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How Indian farmers’ protest is converting into an all-India Oppressed Peoples’ Movement

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The farmer’s protest began, initially, with sole aim to get the new farm laws repealed. The farmers perceived them as a surreptitious and predatory unilateral attempt to take away their lands, their single source of livelihood. But, the government infatuated by the hubris of parliamentary majority shrugged off the farmers’ demand. They thought that the farmers lacked capacity to mobilize their miniscule protest into a mass movement. Surprisingly, the farmers across several states, irrespective of their religious beliefs joined the protest, braving Police baton charge and water torrents on elderly farmers, besides inclement weather, sometimes becoming freezing. Farmers’ local and Diaspora sympathizers flooded them with food, fruit and even quintals o American almonds (from US-based toot brethren). The government is trying tooth and nail to sow seeds of discord among the kissan unions. Formidable Jat kissan leader,  Rakesh Tikait , now on hunger strike, declared to continue the strike until his death. His Naresh Tikait held that it should end.

To express solidarity with the farmers, 18 opposition parties have decided to boycott Indian president’s address (January 29, 2021) to joint sitting of the parliament at the start of the budget session (The Hindu January 28, 2021). They criticised the government for obduracy when 155 farmers, braving water cannons, tear gas and lathi charges, have already lost their lives. The government-sponsored media published stories that the movement was being backed up by Khalistani and Pakistani elements. Pakistani drones allegedly dropped hand=grenade through drones in East Punjab which eerily never exploded or displayed to the media. The government even drooped to filing an affidavit in Supreme Court to affirm its allegation of foreign aid to the peaceful movement.

The protest went on showing singular interfaith harmony where the non-Muslim human shielded the Muslim offering prayers.

To `strongman’ modi’s chagrin, the protest has now assumed an all-Indian dimension as Bhim-army chief Chandra Sheikhar Azad, founder of azad samaj party (open-society party) joined the protesters  with declaration `ek juth ho kar larna hai’ we have to fight united).

The famers’ stamina baffled the arrogant Modi government’s imagination. The farmers turned their trolleys into makeshift dormitories. The sick and tired farmers were relieved to be replaced with fresh batches from homes far afield. Women back home plunged into the fields to take care of cultivated land and livestock.

How Azad’s (Bhim army) participation galvanized the protest

The government’s effort to black out the peaceful protest floundered. Soon Azad’s harangues became viral on social media. He taunted the government that it prevented the peaceful farmers to reach Delhi, but it could not stop the Chinese from building 110 houses in Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The media blacked out pictures of farmers’ martyrs including the sikh saints  (sants) who committed suicides to express solidarity with the protesters.

He highlighted linkage between the farmers and traders. If the farmer is destroyed all other traders also would suffer.

The government was able to continue its repression of various have not communities and minorities (Muslims, Christians, dalits’, traders, and so on)as they remained impervious to each other’s plight. Now the time has come to fight united.

Azad is a vocal advocate of women empowerment. In an article, Azad that dalitwomen were never treated as equal citizens during over 72 years of India’s existence (Chandrashekhar Azad Constitutional promise of equal citizenship has been denied to women, Dalits, Indian Express Jan 28, 2021).  He reminds, `The gender and caste-based violence that women face was highlighted by the unimaginable brutality in the rape of a young Dalit woman in Hathras. The latest instance of rape and death of a 50-year-old anganwadi (rural child-care centre) worker by a priest in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh exposes the inefficiency of the state administration to halt the violence against women and its role in reinforcing the persisting feudal, casteist and patriarchal structures of our soaciety… The Dalit-Bahujan movement, which I am a part of, has always sought gender and social equality and exposed the failure of administration in responding to violence and crimes against hitherto marginalised people’ he lamented, `Lower-caste women are considered polluted and, therefore, targets of assault and crime. Women are subjugated by the customs, rituals, and rules as defined by the Brahminical structure’. The  physical and sexual violence against Dalit women, evident in the rape and death of two Dalit teenage girls in 2014 in Badaun; two Dalit minor girls in Walayar in Kerala in 2017; and a 23-year-old Dalit girl in Unnao in 2019.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report “Crime in India 2019” recorded 3, 59,849 crimes against women in 2017; 3, 78, 236 in 2018 and 4, 05,861 in 2019 — a persistent rise. Eleven per cent of reported cases of rapes were committed against Dalit women in India. UP has been at the top in terms of violence against women at 56,011 in 2017; 59,445 in 2018 and 59,853 in 2019. The state has the largest share of crimes against women in India at 14.7 per cent. Likewise, UP tops with the dubious distinction of the highest number of cases in dowry deaths, acid attacks, cruelty against women by husband or his relatives, kidnapping and abduction of women, and assaults on women with intent to outrage their modesty. The government in UP, though vigilant about the protection of cows, has failed miserably to make the state safe for women. Fearful of minorities’ backlash in next elections, even the RSS chief Mohin Bhagwat ranted allegiance to Indian constitution on the occasion of the Republic Day.

