Pakistan holds 1st Republic Day parade in 7 years

2015-03-23 11:16
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Islamabad - Pakistan was holding its first Republic Day parade in seven years on Monday, a symbolic show of strength in the war against Taliban insurgents three months after a militant attack on an army-run high school killed 132 children.

The Pakistan Day parade in the capital, held amid tight security with traffic and pedestrian access blocked, had been cancelled since 2008 amid fears of a Taliban attack.

But the military says the militants have been on the run since the army launched an operation last year to dislodge insurgents from their bases in the north-western region of Khyber and North Waziristan, along the Afghan border.

The military cut mobile phone voice and text communications across Islamabad during a weekend dress rehearsal, with aircraft flying low over the picturesque, low-rise city, including the Chinese-made Karakorum Eagle airborne early warning and control aircraft launched in February.

The parade also sends a message to 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.

Heavy clashes

Relations between the two nosedived after deadly attacks on Mumbai in 2008, which India has always blamed on Pakistan-based militants, and have not fully recovered. A dispute over the Kashmir region periodically flares into violence.

Pakistani troops have boasted recent successes against the Taliban, who aim to topple the state and establish strict Islamic rule. Fighter jets have pounded positions in the Tirah Valley in the Khyber region over the last few days.

The military said on Sunday it had killed 80 "terrorists" in heavy clashes and suffered seven casualties.

Pakistan Day commemorates 23 March, 1940, when the Muslim League demanded the establishment of separate nations to protect Muslims in the then British colony of India.

The event attracted enthusiastic comments on social media.

"Can't wait for Parade tomorrow," model and actress Arij Fatyma tweeted on Sunday. "Love you, Pakistan Army."

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