On March 23, H. E. Mr. A. S. Babar Hashmi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Republic of Bulgaria, gave a reception on the occasion of the National Day of his Country in Sofia Hotel Balkan.

 On this date in 1940 the Resolution was passed to establish a separate country - Pakistan. A few years later, on August 14, 1947, Pakistan gained its independence.

In his welcoming speech to the numerous guests the Ambassador said:

"The Pakistan’s visionary poet philosopher Allama Iqbal, who gave the idea of Pakistan, writes in a couplet which roughly translates:

Although my narration may not be that enticing

It may, perhaps, still touch your heart.

(andaz e biyan gar che bohat shukh nahin hai,

Shayed keh uttar jaiy terey dil main meri baat)

Let me, at the very outset, besides felicitating my own compatriots on our National Day, also extend our Heartiest Congratulations to our Bulgarian friends on the 140th anniversary of their National Day, which was celebrated earlier this month. Our Congrats also to Bulgaria on its Presidency of the EU Council and best wishes for its quest to join the Euro and the Schengen zones.

It was on 23rd March, 1940 when, under the visionary leadership of our poet Philosopher Allama Iqbal and sagacious leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, we decided to reach our dream of a separate homeland and within a short span of 7 years, on 14th August 1947, we gained our independence. So, on this day, while we celebrate, we also bow our heads in humility to commemorate our visionary forefathers and sacrifices of our brave heroes. For us it is also a time for sober reflection, for the goals achieved and dreams yet to be realized.

As we celebrate our National Day, I am happy to note that in all these years, despite, some setbacks, Pakistan’s overall trajectory has been upwards and positive, towards peace, development and prosperity.

In Pakistan today, with a population of 207 million people, 60% of which is our youth, we feel blessed. We have vast fertile plains, blue ocean, fascinating desert and very, very high mountains. Out of the 14 peaks of 8000 meters in the world, 5 are in Pakistan including K-2, the 2nd highest mountain in the world. And one of our Bulgarian friend Mr. Boyan Petrov has conquered them all. Congratulations to Boyan. 

Pakistan is amongst the top 10 countries in the world in terms of cotton, wheat, milk and rice production. We are not lagging far behind even in "human production". While our agricultural products and human achievements are for all to see, our technological prowess is second to none. With the economic growth rate of around 5% per annum, the economy is on the upward trajectory. Over 600 multinationals are currently working in Pakistan and more are vying to join.

With Bulgaria we cherish our long-standing relations. We even celebrate our National Days in the the month of March, locally known as "zhenski metses". More than half a century of our friendly relations are marked by mutual respect, mutual interest and solid friendship. We are confident that these existing relations of friendship and cooperation will be further strengthened in the years to come.

As we witness the Bulgarian efforts for establishing the Gas Hub, for creating connectivity through corridors 4,6,8 and 10, we in Pakistan are also turning our strategic location into an asset through trade, transport and energy connectivity. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of "One Belt, One Road" initiative that would involve many countries of which Bulgaria is also a partner in 16+1 format.

In today’s Pakistan, our priorities are clear: to safeguard our security; to eliminate the scourge of terrorism; to have a peaceful neighbor-hood and to resolve all our disputes peacefully through negotiations including the Kashmir dispute which has vitiated the environment of peace and security in South Asia for over half a century. Let me reiterate, peaceful negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute is the only way forward, today, tomorrow or the day after, and Pakistan is ever willing and ready to negotiate anytime, anywhere.   

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Terrorism is the bane of our times. In fact, Pakistan has made more sacrifices in the war against terror than all the 40 coalition countries combined. We have suffered over 75 000 casualties and have borne the losses of more than US$ 100 billion for the last 15 years. Through security operations like "Zarb e Azb and Radd ul Fasad", we have been successful in breaking the back of terrorists. We hope with collaborative efforts, the remaining elements will also be eliminated soon.

In Afghanistan, in one of the longest, bloodies and costliest war in history, the international community may rally around to what Pakistan has always been suggesting, i.e a negotiated settlement. We may all finally do the right thing after everything else has been tried during the last 16 years. Pakistan fully supports an "Afghan owned and Afghan led" peace process. We, in fact, will be the biggest beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan.  We have been bearing the brunt of more than 3 million Afghan refugees, almost for the last 40 years. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is, therefore, vital for return of refugees and for the economic progress and prosperity of the region. The dividends of peace in Afghanistan can be for the whole region to enjoy.

Pragmatism dictates that problem solving should be a cooperative and collaborative process. If terrorism, illegal migration, narcotics and environmental concerns cannot be tackled in isolation, so does the issues of hunger, poverty, economic deprivation and social injustice.

In the 21st century, it is a sad commentary on our world that 82% of the total wealth generated goes to only 1 % of the population, and out of 2043 billionaires in the world today, 9 out of 10 are men. That much for our slogans of fair-play and gender equality.

It is high time for us to reflect and reflect hard as to where did we go wrong. In facing these challenges, the Bulgarian motto, "United we stand strong" may be helpful. We may also remember the words of the Bulgarian poet Hristo Botev, who wrote, and I quote, from the English version of his poem "Sharing":

          Whether we have done good or bad

          We will let our descendants decide

          As for now lets go hand in hand

          Onward with confident stride.

In the end, let me share in a lighter vein, that both Bulgaria and Pakistan do occasionally also share some interesting co-incidences. This year teams from both our countries participated in the Winter Olympics. Our teams returned successfully - without any medals.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman,

Some of you may remember that last year we celebrated a Pakistani "Mango Tasting" event. This year we are sharing with you Pakistani "kinnoos", i.e  our citrus fruit. Pakistan is one of the important citrus growing countries and we produce 12% of the world citrus. It is also exported to over 40 countries in the world. So, after the Reception, please do not forget to carry your gift bags with some Pakistani "kinnoos".

Now please join me in raising your glasses as I say "da zheeway Bulgaria, da zheeway Pakistan" – Long Live Bulgaria Pakistan Friendship - and to the well being, health, happiness, peace and prosperity of the people of Bulgaria and the people of Pakistan.

Thank you."

Then all guests at the reception enjoyed the traditional Pakistani dishes and citrus fruits specially delivered for the celebration.

The photos are provided by the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.