Jon Ryan

Consul, Islamabad

Guest blogger for FCDO Editorial

Part of FCDO Outreach

23rd December 2016 London, UK

Hogmanay 2017 from Islamabad!

As we look forward to 2017 and celebrating the Scottish holiday of Hogmanay, I’m thinking about the special link between Scotland and Pakistan. The British High Commission in Islamabad has an active Scottish contingent, who support the relationship between Pakistan and the whole of the UK, including Scotland, on issues ranging from economic development to police reform.  We also try to bring some of Scotland’s culture to Pakistan, and our annual Burns Night party, complete with a Pakistani military bagpipe player (pictured), has become the must-have ticket in Islamabad.


Military links between the two countries were formed when Pakistan was under British rule. As a result, many of the military regiments’ ceremonial costumes involve tartan, and we have no trouble finding a Pakistani military bagpipe player for special occasions. Amazingly Pakistan is the biggest maker of bagpipes in the world outside of Scotland, and one of the biggest producers of tartan.


But most important are the people-to-people links between Pakistan and Scotland: 50,000 people in Scotland identify themselves as of being of Pakistani origin, and today Pakistani cuisine is very much a part of Scottish – and British – culture. Pakoras – which are my favourite – are as easy to find in Glasgow as they are in Islamabad! Family ties are central to both Pakistani and Scottish culture, which means the large Pakistani diaspora in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, visits Pakistan to rediscover their roots or to see family and friends.

That is where I come in: the job of my team is to help British people who might encounter problems in Pakistan. This could include people who have been the victim or perpetrator of crime, property disputes, or forced marriage – 40% of forced marriage cases dealt with by the UK Government’s special unit in London involve people from Pakistan. Our job at the High Commission is to help where we can.

But most visits to Pakistan are trouble-free and this is a great country to visit. The food, the hospitality, the history and the natural beauty – especially in the northern areas – are breathtaking… and the heat can be too! To have an enjoyable and safe visit make sure you look at our travel advice pages, take out travel insurance and familiarise yourself with the local customs.

Any Scottish people visiting Pakistan, whether they have links to Pakistan or not, will also find an intangible familiarity about Pakistan. Maybe it’s the mountains, maybe it’s the deep-fried vegetables, but it’s there. Do visit, but be safe, be insured, and be travel aware.


Jon Ryan joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November 2001. Originally from Greenock in Scotland, Jon is now the British Consul in Pakistan and lives in Islamabad with his wife and two young children; Sophia and Henry. During his 15 year career he has served in Greece, Libya and Bangladesh. Jon is a keen environmentalist with a particular interest in renewable energy and in his spare time enjoys running, skiing and scuba diving.