23rd March marks Pakistan National Day. Earlier, the day was celebrated as Republic Day, because on 23rd March 1956 the first constitution of Pakistan was adopted. However, after General Ayub Khan came into power it was renamed Pakistan National Day or Pakistan Day to commemorate the Lahore resolution that was passed on 23rd March 1940. On this eve the government of Pakistan recognizes the Pakistanis who give excellent performances in their respective fields by conferring upon them the awards like Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz and Pride of Performance etc.
Pakistan National Day and Military Parade
The highlight of Pakistan’s national day is the military parade that shows the strength of Pakistan’s armed forces. The parade also exhibits the diverse culture of Pakistan through crafts and artistic expressions. This year the military parade is pushed to March 25, due to rainy weather in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan.
However, holding a military parade on this eve has always remained a matter of debate for several reasons. The critics argue that Pakistan is an economically unstable country. It lags behind in meeting its development goals. The health and education sectors which contribute to the well-being of its citizens don’t see much financial support from the government. The country is facing the issue of a poor literacy rate, millions of out-of-school children, and poor life expectancy. Despite, this it continues to spend money on its military might. Pakistan spends a higher proportion of GDP on the defense budget than the global average. According to the Global Firepower Index, Pakistan’s army stands on number 10 in terms of its military strength in the world leaving behind even Israel.
There is no doubt that Pakistan’s geopolitical condition is such that it needs to spend on defence and secure its borders. The country has also played an important role in war against terrorism. As an important ally of the United States in the region Pakistan has paid a huge price in the form of the precious lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians along with compromising the economic development.
Spending on Military Parade amidst Coronavirus
The world is fighting the Covid 19 pandemic since December 2019. The 23rd March military parade of Pakistan National Day in 2020 had been canceled due to Covid 19 precautions. Well, this year the parade is scheduled to take place on March 25. Once again social media is debating whether the government should hold this mega event or not. This time, the critics are not simply arguing that Pakistan should be focusing more on the health and education sector, but they are talking with respect to the coronavirus pandemic. A popular opinion is that Pakistan is currently fighting the third wave of coronavirus so all the mega-events that can further spread the disease should either be canceled or conducted with proper SOPs. While it is obvious that organizers will take into account the SOPs and allow the limited audience, there is another objection to the event.
The government of Pakistan has indeed started the vaccination drive for health workers and senior citizens. However, it doesn’t seem to have a strategy to speed up the vaccination. It is mainly relying on the Covax program and allowing the private sector to import the coronavirus vaccine at exorbitant prices; this means that process of vaccination in the country will be slow and expensive. Consequently, after few months when the developed world will be able to fully open its economy after vaccinating the citizens, Pakistan will still be facing certain restrictions while further jeopardizing its economic growth.
Therefore, those concerned about the development sector argue that the government’s first priority should be to spend on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic through vaccination rather than organizing the events like a parade on National Day.
What Pakistanis Think about This?
To know about what is the general opinion of the citizens of Pakistan, HoursTV went to the public and questioned the citizens in this regard. The team asked the people at Iqbal Park (the place where the Pakistan Resolution was passed in 1940) about their idea of celebrating Pakistan Day. Interestingly, there were mixed reactions to this. The citizens did seem concerned about Pakistan’s abysmal performance on the economic front and the challenges the country faced due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, they also supported the idea of holding a military parade on the eve of the National Day, since it was a celebration that Pakistan was an independent country, capable of defending its boundaries.
As obvious from the video, citizens do feel that due to the covid 19 pandemic Pakistan should be spending money on health. But, they are also of opinion that such celebrations increase the fervor and passion in the young generations that like to see the display of country’s military strength and cultural diversity on this eve.
They are also proposing that there should be an off day and cannons should be fired since such day comes in one in a year. The world should know that Pakistanis have passion. One respondent has also opined that he was not in favor of showcasing weapons in the military parade instead he wanted this money to be spent on health and education.
One point of view is also that this is the national day and it is people’s right to celebrate. However, given the financial situation, the money should go into the government treasury and be spent on the citizens’ welfare, particularly in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.