Adam Thomson

British High Commissioner to Pakistan

Part of UK in Pakistan

26th March 2010 Islamabad, Pakistan

Celebrating a proud Pakistan!

In response to an earlier blog of mine someone asked whether I really meant my description of Pakistan as a proud country or whether I was just being polite.  I was not just being polite.  I meant proud.  And proud in ways that diplomats like me need to understand and remember. 
The celebration of Pakistan Day this week, the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the Lahore Declaration on 23 March 1940, is the perfect opportunity to illustrate my point. 
Like all countries, there are parts of its history of which Pakistan may not be proud.  Like all nationalities, that fact can make some Pakistanis "proud" in a slightly defensive way.  Like all nations, there are many different versions of Pakistan among Pakistanis, especially because it is a young country still shaping its destiny.  So people can be proud of different things.   Sometimes the pride is not in "Pakistan" but in faith or ethnic or local identity.  In a poll supported by the British Council last year of 2,000 young people, only 14% said Pakistan was their primary identity.
So there can be many different types of pride in this country.  And some of that variety was on display in the evening celebration of the the 70th Anniversary hosted by Prime Minister Gilani.  There was the national anthem, verses from the Holy Quran, dances from Pakistan’s four provinces,  recitation of national poems from Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and from the immortal Iqbal and sufi poetry in a fusion of eastern and western music.  There were alot of different emotional currents being brought together to underpin the Prime Minister’s lofty rhetoric –  "We are a living nation..  We are on the path of  victory… We reconnect ourseves to the spirit [of the nation] and make a vow…"
There was plenty of pride here.  But what really showed me that Pakistan is a proud country – and made me proud of Pakistan and proud to be in Pakistan – was the awards ceremony presided over by the President and the Prime Minister in the morning.  The President bestowed awards on military officers, on civilians, on the human rights campaigner Asma Jehangir, on Pakistani sportsmen and on distinguished foreigners who had served Pakistan well. 
But above all medal after medal was given to "shaheeds", the military and civilian martyrs who had given their lives confronting the terrorism that has done so much harm to Pakistan.  The widows, fathers, brothers and children of dead brigadiers and constables, of lieutenants and subedaars, came up to receive their loved ones’ posthumous award.  They did so with dignity and discipline and some quiet personal touches.  No one watching could have failed to be moved.  Truly, this is a proud country.