciated the government officials for maintaining an effective balance between lives and livelihoods during the peak days of the coronavirus. However, he urged citizens to continue to wear masks when visiting crowded places. In a televised addressed to the nation on Independence Day, he said that the past two years were difficult for the people and the government, but the country is now witnessing progress as the economy is improving, reviving the confidence of investors and the focus is now on job creation.
Pakistan Army fully prepared for any aggression
In a pre-independence day press briefing on Thursday, Major General Babar Iftikhar, director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that the Pakistan Army remains “absolutely ready” for any aggression despite budget constraints. “Whether they receive five [Rafales] or 500, we are absolutely ready and we have no doubt on our capability” he said responding to a query about the threat posed to Pakistan by the Rafale jets purchased by India. However, he added that India’s increasing military spending is affecting the “conventional balance of the region”.
To prevent terrorism and illegal crossings, Pakistan is fencing its border with Afghanistan and Iran as part of a border management strategy that includes border terminals, scanners, a biometric system, border posts, forts and fencing. More than 1,700km of the total 2,600km Pak-Afghan border has been completed while fencing also continues at Pak-Iran border, the ISPR chief said.
The Pakistan Navy organized several events to mark the national day including boat rallies at Gwadar and Creeks area, sports events and a tree plantation ceremony. Commander Coast, Vice Admiral Faisal Rasool Lodhi attended the ceremony in the Bin Qasim area where over 150,000 trees will be grown at 100 acres of land.