The Pakistan, India and UK Friendship Forum hosted their 5th Annual Dinner at the House of Lords with its usual cordial atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect. The message of the dinner was “Friendship is the only way forward”. It started with the national anthems of Pakistan, India and Britain and one minutes silence was observed in the memory of the victims of the horrific floods in Pakistan.
The host, Lord Popat, welcomed the guests and commended the initiative designed to build bridges between the British communities of Pakistani and Indian origins. He said he was delighted to support and endorse this initiative as it benefitted society as a whole.
Dr. Ashraf Chohan, Secretary General stressed that all the pending disputes between India and Pakistan should be resolved peacefully in a friendly manner as it will bring a lasting peace in the Sub Continent.
Lord Nazir Ahmed also emphasised that everything could be resolved peacefully but with mutual respect. He also asked the Indian Government to liberalise their visa regime to encourage people to people contact between the two countries, as it would not only strengthen ties between the two nations but also benefit each other.
Lord Diljit Rana gave the example of Northern Ireland where political boundaries remain but signs within Ireland have been removed so people can now move within the provinces freely and unhindered without any animosity or threat. This removal of land boundaries has helped community cohesion tremendously and has brought peace in the trouble torn region. He said we could learn lessons from such a policy to benefit our respective countries.
Sir Gulam Noon praised the initiative of the organization. He stressed that it was in the interests of both the countries, India and Pakistan to forge better relationships with each other in order to strengthen each other’s economies with mutual co-operation which would also bring about respect and harmony. He said that no benefit could come from conflict. He also spoke about the warm Pakistani hospitality he experienced at every visit and encouraged more Indians to visit Pakistan and experience this warm hospitality for themselves. He said this would enable us to overcome the hostilities caused by man made barriers.
The Chairman, Dr. Rami Ranger, spoke about our founders who made two countries to benefit their people and not for them to become rivals. This rivalry was not only damaging each other, but also effecting relations in countries where we had settled in considerable numbers. He further added that it was about time that we drew a line under this rivalry and started to work together for the benefit of our next generation. He said if we could build a bridge of friendship between India and Pakistan, then we could easily cross our differences.
Cllr. Kemal Butt, Patron of the Forum, praised the work being done by the Forum and said he was pleased to lend his support and to bring 3 British communities closer to one another who now live side by side. He stressed that Britain must not suffer due to our differences.
The Guest of Honour the Rt. Hon, Dominic Grieve MP, Attorney General, presented the awards and congratulated everyone for their achievements. He praised the contribution of British Indians and Pakistanis and acknowledged that their presence has enriched Britain in many ways. He was optimistic about our historic ties strengthening with the initiative launched by the Pakistan, India and UK Friendship Forum.
The forum presented awards to individuals who had gone the extra mile for Britain.
MKC Trust received the award for Roko (Stop) cancer initiative and for charitable work in the awareness and early detection of cancer. The award was collected by the founder, Mr. APS Chawla.
Sterling Media, a PR company started by Ms. Teji Singh was recognized for promoting diversity in Britain through Bollywood. The award was received by Ms. Natasha Mudhar, Managing Director of the Company.
Dr. Yasmin Sheikh MBE was recognized for encouraging various communities to work together and achieve success in Britain with their work.
Mr Ikram Khan, former President of the UK Pakistan Chamber Of Commerce and President of the Pakistan Cultural Society for promoting diversity in UK with his work. He was proud of the fact he introduced Pakistani mangoes to Britain and also the promotion of Halal meat.
A special award was presented to the Armed Forces in Britain for their immense sacrifices, gallantry and valour. The award was received by General Sir David Richards, Chief of Defence Staff. He thanked the Forum for recognising the contribution of our Armed Forces who serve everyone regardless of race or religion. He said Britain must forge closer links with India and Pakistan because of our shared history. He reminded guests that we had fought shoulder to shoulder in both the great wars to uphold human freedom and that we all owed each other a debt of gratitude and above all to our Armed Forces who pay supreme sacrifices for our liberties.
A cheque of £3500.00 was presented to Mr Waqas Chughtai on behalf of the Edhi International Foundation UK to support the relief efforts for the victims of the floods in Pakistan.
Mr. Arif Chaudhry, Founder of the Forum said on his visit to India he was convinced that our people needed “bread and not bombs” and as a result, he started the organization to bring the two communities closer for the benefit of mankind.
The Rt. Hon. Tony Baldy MP was delighted with his appointment as the next President of the Forum and promised to work hard to strengthen ties between the three communities.
Ms Norma Stevenson, Chair, Labour NEC, was delighted to support the friendship initiative and said that she has attended many events and dinner but never attend one like this which was designed to build bridges in our fractured society.
The vote of thanks was given by the Co-Chairman Dr. Ahmed Shahzad OBE. He thanked the management of the House of Lords for the splendid arrangements and all the guests who had taken time out of their busy lives to support the friendship initiative. He praised the Parliamentarians for lending their support to the Pakistan, India & UK Friendship forum which can only benefit mankind.
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Mr Tahir Ali, CEO Venus TV.
Mr Gurpal Gill, Joint Secretary.
Mr Khalid Ibrahim, Vice Chairman
The evening ended on a warm and positive note.
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