The 78th National Day of Pakistan was celebrated in style at Ritz-Carlton Doha last evening. The glittering ceremony was attended by a large number of Qatari dignitaries, including royals, high-ranking government functionaries, members of the diplomatic corps, prominent businesspeople and notables of the Pakistani community in Qatar.
HE the Minister of Justice and Acting Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Dr Hassan Lahdan Saqr al-Mohannadi graced the occasion as the chief guest, along with HE the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed bin Hassan al-Hammadi, Protocol Chief Ibrahim Yusuf Fakhro, Pakistan’s just retired distinguished air chief Sohail Aman, and Alfardan Group chairman Hussain Alfardan were also present on the occasion.
The ceremony began with the playing of national anthems of Qatar and Pakistan, which was followed by a speech from Shahzad Ahmad, Pakistan’s ambassador to Qatar. The envoy gave a brief backgrounder of the day’s significance — the ‘Pakistan Resolution’ of 23rd March 1940 in Lahore that paved the way, seven years later, for an independent state for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent.
In a departure from mostly formal speeches, ambassador Ahmad highlighted Pakistan’s rich heritage and culture, zeroing in on the tourism potential offered by the country’s historical sites and the sheer majesty of its breathtaking landscape.
Inviting the distinguished guests, and everyone else to take the plunge, he said, “Today, it’s never been easier to visit and learn about the rich culture of Pakistan and its people. The Financial Times added Pakistan to its list of “Where to go in 2018: an insider’s guide” and now with nine flights a day from Qatar Airways and a journey time of three hours, it has never been easier to make this a destination.”
He advised the interested not to pay heed to the often biased portrayal of his country. “The media image portrayed of Pakistan is so far from reality. Pakistan is culturally rich, diverse and the Pakistani people welcoming and tolerant. Misperceptions have been popularised by lazy, and at times, biased journalism,” the ambassador noted, before pointing out that the world had grown smaller through the frequency and low cost of travel.
“There are really no excuses for unfounded opinion making. And I urge you to visit and see Pakistan for yourself,” Ambassador Ahmad said as a series of spectacular visuals played out on the large screen for the benefit of the guests.
He was also sanguine about the state of bilateral relations with Qatar. He said Pakistan and Qatar shared extremely strong ties, and that theirs was “not a singular relationship but multi-faceted”. He noted that the last several years had seen those ties become ever stronger.
“We pray for the success of our Qatari brethren, and our mission in Qatar continues to look for avenues of cooperation between our two countries. I am confident in our continued shared partnership,” the ambassador said, and thanked His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Qatari leadership, government and the people, for the love and support that they have shown and continue to show to the Pakistani people.
The official ceremony concluded with the cutting of a cake by Qatari guests of honour, and the Pakistani ambassador.
Yesterday’s high profile event was the second successive celebration of Pakistan’s National Day following Friday’s festivity on the embassy premises for expatriate Pakistanis. Yesterday’s celebration was made all the more memorable for it marked the day when Pakistan was crowned World Champions after winning the cricket World Cup in Australia.
In a spirited coincidence, major league cricket also returned to Karachi yesterday after a hiatus of nine years, sparking wild jubilations back home. The Pakistani guests at Ritz-Carlton were soon treated to the live coverage of the Pakistan Super League final, doubled by an array of mouthwatering trademark Pakistani dishes, which were equally lapped up by foreigners of all shades.
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