KARACHI: In March 1948, the British Council opened its doors to the public in the city, in a newly formed nation with the aim to further the United Kingdom’s relationship with Pakistan in the fields of art, culture and education. In 2018, at the closing ceremony of the celebrations marking 70 years of the British Council in Pakistan, a promise was made to sustain the same vision “for decades to come”.
At the event held at Governor House on Wednesday, a special message from the Queen was read out by British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew.
In the note that she signed off as Elizabeth R., she said: “As your Patron, I have much pleasure in sending my congratulations to the staff and all those who have been associated with the British Council in Pakistan on the occasion of your Seventieth Anniversary. Over the years I have been able to observe the continued educational and cultural support the British Council has provided to young people in Pakistan. On this notable anniversary, I send my good wishes to you all for the continued success of this valuable work.”
UK termed a great friend with great faith in Pakistan
Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair recalled the time when the British Council library was a household name and how it was the perfect place to indulge the passion to read and learn; one could see children and adults of all ages present there.
The relationship between the UK and Pakistan is very valuable, he said. “The UK has been a great friend to Pakistan and has had great faith in our country. And the British Council is just one of the numerous contributions made in the field of education, literature, arts, architecture, economy, sports and culture.”
The corridors of the British Council, Mr Zubair said, opened up a new world to Pakistanis which is why the relations between the two seem to be very natural. “Even today, with Pakistan emerging from difficult times especially with regards to the security conditions, the British Council has contributed in creating better cultural and knowledge links between the people of Pakistan and the UK. The collaborative work between the British Council and the government of Pakistan is also an indication of their confidence in Pakistan and its people.”
Mr Drew fondly spoke about the untiring efforts of the British Council in Pakistan. “I am proud of the work the British Council has done over the last 70 years in Pakistan. Our shared history underpins our commitment towards a shared future that is beneficial for the people of both the countries to create strong cultural and economic connections.”
He spoke about the necessity of people and institutions to interact with one another and through friendly knowledge and understanding trust can be built. The reopening of the British Council library in 2016 after a 15 year gap, he said, has further helped achieve this and is a cause to celebrate.
The British Council, said Mr Drew, has allowed people from all backgrounds and all circumstances to access and taste British ideas and culture. “Partnership is very important and the millions in Pakistan the British Council has helped fulfil their potential is just a microcosm of this country’s potential.”
The British Council, it was shared at the closing ceremony, has partnered extensively with people and communities in Pakistan for capacity building and cultural exchanges. This has allowed support and inspiration to be extended to the next generation of thinkers, writers and leaders in Pakistan with the notion that if Pakistan succeeds, the UK succeeds.
“Seventy years ago this month, we opened our doors in Karachi to the people, institutions and government of what was then a new country taking its first strides into the world. Today Pakistan is one of the planet’s largest democracies and amongst the most important nations globally for my organisation, and, of course, for the UK,” said Rosemary Hilhorst, British Council’s director in Pakistan.
She also spoke about the resounding success of Dosti, an initiative by British Council that aims to empower people through sports.
“As we begin our next chapter in Pakistan, the British Council will be relentlessly positive about what we are doing here, about showcasing the immense potential of this country, and helping young people fulfil their talent as we set out to do 70 years ago from one office in this city, Karachi, and today in 30 cities across Pakistan,” she summed up.
The launch of a collection of stories and images showcasing 70 years of the British Council working with the people of Pakistan was also discussed. Titled 70 Years, 70 Stories, the book is an eyewitness account of the connection between the people of Pakistan and the UK.
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018