Modi’s nightmare

The BJP bagged 31 per cent of the votes cast in 2014 and over 37 per cent in 2019, thanks to the Modi-magic wave. India’s population is 121 crore as per Census 2011. Of it, now the 41.73 per cent `oppressed-movement’ wave appears to have turned against him (Muslim 14.23%, Christians 2.3%, the Scheduled castes (numbering 1108)16.6%, and Scheduled Tribes (744) 8.6%.

Authoritarianism and hubris

The Modi government is on a collision course with various interest groups. For instance, trading classes were alienated by demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax; students protested in many parts of the country after Reith Visual died by suicide; Dalit groups mobilized against the dilution of the legislative framework against atrocities; labour unions began a movement against changes in labour laws; and religious minorities stood up against the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens. It had to buckle or backtrack on several occasions after vehement opposition. The euphoria of Hindu paradise for Hindus migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan evaporated when 11 Hindu migrants from Pakistan were killed at a Rajasthan farm under circumstances shrouded in mystery.  Modi-Shah cocktail treats its allies as deadweight to its cocktail. After death of

Soft-spoken interlocutors Arum Jailed and Cushman Sartaj, Modi is now left with only Rajnath Singh and Nit in Gadkarito to play the role of conciliators. Even the leftover conciliators are helpless when the Modi-Shah maximalist duo treats the Congress as a Pak-China cabal.

RSS subdued

Neither the RSS chief (Mohin Bhagwat) , nor its general secretary (Bhaiyaji Suresh Joshi) attended  flag-hoisting at the RSS’s headquarters (January 26, 2021). The excuse tendered for their absence was that Joshi is in Tripura and Bhagwat is on a visit to Gujarat. Reflecting disunity, two separate functions were held, one at Mahal (Nagpur) and the other at the Doctor Hedgewar Smruti Mandir Campus (Reshimbagh Nagpur). The city-unit chief echoed empathy with the downtrodden, in the backdrop of Bhim sena’s entry into the farmers’ protest. He said, `The society at large should try to include marginalized  classes in its progress’.

Though Modi himself attended the foundation-stone-laying ceremony of Ram temple, he did not dole out official funds for its construction at Ayodhya. Manohar Sapkar, who heads the Ayodhya unit of the RSS in the city appealed, `Youth needed to come forward to collect donations for the temple. A public donations drive is underway until March 15 which is supported by the RSS’. Sapkal recalled, `When the prime Minister Narendra |Modi took part in the groundbreaking ceremony  of the temple, there was the impression that the temple will be built by the government’ Tricolour unfurled  amid calls for Ram Mandir  donations, Times of India, January 26, 2021).  The portents are that Modi is afraid of the rising influence of  Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh’ chief minister .

Conclusion

Narendra Modi was emboldened by blanket Trumpian support for his draconian persecution of minorities in India. President Biden has promised to organize “a global Summit for Democracy” this year as part of his administration’s effort to restore America’s global leadership role. Religious tolerance is an essential plank of democracy. As such, he should tag protection of religious freedom as a precondition to good relations with the USA.

