KARACHI: The British Council concluded on Wednesday its yearlong celebrations marking 70 years of its operations in Pakistan with a special message from the British monarch.
Queen Elizabeth congratulated the staff and all those involved with council on the 70th anniversary. Her message was read out by British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew.
The envoy, while speaking at the closing ceremony of the year-long celebrations held at Governor House, said, “Britain’s partnership with Pakistan is very important.”
The envoy said there is enormous potential in Pakistan’s relationship with the UK. “The more we can do, the better it is for Pakistan and the UK.”
During the ceremony the British Council also launched ‘70 Years, 70 Stories’ a collection of stories and images showcasing 70 years of the British Council working with the people of Pakistan. “The book says what we see in Pakistan,” explained Drew.
British Council Pakistan Country Director Rosemary Hilhorst highlighted the institution’s Dosti Programme, which she believes defines the relationship between the two countries. The programme uses sports to promote community cohesion.
Hilhorst said the book marking 70 years of the British Council’s presence in the country gives an ‘eyewitness account’ of life in Pakistan. For her, the story of the country’s rising star, female cricketer Umama Asif, was the most interesting part of the book. The book chronicles a timeline of the council in Pakistan, starting with the first office of the British Council being set up in March 1948 at 6-10 Samagati Buildings, Rambaugh Road in Karachi and concluding with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s visit to Karachi in December, 2017. The 70 stories mentioned in the book are of teachers, students, athletes and other beneficiaries of the British Council’s numerous outreach programmes. With quotes like “Her parents called me in tears, thanking us for changing the destiny of future generations” and “I love playing football and being disabled has not stopped me from being part of the game”, the book is a feel-good collection of tales of people helped by the British Council over the years.
The country director said Asif’s story shows how the Dosti Programme helped an individual from an underprivileged background fight social taboos and convince her family to let her play the sport.
Hilhorst said she looks forward to working for the next 70 years with the people of Pakistan.
Governor Mohammad Zubair, while reflecting on 70 years of the council’s presence in the country, said, “The institute has become a household name in Pakistan.”
He shared his own experience with the British Council, saying that he regularly visited the library in the 1960s and 1970s to look up subjects of his interest.
The governor also appreciated the United Kingdom for keeping faith in Pakistan, even though the situation at one time had reached a point where many countries’ representatives had started leaving Pakistan.
Concluding his speech on a lighter note, Zubair said, “The Governor House was also inherited from the British so it is like you [British] are coming back home”.
During the ceremony, the governor was also presented with a copy of the book by Hilhorstthe British Council’s director and the high commissioner. Lahore-based band Mughal-e-Funk closed the event with a dazzling performance.