[Islamabad] Pakistan is celebrating its 75th Independence Day full of enthusiasm and national spirit.
The country came into being after gaining independence from Britain on August 14, 1947. In celebration, national green crescent flags have been hoisted on government buildings in all cities including the federal capital, Islamabad.
The Independence Day celebrations began early Sunday morning with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and a 21-gun salute in all provincial capitals. The main feature of the celebrations was the flag-hoisting ceremony at the president’s house in Islamabad.
Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi was set to confer civil awards on Pakistani citizens and foreign nationals for showing excellence and courage in their respective fields.
Customary ceremonies for the changing of the guards also were scheduled for the shrines of the founder of the nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, and for national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal in Lahore.
At 8:00 a.m. sirens sounded across the country, stopping traffic, while a moment of silence was observed. Senior officials laid wreaths on the graves of those killed during the struggle for independence, while prayer ceremonies also were organized across the country.
All public and private buildings were set to be illuminated at night.
In connection with Independence Day, Pakistani embassies around the world planned to organize special events. Such special events are meant to pay homage to those people who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom.
Pakistan separated from India in 1947, and was named the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Before the partition of India and Pakistan, the subcontinent was called British India, and it was a British colony ruled by the British East India Company. Prior to British rule, the Mughal Empire governed the sub-continent for centuries. In the 18th century, the land became part of British India.
Under the partition plan proposed months before it took place, British India was to be split into two dominions, a Muslim majority Pakistan and a secular state of India. What followed was months of bloodshed along the borders of the two newly-formed nations. About 15 million people became refugees.
As the clock struck midnight on August 14, 1947, the British colonial government was drowned out by the screams of millions of people walking through the corpse-strewn landscape of an emerging Pakistan. The migration of tens of millions of people between India and Pakistan that came with the partition has been called the largest migration in history.
During the migration, thousands of innocent Muslims were killed by Hindu and Sikh mobs; meanwhile, tens of thousands of Muslim women were raped.
Pakistan is the seventh largest country in the world and the only Muslim-majority country to possess nuclear weapons.
Nation in crisis
“Indeed, Pakistan is currently going through the worst crisis in its history and now the nation is in desperate need of the same spirit with which it gained freedom from British slavery 75 years ago.”Riffat Ayesha, historian
Pakistan has been suffering from a severe political and economic crisis in recent months. The daily fall in the currency has significantly increased inflation, leading to increased difficulties for the average citizen.
Riffat Ayesha of Sargodha in Punjab province, a scholar who holds a master’s degree in history, told The Media Line: “Indeed, Pakistan is currently going through the worst crisis in its history and now the nation is in desperate need of the same spirit with which it gained freedom from British slavery 75 years ago.”
“In 1947, the whole nation needed a country, now the country needs the same resolute nation that gained independence from Britain with immense difficulties and without resources,” she added. “Our nation has to repeat the same determination to rebuild a strong Pakistan.”
“On this Independence Day, the nation has to take a pledge once again that without any racial, color or religious discrimination, everyone has to work together to get Pakistan out of political and economic challenges,” she said, calling on the country “to unite and initiate the teachings of peace, brotherhood and love.”
In addition to Independence Day celebrations, the country also is celebrating the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the United States.
The United States recognized Pakistan as an independent state on August 15, 1947.
Military relations between the US and Pakistan have been consistently close and, during the US-led invasion in Afghanistan, Pakistan was declared a frontline ally in the war on terror.
Ahead of Pakistan’s Independence Day, US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome visited the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Karachi on Thursday and laid a wreath there.
The ambassador signed the guestbook on behalf of the US Embassy in Islamabad. “The US shares Mohammed Ali Jinnah‘s vision of a Pakistan at peace with itself and its neighbors, a Pakistan of religious tolerance, economic prosperity, and social inclusion. On behalf of the American people, I offer Pakistan warm congratulations on its 75th Independence Day,” Blome wrote, according to the embassy
The embassy said in a statement that: “This year marks 75 years of bilateral relations between the United States and Pakistan. The United States values our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests.”