The international community and the USA should take India to task for human rights violations. The USA could invoke provisions of the International Religious Freedom Act, passed in 1998, during the Clinton administration, against the rogue Modi government.

The USCIRF’s annual report on international religious freedom includes recommendations to designate “Countries of particular Concern.” India is a `country of concern’. The secretary of state resists the pressure from Indian lobby to waive sanctions on India.

The USA should deny India the Automated facial recognition systems used to identify and to exclude protesters, based on earlier protest videos taped by police. The software used was originally developed to trace missing children. But, it is now reportedly being misused to act against individuals, thereby not merely preventing them from protesting but doing so without any establishment of guilt. India has no legal framework to use technology.

India has a slew of draconian laws which grant its armed and para-military forces to continue its reign of terror particularly in occupied Kashmir and the North Eastern states. The USA should coerce India to stop human rights violations under its draconian laws.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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South Asia

Cease-Fire Review: A ray of hope

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Pre-Negotiations are very much crucial to achieve the state of “Negociation Continuelle” (continuous negotiations) the only way due to which conflicting parties go for sustained mode of talks.  On 25th February Director Generals of military operations (DGMO’s) of India and Pakistan contacted with each other to review cease fire agreement, on line of control (LOC), which was held back in 2003.  Both States reaffirmed cease fire agreement and to restart weekly hotline contact at DGMO’s level. The agreement was largely violated by both states for several times and they were accusing each other for violations. But one thing is common that on both sides Kashmiris are suffering, they are raising their children in an environment of fear and severe violence. India and Pakistan are both nuclear capable states of South Asian region and are considered as the custodian of regional peace and stability. And without shadow of a doubt regional peace and security is a collective responsibility of the responsible states. Pakistan and India are the main conflicting parties of South Asian region and Kashmir is the bone of contention between them. Kashmir has been a question of integrity for both States. The Line of control also known as working boundary, divides Indian Kashmir from Pakistani Kashmir. There are several resolutions have been passed by the UN General Assembly to address the Kashmir issue but never implemented. UN wants to solve this issue according to the hopes of Kashmiris. The initiation of bilateral talks in the present outrageous environment is not less than a blessing in disguise and it will be fruitful for all the stakeholders; India, Pakistan and Kashmiris as well. This peaceful move from Pakistan and India is highly appreciated globally because Kashmiri diaspora is present worldwide and they are very much concerned with future of their homeland.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi, with his hostile ideology of “Akhand Bharat” assumed office in 2014. His political adventurism based on jingoistic-cum-hawkish policies dragged India State to the verge of staunch illiberalism where identity crisis burst up, which is more lethal than previously existing class crisis. Every community including lower class Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. all are vulnerable to the identity crisis.  On 30th May 2019, he sworn for his second tenure as prime minister of the world’s so called largest democracy. He came with another adventurous mandate and the first demonstration took place when he suspended special status of Kashmir and abrogated articles 370 and 35A. His ideology is regarded as Nazi-inspired ideology because in contemporary scenario only RSS community and other proponents of Hindutva are only considered as “Real Hindustani”. All minorities are suffering in India because their basic living rights are kept aside. The ongoing farmer’s protests shook the foundations of the state, hundreds of thousands of farmers rushed to the Delhi against the anti-famer laws passed by Indian Parliament.

In India Separatist movements are getting pace; minorities are unsatisfied with governing approach of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reuined the secular and democratic face of India. On the other hand, Foreign policy of India is facing severe challenges because PM Narendra Modi’s approach is hostile based on hatred and prejudice. These attributes are fatal for State’s reputation at foreign lands; the recent India-China standoff was just a teaser of BJP’s whole story related to foreign relations. In addition to this, Economic goal of 2025 of India is again became a distant dream just because of belligerent policies of ruling regime.

