South African Freedom Day celebrated

Acting South African High Commissioner Christo Janse Van Noordwyk, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan  and other dignitaries on stage during the Freedom Day of South Africa celebrations in Islamabad.
Acting South African High Commissioner Christo Janse Van Noordwyk, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and other dignitaries on stage during the Freedom Day of South Africa celebrations in Islamabad.

Christo Janse Van Noordwyk, acting high commissioner, hosted a large reception in Islamabad on the Freedom Day of the Republic of South Africa, celebrating the country’s 25 years of democracy.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan was invited to the event as chief guest.

Mr Van Noordwyck said the new high commissioner would be appointed soon after elections take place in South Africa on May 8.

Although it is now 25 years since apartheid was dismantled and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, the country still remains divided along racial lines, with about two-thirds of black citizens living in poverty, along with 40pc of mixed race citizens, 6pc of Indian/Asian and 1pc of whites. For all groups, poverty has gone down over the last decade, but unemployment is on the rise.

South Africa has a GDP per capita of about $7,500 and a population of about 58 million. The economic growth of Africa’s second largest economy has slowed down and is expected to be just over 1pc this year.

“As always, economic growth is important for reducing socioeconomic differences and create great equality,” said an economist among the guests.

“South Africa, with its history, is one of the most unequal countries in the world, and it is a tremendous task to change the situation, which will take time,” she added.

Another guest drew attention to the close contact between South Africa and Pakistan, especially in business. There are Pakistani foreign workers there and some have established their own companies.

“I have visited the country, and it is fantastic,” said the guest. “The tourist industry is advanced and there is so much to do and see in the beautiful land with its cultural and ethnic diversity. In that way, it is a country of the future.”

Norwegian National Day celebrated ahead of time

Ambassador Kjell-Gunnar Eriksen speaks on the occasion of the Norwegian National Day at his residence in Islamabad.
Ambassador Kjell-Gunnar Eriksen speaks on the occasion of the Norwegian National Day at his residence in Islamabad.

It was a most pleasant spring evening when Norwegian Ambassador Kjell-Gunnar Eriksen welcomed guests to his official residence to celebrate the Norwegian National Day two weeks ahead of time, as the actual date is May 17.

“The day is held in commemoration of Norway becoming independent from Denmark after 400 years and adopting its own constitution in 1814,” explained the ambassador in his speech.

He said it was one of the most liberal constitutions at the time, and it is now one of the world’s oldest, naturally with several amendments.

He said that the day has become a children’s day, celebrated in every town and village all over the country, with schools playing an active role.

Ambassador Eriksen said that it has been 50 years since the Norwegian development aid programme to Pakistan started, and the embassy recently launched a substantive report summarizing activities and results.

A guest said that next month, the city of Oslo will mark the 50th anniversary of the immigration of Pakistanis to Norway, with about 45,000 in a population of 5 million.

The ambassador thanked the guests for having taken time to attend the reception, including the Pakistani officials. He also thanked the staff at the embassy for the preparations they had made for the event.

The food at the event included tasty little hot dogs, fish balls, ice cream, strawberries, and more.

“The food certainly reminded me of what children and adults enjoy on the day in Norway,” said Dr M. Ali Nawaz, chairman of the Pakistan-Norway friendship association, PANA.

“I stayed in Norway with my family for four years pursuing my PhD degree, specializing in environment and wildlife,” he added. “Now I teach at university and work on the protection of snow leopards in Pakistan.”

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2019

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