It is a pleasure to wish all Pakistanis, at home and abroad, Happy Pakistan Day, which is celebrated today, with main events in Islamabad and other major cities. The day is celebrated as a National Day of the country; in addition, there is the Independence Day of 14 August. After having been marked with more low key celebrations in recent years, except for the couple of most recent years, Pakistan Day is now back on track to be the major national day. This year, dignitaries from abroad have also been invited to participate.

Every country needs to celebrate its history. It is important to mark Pakistan Day to commemorate the Lahore Resolution of March 23 1940, with the adoption and the first constitution of Pakistan during the transition from Dominion of Pakistan to Islamic Republic of Pakistan on March 23 1956, making it the world’s first Islamic republic. Also, the military has a clear visibility in the celebrations, although that is not necessary since there is also a separate Defence Day on September 6 when the army, navy and air forces display their full colours and guards of honour. Although the military has played a direct role in Pakistan’s 70-year history, it is important to make Pakistan’s identity and values clearly democratic, as the two recent governments have shown so successfully.

Pakistan has done well in counter-terrorism and security; I state this in spite of the many sad and tragic attacks, but it could have been worse. Pakistan is now a country that seems to be steadily en route to growth and development. True, there is need for much better social and economic distribution of resources, for reduction of the class differences and greater sharing of the fruits of the land, which are created by the working men and women. Pakistan must also invest more in the social sectors, indeed in education; in our time and age, every child and youth must have access to education and training, not only in childhood but throughout life. That is the only way to reach the promise of prosperity that we all look forward to, with foreign investments from China and others. It is the knowledge, skills and hard work of the people that create success and welfare for all. Let me also add: In future, fewer Pakistanis should work and live abroad; they are needed at home.

A young state like Pakistan is still in the process of establishing and developing its traditions and symbols to celebrate the country’s and the people’s uniqueness. All citizens should feel proud of the country they belong to. The state’s institutions, indeed the schools and universities, the media, and cultural organisations have a special duty to make March 23 the special day it is meant to be. It is already a day to be proud of, but it can become even more unique, showing not only history and overall identity, but also the values the country and people want to emphasise for the future. It can be done deliberately from the state’s side, and it can partly develop from people’s initiatives and their choice of activities. I am sure sports and cultural activities will then be significant, not only more stiff and formal events.

I am a Norwegian currently living in Pakistan. In my home country, we have the world’s best national day! No, I don’t only say that as a biased ‘old Viking’, since I think there is something to it objectively. The way the day of the Norwegian Constitution Day of May 17 is celebrated, is very Norwegian, of course, and very universal, too. It has developed over the years since 1814 when Norway again became an independent country after four hundred years as part of Denmark, and then another one hundred years in a union with Sweden. School children and youth have a special place in the way the day is marked. Yes, the military, too, but that is mainly marked at early morning events, before the streets are thronged by ordinary people in processions and festive events with brass band music, folksy concerts, sports competitions (where everyone gets a prize), and so on. In the recent decades, after Norway became multicultural with over ten percent refugees and immigrants in the little land of five million, the all-inclusiveness of everyone in the land has been emphasised. All the 40,000 Pakistani-Norwegians, and the Somalis, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, Syrians, and so on, and the indigenous and other Norwegians, feel the day belongs to them. There is no colour, class, religious, political party, or any other barriers between people on the day.

Pakistanis are much more extrovert people than Norwegians, and Pakistanis’ social skills are generally better than those of my countrymen and women. I am often impressed by the friendliness and inclusiveness that Pakistanis show, not only on special religious and other holidays, but every day. Norwegians and people from many other countries can learn from the great people of Pakistan.

It is important to all human beings that we feel good about ourselves, that we have self-confidence and are told by peers and leaders that we are doing the right thing – and sometimes, we should also tell our politicians and superiors that they, too, are on the right track, yes, when they are. And if we are positive and tell each other that they do well, they will do better. Remember that today on Pakistan Day and all other days!

Sometimes, I wonder how Pakistanis can be so kind to each other, including foreign visitors, knowing that the majority lives in challenging and poor situations as for material goods and social benefits. People from wealthier countries have a lot to learn from the Pakistanis, be they rural or urban, modern or traditional, schooled or illiterate, rich or poor, Muslim, Christian or Hindu.

Today, it is three days since the World Happiness Report was presented. The UN General Assembly declared 20 March as World Happiness Day in 2012, to recognise “happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human being around the world”. In spite of Pakistan being a developing country, with many poor people, it landed in the middle in the ranking. I am glad on Pakistan’s behalf. And of course, being a Norwegian, I am glad that Norway came in as the happiest people on earth – believe it or not! But then Norway is a rich country in a remote part of the world, hence it must do well on such ranking, which we should take with a pinch of salt. The major reasons for all the Nordic countries doing well is the predictability safety of life there, with security nets including universal health care, education and other social services, personal and social freedoms, fairness at work places, good private lives, and opportunities for all. One of the editors of the report said that the important prerequisites for happiness are good social foundations, trust and fairness among people. People must like each other even when they disagree, and share good and bad together – yes, the way Pakistani families at best live. In a not too distant future, I believe that Pakistan will do very well on the happiness list, not only rank higher than India and other neighbouring countries, as was the case this year, but celebrate together with everyone at home, in the region and the world. We are today celebrating Pakistan and we know that the land is good. More importantly, the best days are yet to come. Again, I wish you a Happy Pakistan Day 2017.