In contemporary scenario if we look towards India, only Modi-Media nexus will be seen. But in reality the situation is getting worse day by day. The review of cease fire agreement, offered by India, is a positive step towards the regional peace. It is appreciated by both civil and military administrations of both states. When PM Imran Khan assumed office he offered dialogue to his Indian counter-part but Indian Premier refused to go for any sort of talks. India always took a position that to initiate talks first of all, Pakistan has to stop the cross-border terrorism. Both terrorism and talks can never go side by side, this Indian claim is not based on empirical evidences because Pakistan has been facing menace of terrorism  since 2001 and leaving no stone unturned to root out terrorism and safe havens for terrorists.

Currently, India is facing deep internal and external challenges. It is in the interest of India to have peace talks with Pakistan. On the other hand, it is a ripe moment for Pakistan to act decisively because it is the only time when India can review its decision of 5th August 2019.Moreover, it is a ray of hope to establish peace in entire region. This is the time when bi-lateral diplomacy can turn the traditional regional political dynamics. Both states are facing same problems when it comes to poverty, climate change, social security and the list goes on. The realm of these talks should expand and concern parties have to include economic and political regimes in front of each other otherwise momentum of talks will be lost. Regional connectivity is important to have eternal peace, Pakistan and India should review SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) that would provide basis for economic, cultural as well as political connectivity. Major Powers should also play their important role because world cannot afford rivalry between two nuclear states. Now, America is under a democrat President, and they should check every internal and external move of their Strategic and defense ally in Asia-Pacific region. Negotiations between India and Pakistan are in the interest of all other regional and extra-regional actors. Both states should adopt flexible approach while discussing the core issues and should avoid blame game. It will enhance the chances of continuous negotiation which is a pre-requisite for peace and progress.

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What does the Kashmiri want?

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Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac

A group of envoys visited the illegally-occupied Jammu and Kashmir State ostensibly `to take first-hand account of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and government’s efforts to restore normalcy’ (Hindustan Times February 17, 2021). Srinagar welcomed the envoys with a spontaneous shutdown. Prior to the visit, political leaders and human-rights activists were detained. The envoys did not visit Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or any of the other opposition Kashmiri leaders.

The Hindu dated February 17, 2021 reported ‘The J&K government showcased “deepening democracy” to visiting 24 foreign diplomats, who arrived on a two-day tour of the Union Territory (UT) on Wednesday amid a spontaneous shutdown in Srinagar and alleged detention of recently elected National Conference (NC) district council members in Budgam’.

Post-special-status abolition situation

After abrogation of the special status, India took a number of steps to silence public dissent_diurnal and nocturnal search operations to hound, kidnap or kill the Kashmiri, Internet ex-communication, blatant use of draconian laws against ordinary Kashmiris and their leaders alike. A law was passed to jail parents of stone-pelters., if any. Meanwhile local body elections were held in which the ruling BJP was cut to size. But, India, as reported b y the Hindu also, showcased the elections in international media as a proof of popular participation and contentment of the people with the status quo.

Have the Kashmiri resigned to their fate

The mysterious silence in the Valley during the envoys’ visit speaks volumes on how much the Kashmiri hate India. However, it appears the Kashmiri could have shown their ennui through some mode of peaceful protest.  They could draw lessons from the Occupy the Wall Street or Precariat Movement in the USA.

Occupy has six letters. A group of six persons mostly celebrities in their fields, stand up at some busy street holding letters O,C, C, U, P, and Y. The Kashmiris also could have displayed the letters in word `AZADI’ through a group of five persons.

Apathy

Arnold Toynbee, in his Challenge and Response Theory postulates that if a challenge is too onerous a nation may become apathetic. In similar vein, Ibn-e-Khaldoon suggests that survival of a tribe (nation) depends on cohesion (asabiya, nationalism) of a tribe faced with life-and-death threat around its frontiers.

Amy Chua (Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations) talks about static or dynamic response of a society as shaped by group instincts of various components of a society.

