IAF Gummersbach Alumni Network
Future Vision of Pakistan-German Relationships
At episodic level, it was an event in Lahore-the cultural capital of Pakistan to celebrate the 70-year of Pak-German relations. At Al-Hamra there were various public festivities and stalls to show-case co-operative advancements in the fields of civil society, economy, education and technology etc.
At thematic level, there was an intellectual feast at a nearby hotel with diverse attendees hailing from fields like civic sector, academia, politics, parliament and enterprise, etc. The host was Liberal political foundation-Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. The Foundation working in Pakistan since 1986 has touched the lives, imagination and creativity of thousands of Pakistanis.
Walls and bridges are made of bricks and we need to demolish the walls (like Berlin wall) and build bridges.
The event was the 19th FreedomGate Pakistan Alumni. Since 1995, the Foundation has provided learning and exposure opportunities to more than 360 promising Pakistanis. These Pakistanis had attended various courses at International Academy for Leadership (IAF) at Gummersbach (Germany) or had been part of international visitor programs. Over the years, the Foundation developed a vibrant alumni network to keep the spark alive. In this context, annual FreedomGate meeting enables alumni to re-charge their enthusiasm.
At the inaugural session, Ms. Birgit Lamm, Head of Country Office Pakistan welcomed the FreedomGaters and appreciated their contributions for the society, Excellency Bernhard Schlagheck, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany offered his comments on Pakistan-Germany relationships and envisioned possible future trajectories. Chief Guest on the occasion was Honourable, Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, Governor Punjab.
Besides enriching food for thoughts, special cake was cut in presence of civic leaders from all federating units and diverse fields and communities to celebrate 70-year of Pak-German diplomatic relations established in 1951. The Governor Punjab lauded the role of Germany in the European Union and in the context of Pakistan to support GSP+.
In working sessions leading civic activists and entrepreneurs talked about the future of digitalization. The hallmark was conversation by Markus Strohmeier, Managing Director of German company SIEMENS that started operating in Lahore in 1922.
At dinner reception in the evening, Dr. Philipp Deichmann, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, former education minister, Punjab-Mian Imran Masood, educationist Dr. Huma Baqai and Senator Walid Iqbal-Chairperson Senate Committee on Human Rights shared their stories of German-Pakistan cooperation and its impact on technical education in country’s largest province, spaces for free exchange of ideas and historical roots of civilizational relations between the both countries. Senator Walid Iqbal narrated the story of his grandfather and national poet of Pakistan Dr. Allama Iqbal who studied in Germany.
It is worth mentioning that the roots of academic relations goes back to the days, when the thinker of Pakistan and our national poet Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal studied at Heidelberg. Many German scholars have worked on Pakistan and Dr. Annemarie Schimmel made Pakistan her second home. The city of Lahore has named a road after her. Thousands of Pakistani students pursue their higher education in Germany.
On the second day, the Alumni network counted its contributions and democratically picked-up ideas for 2022. On this important event I was honored to moderate the proceedings of two exciting days and as an alumni (FreedomGater) was able to recount at least seven things that I had learnt from my seven trips to Germany since 1998. First-civic education helps nurture democracy, second-for democratic future citizens and citizens in uniform have to work together, third-walls and bridges are made of bricks and we need to demolish the walls (like Berlin wall) and build bridges, fourth-respect for human rights is important to avoid fascism in future, fifth-federalism is important for diverse societies, sixth-citizens must be at the heart of governance and finally it is the economy that helps sustains vibrant societies.
During 2021, seventy years of diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Federal Republic of Germany were celebrated in various cities. However, celebrations in Lahore were like a grand finale as companies, businesses, political foundations and some indigenous socio-economic empowerment initiatives supported by German institutions demonstrated bonds of unique friendship among citizens of both countries.
The participants deeply valued longstanding Pakistan-Germany relations spread over seven decades in diverse fields like economic cooperation, education and cultural exchanges. As per the future-oriented theme of the meeting all tried to explore new horizons to take Pakistan-German relations to new heights in coming years.
One must acknowledge the fact that both Pakistan and Germany are old civilizations but in the context of modern nation states, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan won freedom in 1947 and the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949. On15th October 1951 both established dynamic diplomatic relations. 70-year down the lane we are partners and friends.
It reminds me the words of famous poet Hafiz Sherazi: “Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends.”
Long live Pakistan-Germany Friendship!