We had the distinguished honor to host his Excellency, the youngest vice president in the history of the European Parliament, Mr. Fabio Massimo Castaldo, a true democrat, champion of human rights and a friend of Pakistan. He is one of those young and vibrant political leaders who make their presence felt through their warmth and political acumen.

During his short but significant stay at Governor’s House, we discussed a variety of issues from grave human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir to environmental issues facing the world. From multilayered, mutual benefit and significance of extension in GSP Plus status to Pakistan to the massive resistance against the ultra-controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 in and outside India. From Pakistan’s commitment to regional and global peace under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan to observance and compliance of all the UN Conventions. I must say that it was one of the most useful and highly productive meetings of my whole political career spanning over forty years.

He was very much cognizant of the fact that people of Pakistan have greatly suffered from terrorism. The massive human toll and economic loss of billions of dollars and thousands of lives have paved the way towards today’s peaceful Pakistan. During our joint press conference, he paid befitting tribute to the Armed forces of Pakistan, intelligence and all the security agencies, above all the people of Pakistan for their bravery and resilience.

As we waived him good bye at later hour of this unusually cold and calm night of December, 2019, Wajid Khan, an ex-MEP and a proud son of the soil accompanied me up-stairs to my office for a brief conversation before I and Begum Sahiba would leave for our own home to end the long day.

Wajid looked at me and said, “Governor Sahib! During your last visit to EU Parliament, you walked 15 miles in two days to meet 36 members of the European Parliament and left us all terribly tired. What keeps you going at such an age?”

I smiled and I told him what the great American President, Theodore Roosevelt (TR) had once told to a young man when he was asked the similar question. TR had said that it is not the age or the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs. Because, there is not effort without error and shortcoming.

And, who actually strives to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end, the triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least, fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

So, to me the equation has always been simple; when country calls, nothing else should matter. And, I have always put my country first over family, business, personal life and ease. I very strongly believe that extension in GSP Plus Status for Pakistan’s struggling economy at this critical juncture when all the International financial institutions are commending, our government’s efforts to revive it, is a matter of significant importance both, for the leadership and people of Pakistan. Therefore, we must not let our enemies to outdo what we have achieved in these challenging times. I will go to every and any extent to get this done for Pakistan. We must stay firm and focused. We must stay in the arena.

I am glad that Dr. Castaldo has promised his support in our quest for three years extension in GSP Plus. But, I am also aware of the fact that it will be a difficult task especially, after Brexit, as we will lose British support in EU Parliament. That means we need to go the extra mile and leave no stone unturned till we get what we want. We must forge new associations and find new friends. Chairman Pak-Euro Friendship, Choudhry Pervaiz Iqbal Lohsar, another son of the soil, has been highly instrumental in this regard. Overseas Pakistanis are our real heroes who not only send billions of dollars in form of remittances but also respond to the call of the nation whenever and wherever required.

We must collectively strive for a world that is based on noble values of equality, justice, rule of law and above all, dignity of human rights for our future generations!

Choudhry Mohammad Sarwar

The author is Governor of Punjab.