“We support strengthening economic ties between our two countries by expanding private sector trade and investment, which benefits both countries,” the statement also said.
The Pakistan-US relationship has fluctuated over the years, analysts told The Media Line.
Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired three-star general and Pakistan’s former defense minister, told The Media Line that “America is a super power and likely to stay so for the foreseeable future. Pakistan did well by aligning itself with the US from its very inception.”
He added that “there have been ups and down in these relations mainly due to misunderstandings and at times because of divergent interests.”
Lodhi also said that “Pakistan’s inability to spell out clearly or accurately its own inalienable rights and interests has at times soured the relationship, but generally relations remained good even during difficult times, within workable limits.”
Lodhi said that the relationship currently is experiencing a “difficult phase” due to issues including internal disharmony, the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, and issues in dealing with China, including the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. Despite the current difficulties, “Pakistan’s main economic, social and political interests are still firmly embedded in the West, Middle East and the US,” he said.
Lodhi said that “to reinvigorate the shaky relations, the two countries’ foreign offices and leadership must sit down and resolve the present and future cooperative model.”
Most of the US-Pakistan relationship has been focused on defense and humanitarian issues, Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based national security and south Asian analyst, told The Media Line.
The peak of the relationship has been Pakistan’s role in assisting the US efforts against the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, particularly in the transfer of arms and the training of the mujahedeen. “The same role later caused tensions with Pakistan choosing to arm hardliners, and the US more recently distancing itself over the failure to handle extremism,” she said.
The circumstances surrounding the assassination of Osama bin Laden also led to some level of diplomatic tensions, Tsukerman said.
“US humanitarian support for Pakistan was largely tied to Pakistan’s regional security role,” she added.
“The US has repeatedly expressed concern over human rights issues in Pakistan, particularly over religious freedom issues, but has also expressed support for initiatives related to women's rights, such as education,” Tsukerman said.
She noted that “the US has focused on keeping regional balance and stability, but as other countries have surpassed Pakistan as mediator and power brokers on key issues such as the peace process with the Taliban, Pakistan drifted further into China's and Russia's sphere of influence. Although after Imran Khan's departure Pakistan has tried to pivot back to its traditional relationship with the US.”
Tuskerman also told The Media Line that Pakistan's “political fictionalized and popular sectarianism makes it a complicated landscape to navigate for the US, and the level of distrust between the countries is high”.
“US officials are reluctant to return to reliance on Pakistan security services. The relationship needs to be rebuilt on other principles,” she added.
Lieutenant General (ret) Abdul Qayyum, former military secretary to the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a former senator, and the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defense Production, told The Media Line that, “barring few exceptional periods like President Eisenhower’s era, unfortunately, the US used Pakistan to thwart communism through Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)/Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) pacts and the Afghan war but could not stop India’s naked aggression against former East Pakistan.”
Qayyum also said that “during Afghanistan’s invasion, the US-led forces frequently utilized Pakistan’s soil, but Pakistan was never paid any compensation to ensure the repatriation of Afghan refugees.”
He told The Media Line that Pakistan was “severely punished” for becoming a frontline ally in the US-led war on terror. As a result, he said “the local supporters of the Afghan Taliban formed armed organizations and started terrorist attacks in Pakistan; as a result, more than 70,000 Pakistani citizens lost their lives while the infrastructures were severely destroyed. Moreover, the US never extended its moral and diplomatic support to stop Indian atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Qayyum said that the “US should realize the importance of Pakistan’s pivotal strategic location, which provides a safe gateway to Central Asian Republics and the Middle East.”
He also stressed that Pakistan’s “relationship with the US cannot come at the expense of our historically deep relationship with China, and if we buy cheap Russian oil or Iranian gas to meet our energy needs, the US should not have any objection."