Pakistan Day 2019 is being celebrated with traditional zeal and fervour across the country.
The day began with a 31-gun salute in Islamabad while provincial capitals marked the day with 21-gun salutes. The change-of-guards ceremony was held at the mausoleum of Dr Allama Iqbal in Lahore.
Pakistan Air Force troops took over guard duty at the mausoleum of Iqbal where Air Commodore Rizwan Malik was the chief guest.
The Pakistan Day military parade is being held at Parade Ground near the Shakarparian hills in Islamabad to mark the day. The parade is being attended by the civil and military leadership as well as foreign dignitaries.
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) General Zubair, Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mehmood Abbasi, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan Colonel General Zakir Hasanov and Prime Minister Imran Khan all arrived at the parade ground.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who arrived on a three-day visit to Pakistan on Thursday, also attended the event as the guest of honour. Corps military police's Captain Khudadad Mand escorted the Malaysian premier to the stage.
Chief guest President Dr Arif Alvi was the last personality to join the assortment of civil-military leaders and foreign dignitaries on stage. He was escorted by the president's body guards: Lietenant Colonel Rab Nawaz Tiwana and Major Waqas Abbas Khan.
Once the guests had assembled on stage, a round of handshakes ensued, following which the national anthem of Pakistan was played.
After recitation of the Holy Quran, Brigadier Naseem Anwar formally requested President Alvi to observe the parade from a jeep.
Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan led a fly-past as a salute to the president. Following the Air Chief, a formation of four JF-17 Thunder fighter jets of the Pakistan Air Force demonstrated its aerial prowess. They were followed by similar formations of Mirage, F-7PG and other fighter aircraft.
Following the fly-past demonstrations, President Alvi addressed the ceremony. He congratulated the nation on the National Day and said that "March 23 is that milestone of our national history in which the Muslims of the subcontinent aimed for their liberation through Pakistan Resolution."
The president noted that Pakistan's sovereignty had been challenged in the past and "wars were imposed on us" but lauded the nation for fighting off those setbacks.
He said that "Pakistan respects all the countries' sovereignty and wishes peace" but made it clear that the "desire for peace should not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness".
The president said that it would by myopic of the Indian leadership and a mistake for them to view Pakistan in the pre-partition light. "Doing so would be very dangerous for the region's stability," he said. "Instead of wars, we should focus on education, health, hunger, employment and extremist mindset. Our real war is against unemployment and poverty."
"It's time to set Pakistan on the path towards prosperity and growth. That would be the greatest tribute for the martyrs and ghazis of the country," he added.
The president thanked the Malaysian prime minister, Azerbaijan's defence minister, the chief of Bahrain's armed forces and other foreign dignitaries for gracing the parade with their presence and participating in the Pakistan Day celebrations.
Following the president's speech, troops from Frontier Corps, Pakistan Rangers, Northern Light Infantry, and others took part in the parade. The parade also featured troops from Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and Sri Lanka.
It is pertinent to mention here that officials of the Indian High Commission (IHC) had attended the parade last year. According to diplomatic sources, they had been invited verbally to attend this year's parade as well. However, the Indian government decided to boycott the ceremony on account of Pakistan inviting Kashmir's Hurriyat leaders.
Following the soldiers, contingents of armoured and mechanised infantry held a march-past. The Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank (MBT), Al Zarrar tanks, a variety of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) as well as howitzer guns were paraded in front of the civil-military leadership. Radar systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), cruise missiles and other modern weaponry equipped with latest military technology were also rolled out.
At the tail end of the parade, a Pakistan Rangers band played national songs on bagpipes while riding camels in unison.
Furthermore, the parade showcased local cultures of the four provinces. Cultural delegates and floats from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir were featured during the ceremony.
Several formations of a variety of combat helicopters belonging to the armed forces demonstrated their capabilities before PAF fighter jets mesmerised the audience with their mid-air maneuvers.
Prime minister, president's National Day messages to the nation
Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Dr Arif Alvi, in separate messages on Pakistan Day, stressed the "need to achieve the goal of true Islamic welfare state as envisaged by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah", according to Radio Pakistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the government is determined to establish a society where every person can contribute towards socio-economic development to the best of his ability.
He said that on the National Day, "we should not forget Kashmiri people who have long been victims of Indian state terrorism and forced to lead a life of misery."
President Alvi said that Pakistan has overcome the challenges of extremism and terrorism but acknowledged the country was yet to make efforts for excelling on social and economic fronts.
Pakistan Day commemorates the passing of the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, when the All-India Muslim League demanded a separate nation for the Muslims of the British Indian Empire.
According to Radio Pakistan, an award ceremony will also be held at the President House in the evening, where about 171 people, including civilians and foreign citizens will be awarded for achievements in various fields including science and technology, by President Arif Alvi.