islamabad - The ambassadors of different French speaking nations have hosted an opening reception of Francophonie Festival with an array of cultural events here at Pakistan National Council of the Arts.

Ambassador of Austria Dr Brigitta Blaha, Ambassador of Belgium Peter Claes, Ambassador of Bulgaria Roumen Pirontchev, High Commissioner of Canada Heather Cruden, Ambassador of Czech Republic Miroslav Krenek, Ambassador of France Martine Dorance, Ambassador of Greece Dimitrios Zoitos, Ambassador of Hungary Istvan Szabo, Ambassador of Lebanon Mona Eltannir, Ambassador of Morocco Mustapha Salahddinne, Ambassador of Poland Andrzej Ananicz, Ambassador of Romania Emilian Ion, Ambassador of Switzerland Marc P George, Ambassador of Tunisia Adel Elarbi, and Ambassador of Vietnam Nguy?n Xuân L?u hosted the reception.

The event was well attended by the participants from different circles.

Federal Secretary for Information and Broadcasting, Muhammad Azam Khan, was the chief guest while the Dean of European Union Emilian Ion was the guest of honour.

Secretary Muhammad Azam Khan considered the festival as a unique opportunity for the people of Pakistan to know about the lively, inspiring and progressive cultural and social values, fine arts and performing arts of francophone countries. He encouraged other regions of the world to follow and create such associations for enhanced people to people contacts. “This will help not only in resolving outstanding political and economic issues but will also provide an opportunity to celebrate diversity of cultural and social values of other countries,” he added.

“The term Francophonie refers to the world community of French-speaking nations who believe in the unity and diversity of cultures,” said Peter Claes, the Ambassador of Belgium

Addressing the ceremony, Peter Claes said that the special exhibition is put together with the contributions of 6 different member and associate states of the Francophonie — Belgium, France, Tunisia and Vietnam, as full-fledged members, and Austria and the Czech Republic as associate members. “Despite their very diverse nature, they also show a great cultural diversity and offer the public in Islamabad glimpses of different kinds of history, artistic creativity, cultural heritage and traditions,” he added further in his speech. He appreciated the cooperation extended by the government of Pakistan in its outstanding work for promoting the cultural life in Islamabad. He thanked the ministry of foreign affairs as well as the ministry of information, broadcasting and national heritage for facilitating the cooperation with PNCA.

Director General PNCA Muhammad Naeem highlighted the role of cultural diplomacy in intercultural discourse having interconnecting diverse impact on each other’s art patterns. The PNCA, he said, has facilitated cultural communication to broaden the cultural heritage in Pakistan and it will always help promote the interaction of world cultures.

Ambassador of Belgium Peter Claes took a round with the chief guest and briefed him about the artwork displayed at the exhibition. Besides, the Tunisian ambassador also briefed about the pictures highlighting the tourist sites in Tunisia which, he said, will help promote tourism from Pakistan. For now Tunisia stands among those countries from Asia and Africa where the number of tourists is high.

The ambassador of Romania was very active at the ceremony. He attracted a large number of participants to Romanian food stalls and explained to them the Romanian dishes. The chief guest also admired the Romanian cuisine.

International organization of La Francophonie was created in 1970 with an aim to organize political and multicultural activities and above all to promote French language and culture. It has now 57 members along with 20 observers and 3 associate member states. Its head office is situated in Paris while it has also four permanent and three regional offices around the world. The organisation represents around 800 million people including 220 million French speaking people worldwide.

The festival will continue till March 21 at PNCA which will be remarkable addition to the cultural cooperation among diverse states, especially Pakistan and West.

-The writer Zafar Bakhtawari is a freelance contributor.