Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, the minister of state for housing, communities and local government has said that Pakistan and the United Kingdom (UK) have strong and historical bilateral relations.
The two countries, the British minister said, have immense trade potential which should be enhanced in order to strengthen the ties between the two countries.
Lord Greenhalgh also paid rich tributes to services of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK.
‘We have amazing success stories from the British-Pakistanis. Be it politics, business, health services or sports. British-Pakistanis are champions in various fields and leading from the front. We have a huge potential to increase the bilateral trade up to 20 billion pounds sterling in the next 10 years’. Minister Lord Greenhalgh commented while speaking at the virtual Christmas celebrations organised by the Conservative Friends of Pakistan (CFoP) in collaboration with the World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis (Wcop).
The Wcop has been organising these celebrations in support with the Pakistani Christians in the UK since 2013.
The British lawmaker stressed that to create interfaith harmony, “we need to be tolerant, listen to each other and celebrate our festivals together and that Pakistani diaspora is doing a wonderful job by hosting these events of togetherness”.
He congratulated the Conservative Friends of Pakistan for its efforts to build bridges of understanding and reach out to the mainstream communities and other faiths. “To eradicate intolerance, create a better social system and remove fear from the hearts of people, all religions have to take steps to spread a message of love, peace and brotherhood.”
Lord Zameer Choudrey CBE, chairman of the Conservative Friends of Pakistan, welcomed the audience and shared that the “spirit of these events is to build bridges across the divide and promote togetherness”.
He said that it was even more crucial to reach out due to the recent time of strife and chaos perpetrated at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic. He asserted that the peace-loving people of all faiths were needed to put up a joint humanitarian front in the face of odds.
Syed Qamar Raza, vice-chairman of the Conservative Friends of Pakistan, said that Christmas is celebrated with a great festive spirit in Pakistan. He went on to say that not many people know that Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-faith country and “Pakistanis have a rich tradition of peaceful coexistence and living in harmony”.
Rt Revd David Walker, Lord Bishop of Manchester, congratulated the Pakistani community on behalf of the Archbishop and appreciated the goodwill gesture and hoped it to continue in the future.
He also urged the Christians and the Muslims to seek a deeper level of fellowship and understanding amongst ourselves so they could be the true advocates of peace in a global village which was on the verge of severe conflict.
Moazzam Khan, High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK, told the audience about Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan’s vision of a truly democratic, progressive and a pluralistic Pakistan where all minorities had full freedom to practice their religion.
He said that throughout his life, Jinnah fought for religious, social and economic rights of the Muslims of the Sub-Continent through peaceful means. The highlight of Quaid’s vision was tolerance and equal rights for all the citizens of Pakistan irrespective of caste, creed or religion.
Tom Tugendhat MP- Chair of the British Foreign Affairs Committee appreciated Pakistan’s role in peace building in the world.
He stressed that the festivals like Christmas and Eid brought communities together and the real celebration included sharing joys with have-nots. He urged the British-Pakistanis to play their part to spread the message of coexistence in Pakistan.
Shaun Bailey, the Conservative mayoral candidate for London, highlighted the services rendered by Pakistani origin professionals in the UK and termed them a backbone of the UK.
Concluding remarks were offered by Reverend Rana Youab Khan, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani MNA, Ahmereen Raza OBE and Arif Anis.
They appreciated the CFoP’s ground-breaking efforts of Christmas celebrations and treasured the organisation’s vision of projecting the real, tolerant and amicable face of Pakistan.
They acknowledged the services of Pakistani Christians.
A large number of participants, including MPs, Lords and diplomats attended the virtual event including representatives from many communities and statutory organisations.
(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)