Applying Amy Chua’s framework to Kashmir situation

Amy Chua challenges the view that the conventional mechanism of demokratia (government by the people) is a panacea for all the problems of a society. Thus the recently-held local level elections or even `state assembly’ elections in occupied Kashmir are no panacea for the Kashmiris’ simmering discontentment, their revulsion to yoke of Indian rule. Chua, in her afore-quoted book analysed situation in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Venezuela, besides so-called terror tribes including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Kashmir in Chua’s framework would suggest it is naïve to believe that Kashmiris are resigned to their fate. By analogy, even a thousand years of exploitation by a microscopic Chinese population did not subdue the Vietnamese hatred of the Chinese. As soon as the Americans left Vietnam, the native Vietnamese prowled upon the rich community of Chinese like a pack of wolves. The Americans plunged into decade long futile war with Vietnam without realizing that the Vietnamese were not Chinese stooges.

The indomitable fighting spirit

Indian forces had been using pellet guns to blind the Kashmir. Now, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, they have begun to use even chemical weapons against the Kashmiri.

Let us have a glimpse of the dogra’s reign of terror in Kashmir. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the dogra punished even Kashmiri children who played with fork-slings (ghulail) and stones (Muhammad Yousaf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom, vol. 1, p. 50). Under the dogra rule, the Kashmiri were treated no better than beasts of burden. Instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used to transport goods across Gilgit, Leh and Skardu. They carried luggage on their backs across glaciers as high as 17,000 feet. Thousands of them perished along the way each year owing to frost bites, fall from a precipice, and hunger or sickness. The dogra caravans were not humane enough to stop for a while in the snowy passes to look after the injured porters (or ‘human beasts of burden’). Besides performing the forced labour, the Kashmiri had to pay heavy taxes. Whole of their produce was confiscated by the dogra. Little was left for tillers and their children to eat. On every item, the oppressed Kashmiri had to pay multiple taxes. Take shawls. Not only the shawl-makers were taxed, but also the other intermediaries like importers of pashmina (wool) from Ladakh, and storekeepers, whether wholesalers or retailers (ibid. p. 280-81).

The regressive revenue system resulted in a famine during winter of 1877. People began to die of starvation. Instead of releasing grain stocks from the royal go-downs, the maharajah’s constabulary drowned the starved, crying people in the Wullar Lake. Saraf writes: “Whole boat-loads of starving people have been conveyed by the Maharajah’s officials to the Woolar Lake, and there drowned” (ibid. p. 294).

The reign of terror by Indian forces (now estimated at about nine lac regulars and security personnel) who replaced the maharajah’s constabulary on October 27, 1947 is no less gruesome. International human-rights organisations, as well as India’s National Human Rights Commission, have brought into limelight the Kashmiri’s mysterious disappearances, their custodial deaths, and countless rapes of hapless Kashmiri women.

Like the dogra, Indian rulers are mercilessly exploiting Kashmiris’ economic resources. Bulk of locally-generated electricity is being diverted to Indian states. The tourism industry is in shambles. Highly – educated people have no jobs. With no inflow of tourists, the shopkeepers have no business. Unlike the occupied Kashmir, all the socio-economic sectors in Azad Kashmir are progressing by leaps and bounds.

Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory suggests that if the challenge is too strong, a nation becomes apathetic. Ibn-e-Khaldoon’s asabiya (spirit of national cohesion) also suggests that a nation’s spirit is likely to be smothered by a challenge which is too heavy. Historical lessons do not apply to the Kashmiri’s struggle. Neither Indians, nor the dogra could gag them. The struggle for freedom has continued unabated.

The lesson from Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom is that repression or palliatives like elections in occupied Kashmir are no good. The Kashmiri wants “freedom”. Their group instinct is `resistance’. But they need to learn from peaceful resistance movements like the Occupy and the Precariat.

