Islamabad - When intellectuals, decision makers, think tanks and visionaries gather under one roof, there is plenty to talk about.

Aziz Boolani, CEO Serena hotels, organized such an event . Coined as RAABTA, a Public Diplomacy initiative by Serena Hotels, the gathering at Sheesh Mahal offered food for thought. Boolani, in his introductory remarks, spoke of the initiatives taken by Serena hotels over the past few years and their contribution to the society. The focus was on Adventure diplomacy , Sports diplomacy and Public diplomacy and how Serena has managed to bring these sectors of the corporate and diplomatic community together for a cause.

Citing the example of Samina Khayal Baig, a Pakistani mountaineer who climbed Mount Everest in 2013, shared her dream of climbing seven summits located in seven continents and how Boolani played a pivotal role to make Baig’s dream come true. Today Samina is not only the first Pakistani woman to have climbed the Mount Everest and seven summits but also the youngest Muslim woman to achieve this title at only 21. Talking about the initiative, the moderator of the evening, Sidra Iqbal, a development activist and broadcast journalist, talked about RAABTA, a forum where issues can be discussed and solutions can be found.

Titled “Pakistan of tomorrow- Culture & Heritage, Economy and Future of Pakistan” the choice of panellist could not have been better. Mr. Patchamuthu Illangovan (Illango), Country Director World Bank took stage to talk about economy, Aamir Ibrahim, CEO Jazz, and Kamran Lashari, Director General of Walled City of Lahore Authority brought on the table his experiences on culture. These three maestros of their respective fields put forth the solutions to these problems and emphasized on a positive mindset with which to approach and tackle the issues of our society. The panellist emphasized the need to connect the past and present with the future.” Our past is our culture, and our tradition whereas our future is the 60 percent of the population of this country, who are under the age of 25”, emphasized the panel. The panel stressed that putting the onus on the past governments will not lead us to the future.

The British High Commissioner, Thomas Drew talked about regional connectivity. “Pakistan is at a major junction and it needs to work on creating relationships with India, Afghanistan, Iran and even Central Asia,” said The High Commissioner. Citing examples of Britain and its multi-cultural community, Drew who has spent 11 years in Pakistan during different periods, informed the guests that Pakistanis comprise 2 per cent of the UK’s population. Currently, 12 individuals of Pakistani origin are members of the British Parliament. Stressing on the preservation of the culture, former CDA chairman Lashari who has to his credit renovation and face-lifting of Saidpur village Islamabad, said that culture is not only how to dress, eat or design a house. Pakistan has one of the oldest cultural linkages in the world. He cited Mohenjo-Daro, Gandhara, the first learning school and the seven highest peaks in the world. “To me culture is set of values that we must protect and follow”, said Lashari. The underlying premise of RAABTA was public diplomacy and how it helps to build relationships of value.

–The writer is a freelance contributor