x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 August 2017

Pakistan independence: 'we have every reason to look to tomorrow with optimism'

August 14 marks Pakistan independence day, the country has much to proud of, writes Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE

Pakistan’s anniversary should be a moment of silent and serious introspection, says ambassador Moazzam Ahmad Khan. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Pakistan’s anniversary should be a moment of silent and serious introspection, says ambassador Moazzam Ahmad Khan. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Tomorrow, Pakistan turns 70, an age that connotes maturity borne out of experience. Even though, in the history of nations, 70 years is but a flicker of time, it does signify in our context the coming of age of a nation that was birthed in the face of existential challenges, and has confronted and surmounted tremendous odds. From its creation in the middle of the 20th century right into the 21st, Pakistan has been at the epicentre of transformative global geopolitical trends, and has played a seminal role in shaping and reshaping the currents and cross-currents. 

We have much to be proud of. Pakistan has not only survived but thrived. We can take satisfaction in the fact that today, in terms of purchasing power parity, our country is among the top 30 economies of the world, and well poised to scale the heights of its true and myriad potentials. Pakistan is the world’s only declared Islamic nuclear power, has one of best and technologically advanced militaries, boasts the world’s largest network of canals, hosts one of the largest most skilled and rapidly growing population of English-speaking workers, and remains a top producer of quality textiles, wheat, cotton, fruit and dairy products. Pakistani equities and stock markets have been the best performing in Asia and among the top performers in the world. Add to that the growing array of start-ups and tech companies, IT professionals, scientists, researchers and highly skilled technicians, and couple that with one of the fastest growing telecoms and internet infrastructures in the world, and you have the makings of a world-class, new age economy rooted locally but integrated globally.

We have much to be thankful for. Providence has indeed been kind on us. From some of highest peaks in the north to our coastal mangrove forests, our resources are as rich as they are diverse. Since antiquity, the soils of the Indus have nurtured and germinated ideas and ideologies that have reverberated beyond time and space. Mohenjodaro, Gandhara and Taxila and the mausoleums of countless Islamic saints and thinkers dotting the country testify to this. It’s a tradition that lives on. Pakistan exudes a wholesomeness that can better be felt than described. And this wholesomeness shines through in every facet of our national life. To me, magnanimity of heart and resilience of spirit remain our two core strengths. Consider the fact that Pakistan has among the highest rates of philanthropy in the world. Consider also that for decades now, Pakistan has been host to one of the largest refugee populations, with all the accompanying socioeconomic and security risks, including the scourge of terrorism. It takes great mettle to take on and survive such challenges. We have seen recently how others, far more developed and far more resourceful than us, have buckled in the face of far less. Our DNA was perhaps best showcased in the recent Champions Trophy tournament, in which our young and inexperienced cricket team defied all odds to claim the trophy.

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Operations Zarb-e-Azab and Radd-ul-Fasad have achieved measurable success in dousing the fires of terrorism and extremism. We salute the courage of our valiant armed forces, and the sacrifices of our civilians and of our state institutions. We have turned the corner in the fight against terrorism. The China-Pakistan economic corridor, which is rapidly reaching fruition, is the flagship project of China’s One Belt One Road initiative. It affords myriad opportunities not just for Pakistan, but the entire region. Through it, Pakistan’s vision of connecting and integrating various Asian subregions is receiving a major infrastructural boost. Pakistan, in short, is readying itself to embrace the Asian Century.

An integral aspect of Pakistan’s 70-year journey has been the strong and sustained partnerships it has forged and fostered along the way. We have been lucky to have sincere friends that have added to our strengths and aided us in times of trial and tribulation. Salient among them, I count the United Arab Emirates. Since its founding in 1971, the UAE leadership and people have harboured a special affection and affinity for Pakistan, a sentiment that has always been felt and reciprocated in equal measure by the Pakistani people and leadership. Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founder and its first President, was also one of Pakistan’s eminent friends and benefactors. He will remain always in our prayers. The sapling he planted has been nurtured by successive generations of leaders, including Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. To all these great leaders, and many others of our dear Emirati friends and colleagues, we as a nation and people owe a debt of gratitude. 

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Pakistan’s story would not be complete without taking into account the millions of Pakistanis who leave their homes and hearth, toil in foreign lands, and by dint of sheer strength of will and sincerity of purpose, make a mark for themselves and their country. At 1.5 million, the UAE is home to one of the largest and most diverse diasporas of Pakistanis anywhere in the world. From the labourer in the factory to the driver on the road, to the professionals and the entrepreneurs, Pakistanis in the UAE should be proud of their contribution to the development of this great country, as also their own motherland. They are the real heroes, and ambassadors of their country, and as we mark the 70th anniversary of our independence, we must also celebrate and salute the expatriate Pakistani and his many achievements.

Pakistan’s anniversary should be a moment of silent and serious introspection. Misleading narratives and fallacious imagery does no justice to our reality, which to me, is of a nation of great resolve, resources and resilience. We must continue to tap into these strengths. Temporary setbacks and road bumps should not distract us from our higher objectives. Whatever the opposition, however strong the headwinds, we must remain undaunted. We must remain firm in our convictions, and steadfast in our pursuit of development, peace and prosperity. The future holds great promise. As Pakistanis we have every reason to look to tomorrow with optimism. Let us join hands to make that tomorrow a reality.  

Moazzam Ahmad Khan is Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE