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Pakistanis are set to celebrate 60 years of independence today against a backdrop of Islamist bombings that have shaken General Pervez Musharraf’s government.

Four civilians were killed by a roadside bomb yesterday in the volatile North West Frontier province, while security forces clashed with Islamic militants close to the Afghan border after their checkpoints were attacked.

Since the government’s assault on the Red Mosque during a seige in Islamabad last month, more extreme elements – those who reject democracy and preach violence – have begun to assert themselves.

The anniversary has provoked an outburst of soul-searching among Pakistanis as they look across the border with deep envy at India’s democracy, while their own military leader refuses to relinquish his army uniform.

People throughout the country have started preparation to celebrate the 60th Independence Day of Pakistan in a befitting manner.In this connection, preparations are in full swing across the country and as the auspicious day approaches nearer, the enthusiasm among all men and women, young and old, grows alike in urban and rural areas.

National flags can be seen everywhere – fluttering atop the official and private buildings, houses, markets and shops while streets, lanes, and neighborhoods are being decorated with bunting. Large size national flags can also be seen on cars, trucks and motorcycles. Public and private buildings besides commercial centers have also been decorated with lights and buntings. Stalls in markets and even small shops in localities are busy selling national flags, buntings, badges carrying the photos of national heroes and banners.

People especially children throng these stalls and shops to buy their items of choice. As the day draws nearer, one can observe a mood of festivity at schools, colleges and universities where colourful functions are arranged to highlight the diverse colours of Pakistani culture. Speech competitions are arranged to highlight the grand sacrifices rendered by the Indian Muslims to achieve a separate homeland for themselves and contributions of national heroes in winning freedom.

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