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March 23 Was Once Pakistan’s Republic Day: A Celebration Of Constitution Not Military Might

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The Pakistan Day military parade, which was postponed due to inclement weather, was held in Parade Ground Islamabad today with full display of military might. As social media debates the need for such parades at a time when Pakistan needs a better vaccine drive to protect the citizens from Covid, it is worth recalling the history behind the parade. What is today known as the Pakistan Day parade was originally not started as a means of muscle flexing and displaying military might. It was once marked as ‘Republic Day’ to honour the Constitution and democratic values.

When Pakistan adopted its first constitution on March 23, 1956 and became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the parade was started to celebrate the end of the dominion status. The event was thus meant to celebrate democracy and the Constitution. For two years, in 1956 and 1957, the country marked 23 March as Republic Day to celebrate the Constitution.

But in 1958, the then commander-in-chief General Ayub Khan replaced ‘Republic Day’ with ‘Pakistan Day’, thereby changing the nature of celebrations. The parade was now centred around military might instead of constitution. The military parade that was earlier held on August 14 began to be held on March 23. The reason given was that monsoons were not ideal for military parades. As a result, most of the younger generation today does not know of the true significance of March 23.

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Naya Daur