NEW YORK - Under clear blue skies, a large number of Pakistani-Americans living in and around New York City held a colourful parade on Sunday to mark the 66th anniversary of the establishment of Pakistan as an independent, sovereign State.

Men, women and children -- most of them clad in national dresses -- participated in this annual event with enthusiasm. They exchanged Independence Day greetings with each other.

Raising "Pakistan Zindabad" slogans and waving the national flag, Pakistanis cheered the parade as it moved down one of New York City's main avenues. The route from Madison Avenue's 38th street to 23th street was decorated with Pakistani and American flags. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not join the parade, as usually does on the occasion of national days of other countries. Instead he sent a message of greetings to the Pakistani community.

The participants then gathered to hear parade leaders underline the significance of the day and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's golden words to the nation: Unity, Faith and Discipline.

Pakistan's Consul General in New York, Faqir Asif Hussain, who was the chief guest, underlined the significance of the day, and paid high tributes to the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Pakistan, he said, became a reality as a result of the Constitutional and democratic struggle led by the Quaid. Its objective was to create a democratic society in which human rights of the people were respected and minorities protected, he said.

Referring to the challenges Pakistan was facing, the Consul General said the nation would overcome them through hard work and determination. "We are a resilient people."

He said the rise of terrorism and extremism had caused immense damage to Pakistan and as a result the people had suffered greatly.

Asif Hussain called for unity among the ranks of the Pakistanis, and called on members of the Pakistani community that, as ambassadors of Pakistan, they should do their best to improve the country's image.

About a dozen floats, with some depicting Pakistan's progress in various fields, while others sponsored by local Pakistani businesses were also seen.

The parade was rounded off with a cultural programme in which well known singers Waris Baig and Faakhir entertained the crowd. They received thunderous ovation.