This is an archived article
Dear Ambassador Dr. Nunn,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends and Partners of hbs,
it is a great pleasure and honor to welcome you to the opening ceremony of our new office in Islamabad that happens to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the inception of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Pakistan.
After 20 years in Lahore, we are opening a new chapter of our work here in the capital and we are glad to have all of you with us. The motto of this evening, as you can see on the banner here behind me, is “The journey continues”. It’s a very appropriate motto because it shows that the Heinrich Böll Foundation is – like Pakistan – on the move without forgetting its roots.
As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse once said: “Learning is like swimming against the stream, unless you move forward, you fall behind.”
I think 20 years in Lahore have been a great learning experience for us and we would like to share some of our experiences here with you in Islamabad. We would also like to use this opportunity to kick-start a series of events on our 20th anniversary in Pakistan throughout the year. But before I go into the details of how and why, let me to look back for a while and thank all our partners and friends who have been great travelling companions.
for the last 20 years.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation office in Lahore was established in 1993 as one of the first international offices outside of Germany. At that time, it was the only office in Asia responsible for projects in Thailand, Cambodia and even India.
20 years ago, the office in Lahore opened up during a time when Email and Internet were not part of a daily working routine. The hours staff members of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Germany – during that time located in Cologne (not in Berlin) – spent sitting next to the fax machine to wait for contracts being sent from the Lahore office became legendary.
Facts that seem almost unimaginable today.
Like the German Green Party we are affiliated with, we are a young political organization and 20 years of presence here in Pakistanis is a long time. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary in Berlin and our international work even started later.
20 years are also a long time in the history of a relatively young nation such as Pakistan. Much has changed in this country since our arrival. With our work here we show our interest in these developments in Pakistan.
Firstly, let me express my gratitude to many people – partners and representatives of the foundation and our staff for a successful cooperation over the last 20 years.
First and foremost, I want to thank Roshan Dhunjibhoy – the first representative of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Pakistan, who passed away in 2011. Roshan was a German-Pakistani journalist and film-maker and a regular guest at political talk shows in Germany in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1993, she returned to her South Asian roots and established the foundation’s first Asian office in Lahore with all her passion and professionalism. She laid the foundation for the South Asian and Southeast Asian activities of the young Heinrich Böll Foundation and headed the office until her retirement in 2001.
From the beginning, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Roshan took on a partner-focused approach: a supportive role in building up strong NGOs as a contribution to strengthen civil society.
The support of the women’s movements was the core objective – later focusing on women’s political participation – as well as the protection and preservation of cultural and religious diversity.
Roshan Dhunjibhoy also established the topic of “Women and Religion” within the framework of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. It is now seen as pioneer work and remains an important issue for our work in Pakistan. (2011 Conference “Gender, Religion and Politics”, organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Lahore).
Rhosan was a wonderful personality. We owe her a lot and she has a place in the history of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and in our hearts forever.
I am very happy and proud that the Heinrich Böll Foundation was able to establish long standing partnerships and friendships over the last 20 years. Among those I would like to appreciate and thank for 20 years of fruitful and exciting cooperation here is definitely Shirkat Gah.
Shirkat Gah means “place of participation”, one cannot better describe how much we both share political values. Participation is the essence of democracy. Shirkat Gah empowers women by increasing their access to information, resources, skills and decision making.
Farida Shaheed, now Executive Director at Shirkat Gah-Women’s Resource Centre and UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights since 2009, became a(n) (even personal) friend and advisor of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for so many years. Thank you so much for your trust and fruitful cooperation.
I am pleased and honored that the Ajoka Theatre is celebrating with us our 20th anniversary. Ajoka theatre is as well a partner since the beginnings of the foundation and shows another perspective of our activities: culture, literature, movies, and visual arts. Without instrumentalizing them, arts and culture can be a source of social emancipation and empowerment. Our film Club Boell Mandwa that was established in 2011 in Lahore and will be re-established here in Islamabad is a good example for that. By taking up in the medium of film controversial topics such as the rights of transgenders, it started a dialogue and exchange with marginalized segments of the society.
Another area of long standing partnership is Bargad, a youth-led and -focused organization working for the development of young people in Pakistan. Since 1997, BARGAD has risen from a student-led grassroots organization to become not only an umbrella organization for youth groups in Pakistan but a political advisor for the Pakistani Government. Recently it helped the Punjab government to formulate a youth policy – the first in the history of Pakistan. Currently we are working with Bargad on a number of initiatives to foster critical thinking at universities.
In 1997, the Pakistan office consolidated its activities and remained a regional office for South Asia, while a new office in Chiang Mai took the responsibilities of projects and programs for Southeast Asia. With Jost Pachaly as interim director and later Angelika Koester-Lossack, this was a time of transition.
