LAHORE - The French National Day was celebrated in Lahore on Saturday evening bringing together a number of French and Pakistanis from every field to commemorate also the Fete Nationale Nationale 2008. The function held at Avari also introduced the new Honorary Consul of France in Lahore Ashiq Hussain Qureshi and bid farewell to outgoing Ambassador of France on the occasion of his departure and that of his wife Mrs Regis de Belenet. The farewell was also for outgoing Director of the French Cultural Centre in Lahore Matthieu Pinel and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of France in Pakistan, Mrs Brigitte Bouvet. Leaders from different fields of life and French nationals serving in Pakistan in different fields attended the function. Among the guests were leaders from both the ruling parties as well as the opposition. Former Governor Punjab Lt Gen (Retd) Khalid Maqbool along with his wife, PPP leader Qasim Zia, Misbahur Rehman, Punjab Minister Ch Abdul Ghafoor, cricket star Intikhab Alam, former minister Ijaz Faqiruddin and Consul General of Iran in Lahore. The cake-cutting ceremony was performed by the French ambassador and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Interestingly the former Punjab Minister from Education and leader of PML (Q) Mian Imran Masood came to meet the governor and stayed with him while the latter talked with the media.  Speaking on the occasion the ambassador in his speech spoke about the happy moments he had spent in Pakistan and the different unforgettable events that took place here like the earthquake in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and NWFP and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. "We have to learn the lesson and keep in mind is never give up hope and determination. Pakistan is passing through a difficult time and we assure our full support in this time," he maintained. Belenet dilated on the services of Matthieu Pinel, who served in Pakistan for seven years and Mrs Brigitte Bouvet and thanked the Pakistani people for extending him memorable hospitality. Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in his speech on the occasion said that it was a sad day as happy day. "It is a sad day because Jaheengar Malik, the former honorary consul general of France in Lahore, is longer with us. He was my friend for a long time. We have a long association with France and we have time tested and strong relations with France. Lahore is the Paris of Asia and it is heartening to attend its national day celebrations here in this city. "Emotionally we remember the help of the French people when the earthquake took place upcountry here in Pakistan. The outgoing ambassador Regis de Belenet played a positive role at the moment and the French nation stood by us in the time of need," Taseer said. Later talking to the journalists he said more than 50,000 Pakistanis were serving in every field in France. "A number of French companies are investing in Pakistan and I believe the relationship is likely to grow. France is far ahead in different technologies and look forward to benefit from that," governor said.  The new Honorary Consul of France in Lahore Ashiq Hussain Qureshi talking to The Nation said   Mathhieu Pinel said seven years in Pakistan was very interesting. "There was distance from the home country and difficulties here as well but it was no doubt a very learning and friendly atmosphere here. The diversity of life and culture is something to remember and life long experience. The traffic problems and the issues that people face here was also interesting. The French are very popular here and the people are friendly," he said. Pinel was of the view that extremism is not such a major issue as is being painted. "I have not seen any extremism here in Lahore or other places," he maintained. An overwhelmed and excited Ashiq Hussain said he would do his best to bring the people of Pakistan closer to the French people. "I believe there should be increase in people to people contact. I want to work on projects that are beneficial both for the Pakistani and French people," he said. He said he had established an organisation 'Sports for life' and 'Pakistan Veterans Association for social welfare activities. "I have 20 years experience in the field and believe that icons should play their due role to encourage the young people. Sports for Life encourages young to actively work for their positive role. It is basically sports education and to urge them to utilise the opportunities. "Similarly the Association provides a platform to identify the weaknesses that are there in us and to work for their solution. Locals are encouraged to participate in its activities and it has a network in 45 cities. The capacity building is important and how it should be executed is what the association provides a platform for," Hussain explained. The function continued for two hours and the guests had an opportunity to taste the French cheese and delicacies.