Pakistan military holds first Republic Day parade in seven years

Mon Mar 23, 2015 4:15am EDT
 
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By Nick Macfie

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan held its first Republic Day parade in seven years on Monday, full of flag-waving pomp and aerial military expertise, a symbolic show of strength in the war against the Taliban months after a militant attack on a school killed 132 children.

The Pakistan Day parade, complete with a 31-gun dawn salute, was held amid tight security. Cellular phone networks were blocked as a precaution to thwart 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, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its history, says the militants have been on the run since the army launched an operation last year to dislodge insurgents from the northwestern regions of Khyber and North Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who attended the parade, issued a statement warning of the threat from anti-state elements.

"Pakistan is resolved to redeem its pledge given to its founding fathers that it will protect the homeland," Sharif said.

Military jets looped the loop over the picturesque, low-rise city in the spring sunshine, with a sky-diving team showing off its skills against the backdrop of the Margalla Hills, the forested foothills of the Himalayas.

The show of military might has traditionally also sent a message to rival India. The two nuclear-armed neighbors 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.   Continued...