Pakistan unveiled its first locally manufactured armed drone aircraft on Monday at the country's Republic Day parade. The highly-anticipated military parade, which featured the country's armed forces, reportedly took place seven years after it was halted due to fears of terrorist attacks.
The introduction of the indigenous drone is being considered as a key element in Pakistan’s ongoing battle against local Islamic militant groups, The Associated Press reported. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain and army chief Raheel Sharif, who were present at the event, applauded as the aircraft took off, local media reported. The last Republic Day parade was held in 2008 and was discontinued due to "security concerns."
The country’s military has been fighting several insurgent groups that have sheltered in tribal areas along the Afghan border, forcing the government to launch a massive counterterrorism operation to curb attacks that have claimed thousands of lives over the years in the country. However, the militants have responded to these efforts by stepping up the offensive, including attacks on the country's transport hubs, and an army-run school.
The Pakistan government has faced immense pressure to do more to tackle the Islamist insurgency in the country following the deadly attack on a Peshawar school on Dec. 16, which killed over 150 people, mostly children.
Over the years, the United States has conducted several drone strikes targeting militants believed to be hiding in the country. The strikes, according to one estimate has killed about 2,200 people, and have invited the ire of the local population and, at times, that of the Pakistani government as well, straining relations between the two countries.