After three years, Palestinian envoy bids adieu to friends

A farewell dinner for the outgoing envoy was attended by diplomats, politicians.

Our Correspondent August 30, 2012


“Palestinians have their own homeland and I am going back to my home. I own a house in Palestine and you are welcome to come visit us,” said the outgoing Palestinian ambassador Dr Hazem Abu Shanab while speaking at his farewell dinner on Tuesday.

Invitations such as these may be common at diplomatic farewell functions, but they become special when they come from the envoy of Palestine, where successive generations have struggled to get their homeland vacated from Israeli occupation.

“We are going back with a heavy heart and lots of good memories after serving in this country for over three years,” he said.

Though the function was privately organised by two citizens — Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed Basra and Babar Chaudhry — a number of ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic corps and political parties were present.

Shanab’s young children, his son Hussain and daughters Haseen and Dima, joined their father to serve the guests and say goodbye to everyone.

“This is our tradition. We do not eat till every guest is well fed,” said his younger daughter Dima, when asked why they were not having any food.

“I have mixed feelings. I’m happy that we are going back but I would miss my friends here. We were like at home here,” she said with a smiling face.

Ambassador Shanab said, “What is happening in the Arab world is the beginning of a change.” He did not elaborate on the statement though, keeping in mind his diplomatic credentials.

Dr Shanab is quite probably the first ambassador from Palestine who served for three years and a few months — a normal diplomatic term — in Pakistan. Most of his predecessors served much longer, some even for decades. “I want to set an example. I am sure the people of Pakistan will be giving the same love to my successor,” he added.

The children also presented a rose petal to everyone as a mark of their love before the photo session.

Foreign affairs state minister Malik Amaad Khan, speaking to the gathering, said he spent hours in an abortive attempt to convince Dr Shanab to extend his tenure. “We have been friends since I first received him at the foreign office.

The only occasion we have differed with each other during these three years is when he decided to go back. But I highly appreciate his commitment to serve his nation,” he said.

Pakistan Peoples Party leader Makhdoom Shahbuddin and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq also attended the farewell.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2012.


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