In a message commemorating Defence Day, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that anyone intending to “hurt the bond” between the country’s armed forces and the people was “not a friend of Pakistan” as he called for national unity to face the challenges posed by historic floods.

PM Shehbaz’s message made a veiled reference to a speech Imran Khan delivered recently about the appointment of the future army chief, which triggered fierce criticism from the coalition government as well as a tersely worded statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

His defence day message called for national unity as a panacea for dealing with unprecedented flooding, which has inundated large swathes of the country, displaced millions and killed more than a thousand.

“The whole nation comes together today in paying homage to our martyrs and Ghazis who put their lives on the line to defend the motherland against the Indian aggression. Together, our armed forces and people thwarted the Indian machinations to undermine our territorial integrity,” he said.

“As Pakistan grapples with historic floods and other challenges, we need to summon the spirit of 1965. National unity is our greatest strength,” he went on to say.

“Anyone intending to hurt the bond between our armed forces and people is not a friend of Pakistan. Let us fortify this bond of one nation,” he concluded.

Later, the premier attended a ceremony at Pakistan Monument where he laid a floral wreath at Yadgar-e-Shuhada to pay tributes to the valiant soldiers of the armed forces.

Speaking at the ceremony, he once again highlighted the sacrifices of the country’s martyrs and lauded them for selflessly protecting Pakistan.

The premier said the whole nation saluted the nation’s martyrs for their courage and defiance to defeat each and every assault on the motherland.

“Today, in the wake of disastrous floods in different parts of the country, the nation once again stands united alongside its armed forces to fight and recover from the disaster,” he said.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said September 6 symobolised the “unwavering resolve” of the country’s armed forces to defend the motherland against all odds.

“The nation salutes our heroes,” he said. “We owe our freedom and peace to unprecedented sacrifices of martyrs 2 keep the flag high,” he added.

In his message, President Dr Arif Alvi said today served as a reminder of the unprecedented courage and matchless valour displayed by the jawans and officers of the armed forces.

“On this day, 57 years ago, we thwarted the evil design of the enemy and defeated it on all fronts. In that testing time, not only the armed forces of Pakistan fought fearlessly on ground, in air and in waters, but each and every citizen came out to defend and safeguard the motherland.

“September 6, therefore, stands out in history as a symbol of unwavering national resolve, absolute patriotism, profound professionalism and supreme sacrifice,” he said.

President Alvi went on to say that Pakistan was committed to peace and would continue to follow its policy of peaceful coexistence.

“At the same time, I must emphasise that our desire for peace must not be misconstrued as our weakness. We are well aware of our national as well as international obligations,” he added.

Meanwhile, a change of guard ceremony was held at the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi.

This year’s Defence Day celebrations come as the country grapples with historic flooding, which has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced nearly 33 million.

Last week, the military’s media wing had announced that the Pakistan Army has postponed its annual Defence Day ceremony — held at the General Headquarters Rawalpindi on September 6 every year — in solidarity with flood victims across the country.

Additional input from APP

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