Celebration of Pakistan’s first 70 years as an independent state

Ambassador Masood,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am deeply honoured to be here today. On behalf of the Norwegian Government, I would like to thank you for inviting us to participate in your celebration of Pakistan’s first 70 years as an independent state.

Please accept our heartfelt congratulations!

Norway and Pakistan have close relations, both state-to-state and people-to-people. Immigration from Pakistan started in the late 1960s, when the first immigrants came here looking for jobs.

It was not an easy transition. Many experienced scepticism, poor working conditions and racism. We are still fighting this, but we have come a long way since then.

Right from the start, Pakistani immigrants have helped to create a diverse and plural society, and continue to do so. This has been important. We need to build bridges between people and cultures.

Second generation Norwegian Pakistanis are well integrated into working life and higher education, and several politicians and distinguished members of society have a Pakistani heritage.

And who would have thought that cricket, which had last been played in Norway in the middle of the 19th century, would return?

Today, there are nearly 40 000 people in Norway who were born in Pakistan or whose parents or grandparents were.

I’m impressed to see so many of you here today. Thank you again Ambassador Masood for the invitation, and for bringing us all together on this special day.

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On the 14th of August 1947, Pakistan became the first new state to be created after the Second World War.

As you know, this didn't happen by itself. It required determination, ability and leadership. Many people worked hard, especially the members of the Pakistan Movement. They were seeking to create a separate Muslim state by dividing off the north-western and north-eastern regions of British India. At the forefront of these efforts was Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the All-India Muslim League.

For many Pakistanis, he is the Father of the Nation. Three days before Independence Day, he presided over Pakistan’s new constituent assembly in Karachi.

70 years later we can share Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for a Pakistan with equal rights for all, without discrimination. The words he spoke on that occasion are well known:

“You are free. you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan”. [end quote]

This was something that could not be taken for granted in 1947, and unfortunately still cannot be taken for granted today in many parts of the world.

Over the past 70 years, Pakistan has grown and developed in many ways. On Independence Day in 1947, Pakistan had a population of around 35 million people. Seventy years on, the population is estimated to be more than 200 million.

Pakistan’s average economic growth has been higher than the average for the world economy. Living standards have improved significantly.

The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history, Malala Yousafzai, has influenced the whole world with her clear message on education, women's rights, and peace.

Today, it is almost a decade since the last military ruler gave way to a democratically elected government.

The transition to democracy has not always been easy. But there are many positive signs: the change of prime minister this summer has not affected stability in the country, and the third consecutive democratic election will be held next year.

There is a lot to celebrate.

At the same time, many challenges remain. Few countries have suffered more from terror and extremism. We all share the hope that Pakistan will be successful in the fight against evil and violence.

And there is still work to be done – to eradicate poverty and illiteracy, to ensure access to education and health services for all, to strengthen human rights, and to advance equality between women and men.

Norway recognised Pakistan as a sovereign state already in 1947. Today relations between our two countries are friendly and close.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Oslo in 2015. Foreign Minister Børge Brende visited Islamabad in 2015 and 2016.

Pakistan will remain an important partner for Norway, as it will for the rest of the international community. A democratic, peaceful and tolerant Pakistan – honouring the legacy of Muhammad Ali Jinnah – will be essential for stability, cooperation and progress in South Asia.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

You have all played a part in developing the close relationship between Norway and Pakistan. You have brought Pakistan to Norway and Norway to Pakistan. You have shared Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage with us.

For this, I want to thank you. I am confident that relations between our countries will remain strong for many years to come. Meanwhile, I wish you all a wonderful celebration today.

Congratulations on your 70th Independence Day!