ISLAMABAD - The nation Monday celebrated 70 years of independence with a patriotic display including a giant flag and a show of airpower.

Celebrations began at the stroke of midnight with firework shows in major cities.

In Karachi the day began with a changing of the guard at the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, where politicians and military commanders laid floral wreaths.

At the highly symbolic Wagah border crossing, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa raised a massive national flag on a 400 foot pole as crowds chanted patriotic slogans.

In Lahore youth cruised through the city streets on motorbikes and cars waving flags, blowing horns, and screaming “Long live Pakistan!”

As per their festive tradition, Lahories danced on the roads with national songs plying in their decorated cars, vans and rickshaws.

In Islamabad, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, along with top generals and foreign dignitaries, presided over a 31-gun salute and flag-raising ceremony to mark the holiday.

“The independence that we got 70 years ago was the fruit of the exemplary struggle of our ancestors,” said Abbasi in an address to the nation. “Thousands of Muslims have made sacrifices for our future and the future of our children.”

President Mamnoon Hussain urged the nation to bury their differences and unite for the stability and development of the country, in his address at Jinnah Convention Centre in Islamabad.

The skies above the federal capital were later streaked with multi-coloured smoke as the Pakistan Air Force hosted country’s largest air show to date.

Fighter jets criss-crossed over the leafy capital in aerobatic manoeuvres as thousands packed shoulder-to-shoulder applauded from a park below. Planes from close allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey also took part.

Up north in the Swat Valley near the restive border with Afghanistan celebrations were more subdued, with events at schools cancelled due to “prevailing law and order” issues.

In nearby Peshawar, Christians held special services at a church and freed doves to mark the holiday. “Four years back my father and brother died in this church in a suicide attack, but I am still here praying for my beloved country,” schoolteacher Neelam Anwar told AFP.

Dressed in green, with Pakistani flags painted in their faces, Sikh youth and children were also a characteristic of celebrations in Peshawar – the only city of Pakistan having considerable population of this religious minority other than in Nankana Sahib.

Speaking at the Convention Centre ceremony in Islamabad, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang highlighted the significance of Pak-China ties and felicitated the Pakistani nation on its 70th independence anniversary.

He expressed China’s determination to support Pakistan in its efforts for development, regional stability and securing its national interests and sovereignty.

Yang said the Chinese government desired to accelerate and accomplish the mega project launched under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for greater economic prosperity of the Pakistani nation.

He said China wanted to further increase the bilateral cooperation in other sectors such as health, sports, academic, scientific knowledge and exchanges of cultural and academic delegations.

President Mamnoon Hussain in his address advised parents to teach their children moral values and make them demonstrate wisdom to become a source for the fulfilment of national goals.

He said that the national issues should be judged in their true perspective rather than seeing them out of context.

Mamnoon said that the poet-philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Father of the Nation Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had encouraged the Muslims to follow the path of moderation and sagacity.

The president said the nation needed to reiterate the strong resolve to always uphold the values of determination and dedication for the objective of development of Pakistan.

“Today let us make a firm commitment that we will adhere to our national objectives and goals. This will pave the way for better governance,” he said. “It will lead to maturity of democratic traditions, and will also strengthen the process of national progress,” he added.

Mamnoon Hussain urged the nation to rise above their minor differences and work for the solidarity and stability of the country.

“Let us promote love and harmony by overcoming hatred and misgivings and secure the future of our nation by turning despondency into hope in order to celebrate freedom in its true sense,” he added.

The president said in the wake of challenges confronted by the country today, it was imperative to promote moderation and rationality, while availing any available opportunities.

“In such a situation, it is necessary to unite under the Constitution in the national interest by setting aside differences and ensure its supremacy. The Constitution is a document which will show us the path to realise national objectives by rising above our personal interests. It will also guarantee progress and stability of the motherland as a manifestation of national aspirations, God Willing,” he added.

President Mamnoon said the undeterred resolve of its people and security forces had brought Pakistan closer to success which would beget stability and prosperity, not only in the country but the whole region.

He said the whole Pakistani nation was united as a strong force for country’s defence.

Later, President Mamnoon Hussain also addressed the PAF aerobatics show in Islamabad. He said that Pakistan armed forces and entire nation had always responded befittingly to the aggressive designs of the enemies of the country.

He said that both internal and external threats would be countered jointly by the security agencies and the nation.

Mamnoon Hussain said the secret to economic development lied in national unity and solidarity. He also paid rich tribute to the security forces for ensuring peace and security in the country.

The president said that the JF-17 Thunder aircraft, jointly designed by the Pakistan Air Force and China would further enhance the defence capability of the country.