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Pakistan Day Celebrations: Civilian Participation

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Pakistan got independence on 14 August 1947 by hectic political struggle from the platform of All India Muslim League (AIML) under the dynamic leadership of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The presidential address at Allahabad on 29 December 1930 of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, accelerated and gave more clarity to the movement. He presented the idea and concept that Muslims are a separate nation by emphasizing that a nation is distinguished from the other based on religion, customs, and traditions. At the same time, he strongly disagreed with the Western concept of religion as a private affair. Iqbal explained that Islam is a way of life and thus Muslims are a separate nationand accentuated that unless their rights areprotected, it is impossible to establish peace and tranquility in the sub-continent. The determined political struggle of AIML led to March 23, 1940, Lahore Resolution, at its 27th annual session. The Quaid addressed the session on the first day andstressedthat Hindus and Muslims follow two different religions, philosophies, social customs literature and this made them two distinct nations.

The contents of the resolution, according to Story of Pakistan are“No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may benecessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”. It strongly rejected the concept of United India. The word states wassubstituted to one state by a resolution passed at the 1941 Madras session of the AIML which stated, “everyone should clearly understand that we are striving for one independent and sovereign Muslim State.” Moreover, in all speeches, the Quaid used the word “an independent homeland” or “an independent Muslim state”.Pakistan and India became dominions on 14 and 15 August 1947 respectivelyby the Indian Independence Act, 1947, based on the Mountbatten Plan of 3 Junepassed by the parliament of the UK on 18 July. Keeping in view the atrocities being committed by RSS, a militant wing of BJP in Indian Illegally occupied Kashmir (IIoK), and minorities especially Muslims in all over Indianot being allowed to practice religion freely, havevery sturdily substantiated the decision of AIML to fight for a separate state for Muslims. It elucidates their political acumen and far-sightedness. 

Pakistan remained a dominion for about nine years till thefirst constitution as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was adopted on 23 March 1956.Thereafter 23 March was celebrated as “Republic Day” (Yome Jamhooria)every year to commemorate the Lahore resolution and adoption of the constitution.   After the imposition of martial law by Ayub Khan in Oct 1958,it is being celebrated as“Pakistan Day”. Probably the plotter of the coup could not celebrate constitutionalism and democracy on March 23 so ‘Republic Day’ was replaced with ‘Pakistan Day.  The main feature is a three-servicesparade in Islamabad followed bythe display of military weapons and equipment. Floats of the provinces also march past. The flypast by Army and Navy combat aircraft displaying their weapons and equipment.The flypast by PAF fighters and aerobatic.

The celebrations are spread over about two and half hours.Pakistan Day has taken the shape of a Defense Day which was not originally intended. Moreover, Army, Navy, and Air Force organize their respective Defense Days on 6,8, and 7 Septemberevery year. The events of the Pakistan Day parade give an impression especially to civilians that military strength is the only most important component of national power. The remaining such as economic capacity, natural resources, industrial capacity, national cohesion, political structure, and leadership, etc. which are also very vital needs to be given projection. Therefore, parade proceedings may be modified to include more participation of civilian-related events. The latest inventory and indigenously developed weapons and equipment may be displayed to reduce timings. The PAF fighters may only carry out professional flypast andaerobatic performance similar to the aerobatic display team, like “Red Arrow “may be excluded. It is pertinent to mention that most of the countries have prohibited aerobatic display in public places to avoid any untoward incident. It is suggested that floats carrying students who have topped in the boards and universitiesand have done distinct research work in the past year may be added. Similarly,floats carrying civilians who have been awarded Pride of Performance and other awards, businessmen who have been bestowed awards, sportsmen who have brought honors for Pakistan may also be included.  Few industrial floats may also be added with indigenously manufactured machinery and other items.Floats carrying agricultural products and livestock may also be considered.Citations are read as the float passes the dais. Moreover, in Islamabad and the provincial capitals industrial exhibitions may be organized which may include indigenously developed machinery and other items.The civilian participation in Pakistan Day celebrations will certainly add colors and act as a source of pride for them as well as for the nation.

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