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Mar 23, 7:05 AM EDT

Pakistan celebrates National Day with military parade

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ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistanis celebrated on Friday their National Day with a military parade in the capital, Islamabad, showcasing short- and long-range missiles, tanks, jets, drones and other hardware. Troops, including female soldiers, marched past a stand with political and military leaders.

Thousands chanted "Long Live Pakistan" as Pakistani air force jets flew over, showing off the country's air power, and paratroopers jumped out of helicopters.

Pakistan air force has been critical to the military's offensive against militant hideous in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The military has claimed success in routing militants, but violent attacks have has continued.

As part of security measures in Islamabad, authorities suspended mobile phone services during the parade, presumably as a precaution against homemade bombs being triggered remotely by cell phones.

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain used the occasion to promise to defeat militants who have killed thousands of people in attacks over the past decade. In a televised speech, he also criticized neighboring India for what he called human rights violations in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Pakistan and India have tensed relations and they have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

Authorities blocked some roads in Islamabad during the parade, considered a main event in the day's festivities. Later on Friday, 141 Pakistanis and foreigners are to be honored for outstanding services and achievements, as part of the celebrations.

This year, Cuba's late ruler Fidel Castro is to be honored, in gratitude for sending Cuban doctors to Pakistan in the 2005 earthquake that killed 75,000 people.

Pakistani right activist Asma Jahangir, who died last month in Lahore and often criticized the military's interference in civilian affairs, will also be honored. Her family will receive her award.

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