Pakistan held its first Republic Day parade on Monday after a gap of seven years to underscore improved security around the country following recent military-led counterterrorism operations.
Security was extremely tight in Islamabad, particularly around the venue where aerial military expertise was demonstrated as fighter planes and helicopters flew over the scenic capital city.
Among other military weapons and equipment, the country also demonstrated its first locally-manufactured armed drone aircraft.
The United States has used drone strikes to attack al-Qaida-linked operatives sheltering in Pakistani tribal areas near the Afghan border. The unilateral U.S. strikes have been a source of tensions in bilateral relations as Pakistan is opposed to drone attacks, saying they violate its sovereignty.
Escalation in counterterrorism army operations and retaliatory deadly attacks by the so-called Pakistani Taliban - an alliance of extremist outfits - have prevented authorities from organizing the Republic Day parade since 2008.
Pakistani authorities also blocked cellular phone networks in Islamabad Monday as a precaution to protect the parade against any terrorist strike because militants have increasingly used mobile phone signals to detonate bombs.
However, the military says its ongoing offensive with in two tribal districts - North Waziristan and Khyber - close to the Afghan border has dislodged militants and dismantled their terrorist infrastructure.
Officials reported deaths of nearly 100 militants and at least seven soldiers in fresh clashes over the weekend that happened in the mountainous Tirah Valley of Khyber. Pakistan has intensified its counterterrorism actions since the December 16 Taliban attack on a military-run school that killed 132 children along with 16 staff members.
Pakistani civilian and military leaders attended Monday’s display of military strength. The country has traditionally used the occasion to send a message to rival India with which Pakistan has fought three wars since they both gained independence from Britain in 1947. Tensions continue to plague bilateral ties over the disputed Kashmir region.
President Mamnoon Hussain, while addressing the participants of the parade, reiterated that Pakistan desired relations with India “on the basis of equality," saying the Kashmir dispute needs to be resolved in accordance with the wishes of the people of the divided Himalayan region.
Bilateral relations have been particularly tense since the 2008 Mumbai attacks that India blamed on Pakistan-based Islamist outfits, allegedly with links to the country's spy agency.
In his Twitter post Monday, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he conveyed his greetings to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz. "It is my firm conviction that all outstanding issues can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence," Modi said.
Republic Day commemorates the March 23, 1940 resolution that led to the creation of Pakistan seven years later.