The moderator set the tone: “My name is Tauseeq Haider – and I am free”, said our friend of many years addressing more than 600 guests crowded into the Grand Ball Room of the Islamabad Hotel for the celebrations of the Foundation’s 60th anniversary.
Titled “Liberal Footprints. Contributions to Pakistan’s Advancement”, this was an extraordinary affair for more than one reason. The half-day program started with high-caliber political speeches. Meanwhile the Foundation had invited all her partners to present their work in stalls set up on the sidelines of the auditorium turning the huge hall into a singular exhibition ground for liberal advocacy groups.
“Without our partners, our work would be nothing”, said the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s (FNF) Regional Director Dr. Ronald Meinardus. “It is through their work and dedication that we aspire to achieve our goals”, he said.
Expressing her gratitude for FNF’s support over a long period of time, Amber Alibhai, Secretary General of Shehri – Citizens for a Better Environment, emphasized the crucial importance of this partnership for her organization’s advocacy: “The ethos of the Foundation is that they are in for the long haul.”
“Great Service to Pakistan’s Civil Society”
The speech of Shafquat Mehmood, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, may be termed the political highlight of that special day. The minister is no stranger to the work of the Foundation and had cooperated in training programs as a speaker in the past.
“Pakistan’s civil society and democracy owe a great deal to the Foundations from Germany”, the minister said. “All the Foundations have done a great service to the civil society of Pakistan.”
The minister’s words caught the special attention as they coincide with government policies towards international NGOs critics have labeled as restrictive and illiberal. These policies have also affected the German Foundations. Germany’s Ambassador Martin Kobler took this issue up and - after an eloquent overview of the important role of liberalism in Germany – mentioned the pending registration of the Foundations. He then went on to thank the minister for his encouraging remarks and expressed the hope that the pending issues would be resolved soon.
Martin Kobler is not only a senior German diplomat. His highly effective usage of Twitter has transformed him into a (social) media star in Pakistan. The admiration he enjoys became apparent as hundreds of participants scrambled for selfies with the popular diplomat.
Working their way through the throngs of well- wishers and admirers, Regional Director Dr. Meinardus and Head of Administration at our Islamabad Office Muhammad Anwar guided Mr. Kobler from one stall to the other. “I am very impressed at the wide range of topics the Foundation’s partners are covering”, the ambassador said after spending the better part of the afternoon talking to our partners at the 16 stalls.
The anniversary celebrations ended with a gala dinner for special guests from the political and diplomatic community and, once again, friends and partners. In his keynote speech, Jean-Francois Cautain, the Ambassador of the European Union, hailed the Foundation’s efforts: “I congratulate you for your incredible work not only in Pakistan but in many parts of the world”, he said. Earlier, Regional Director Dr. Meinardus had thanked the European envoy for the EU’s support for a major FNF program aimed at improving local governance in Pakistan.
“This has been an exceptional show of strength of our partners”, said Muhammad Anwar at the end of a long day. “Never before have we assembled all our partners in one hall and given them the chance to share their success stories with wider public”, he concluded with a bright smile on his face.