Pakistanis celebrate Independence Day peacefully

By Imdad Hussain

Pakistanis August 14 in Islamabad buy flags as part of peaceful Independence Day celebrations. [Imdad Hussain]

Pakistanis August 14 in Islamabad buy flags as part of peaceful Independence Day celebrations. [Imdad Hussain]

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan celebrated its 70th Independence Day August 14 with patriotic zeal, fervor and the resolution to achieve peace in the country.

Authorities prevented terrorism from rearing its head.

One week ago, a suicide bomber killed 72 people in Quetta. The atrocity shocked Pakistanis, but the culprits failed to demoralise the country on Independence Day.

Men, women and children from all walks of life came out of their homes as the clock struck midnight and started celebrating along roads, in parks and other public places in Islamabad. Some started playing music and dancing, while others chanted "Pakistan Zindabad" (long live Pakistan).

Decorative lights adorned all government and major private buildings in the capital.

Motorists affixed large flags to their motorcycles and cars as they cruised around various parts of the city.

Patriotic Pakistanis celebrate

"We are happy today while celebrating our independence," Samina, an Islamabad woman, said while buying a green-and-white shirt for her 10-year-old son.

"We hope for complete peace ... so that incidents like what happened in Quetta, aimed at snatching our independence and happiness, will end once and for all," she told Pakistan Forward.

Shahbaz, a 30-year-old taxi driver in Islamabad, said he put a tall flag on the back of his vehicle as a show of pride and patriotism.

Regardless of the circumstances, "Pakistanis will never bow before terrorists," he told Pakistan Forward.

Green-and-white memorabilia -- flags, shirts, dresses, balloons and other merchandise -- filled the markets on the days leading up to Independence Day.

Eight-year-old Ilyas expressed his stubbornness in Islamabad's Jinnah Supermarket, asking his parents to buy as many of these items as possible.

“Naturally he loves everything resembling the Pakistani flag," said his parents, who were fulfilling their child's wishes.

"I think it is because today he sees white and green everywhere," his father Javed said.

Groups of youth were enthusiastic, playing and singing patriotic songs.

"This is a message to the enemies of peace: we want peace and it will be established; we are resilient and determined," said Jawad, a student in Islamabad who hails from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Ali, a civil servant who identified himself by one name, said he brought his children to Fatima Jinnah Park because he wanted them to be curious about Pakistan's history.

"We achieved this great country with many sacrifices by our elder generation, and now we are sacrificing to pass on a peaceful country to later generations," he said.

The day dawned with a 31-gun salute in Islamabad and 21-gun salute in the provincial capitals.

The main celebration, a flag raising, took place at the Convention Centre in Islamabad.

President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the chiefs of all the military service branches, other officials and diplomats attended.

Hussain vowed to eliminate terrorism while saying the entire nation was grieving the losses from the bombing in Quetta.

Meanwhile, nationwide, Pakistanis attended various functions related to Independence Day. TV stations broadcast special programmes and worshippers prayed in mosques for peace.

Security cordon protects the public

Tight security nationwide protected the celebration.

Police and para-military troops, supported by aircraft, guarded all roads to and from the capital.

"I am proud to be on duty to ensure security on Independence Day so that the citizens can enjoy the festivities," a policeman working along Kashmir Highway said.

"The interior minister co-ordinated with law enforcement agencies ... to prevent any untoward incidents," Interior Ministry spokesperson Sarfaraz Hussain said. "The provinces were instructed to act accordingly."

Authorities jammed mobile phones in major parts of 40 cities, including Islamabad, for various parts of the day. They eventually restored all service.

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