ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday vowed to defeat terrorist forces and turn Pakistan into a cradle of peace with the support and unity of the people and cooperation from the army and other vital security institutions.

“The whole nation is united. We are in high spirits and would give an absolute defeat to the terrorists with the full cooperation of army and other national security institutions,” the prime minister said while addressing the flag hoisting ceremony here at the Convention Center to mark the country’s 67th Independence Day.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also attended the ceremony on the special invitation of the prime minister.

Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly, Federal Ministers, members of the Parliament, diplomats and senior civil and military officers were among those who attended the special ceremony.

The prime minister said the government was fully cognizant of the people’s concerns on the menace of terrorism and extremism, adding that the people also know that such challenges come in the history of nations and they fight these with unity and courage.

Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan was a nuclear-weapon state and an important regional power, and any decision about the region cannot be taken without the country’s involvement.

Later, during a joint news conference with Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister Sharif pledged to respond to rising tensions in disputed Kashmir with “restraint and responsibility”.

The prime minister said it was vital to defuse the recent escalation of tension in the Himalayan territory.

Skirmishes have flared across the heavily-militarised Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border in Kashmir, since five Indian soldiers were killed last week in an ambush which India blamed on Pakistani soldiers.

After talks with the visiting UN chief, Prime Minister Sharif said the rising antagonism was a matter of great concern.

“Pakistan will continue to respond to the situation with restraint and responsibility in the hope that steps will be taken by India to reduce tensions,” the premier said at the news conference.

“We have to defuse tension and de-escalate the situation. Our objective is peace. For that, what we need is more diplomacy.”

India and Pakistan both administer part of Muslim-majority Kashmir but claim the mountainous territory in full.

The two sides agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC in November 2003, but there have been sporadic clashes in Kashmir with each side accusing the other of violations.

A deadly flare-up along the LoC in January brought a halt to peace talks that had only just resumed following a hiatus sparked by the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. India blamed Pakistan-based militants for that attack.