In 2005 Gregor Enste – many of you know him personally – took over as Resident Director and headed the office until 2010. In his tenure, the Heinrich Böll Foundation managed to reach out to new partners without neglecting the old ones.
In this time, the work of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Lahore shifted from sole partner support programs to own activities, which gave the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Lahore the possibility to set a political course, become active and create networks within the political arena in Islamabad. As a result, the Heinrich Böll Foundation supported the establishment of the independent political research institute CRSS that is still a partner.
Let me refer to some of the issues that were and will be key in our work.
Right from the beginning, we supported dialogue between Pakistan and India. The Peace Movement is one of the roots of the German Green Party, founded 30 years ago and of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Non-violent conflict resolution is very close to our heart.
Our office has been supporting the exchange of Pakistani and Indian representatives from universities, civil society and governmental organizations. Beginning with university lectures on partition to the establishment of the so called Delhi-Lahore Talks, the dialogue- and exchange program has later been expanded into a trilateral perspective, exchanging students from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
Our Track II Dialogue between India and Pakistan on Climate Change with the partner SDPI is another exemplary initiative. Not only do we bring members of civil society and government together for these talks. By engaging both countries, we strengthen regional cooperation on an issue that knows no borders and contribute to peaceful conflict resolution.
It was Gregor who deepened the cooperation with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). Especially in the field of climate change and renewable energies, the Heinrich Böll Foundation worldwide is at the forefront of a progressive discourse that we want to share not only with our partners in civil society but also with policy makers and the government. Pakistan, in particular needs the best advice possible in order to overcome its crippling energy crisis and to deal at the same time with the climate change impacts which are already taking place in this country. With in-depth experience of the German energy transition, we have a lot to offer. This social and ecological transformation can only be managed when government, parliament, science, think tanks and civil society trying their very best and cooperate.
Over the course of time, we have been working all over Pakistan, since we want to see this country as a whole and do not believe in separatism.
Under Gregor, the Heinrich Böll Foundation established links to the University of Peshawar. But even before that, the Tribal Women Welfare Association (TWWA) was a partner in the tribal areas of what is now Khyber Pakhthunkhwa (KP) and a hotspot of international attention. That’s one of the reasons why we are still working there – supporting journalists – despite the extremely difficult security situation.
With our partner, the Takhleeq Foundation in Karachi, we ran a very successful project that engaged local clerics in Interior Sindh and partly in Baluchistan to spread social harmony. With the Awaz Foundation we worked in Southern Punjab and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) on various issues such as extremism, youth and women.
Since 2001 with the beginning of the military intervention in Afghanistan and with the political changes in 2007 in Pakistan, Pakistan plays a much bigger role in German foreign policy and public perception than 20 years ago. Moving the hbs office from Lahore to Islamabad reflects these developments.
In fact, South Asia has risen for various reasons – positive and negative – to a heightened international relevance. The fact that both, India and Pakistan went nuclear is one. South Asia today is probably the most likely place for a nuclear escalation worldwide.
For a detailed account of the chilling realities, I recommend a book by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy that has just come out with our support at Oxford University Press: “Confronting the Bomb. Pakistani and Indian Scientist speak out”. (It will be presented next week at the Karachi Literature Festival, in March in Washington and in April at our headquarters in Berlin).
By the way: Prof. Hoodbhoy and another brilliant academic, Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa and togehter with Pakistani intellectuals, journalists and activists like Abbas Rashid, Imtiaz Gul, Dr.Durre Ahmed and Farida Shaheed acted on several occasions as bridge-builders and "ambassadors" to explain to a German audience the changes and turbulences in Pakistan. It is part of our mission wherever we are present in the world to contribute to background analysis and to establish partnerships via profound dialogue between the respective countries and Germany.
You all know that a large contingent of German troops is deployed in Afghanistan and the country will remain – for various reasons – of concern for us even after the pull-out of NATO in 2014.
We therefore need Pakistan as a partner for peace and stability in the region. German politicians, parliamentarians and civil society take a heightened interest in the country and it is our role to keep them informed in the best possible manner.
Being close to political decision makers in the capital of Pakistan and link them to their German counterparts and experts alike has become a must for us – as much as we have been linking civil societies in both countries for the last 20 years.
This will be even more the case when the Green Party would be able to join again the federal government. The upcoming nation elections in Germany September will tell us more.
In general and without exaggeration: the office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Pakistan over the last 20 years has established an excellent reputation in the political Berlin, within the German Green Party and the German parliament in general.
For the German media we are a constant and important source of information. Both Gregor and now Britta established excellent relations with German newspapers and broadcasters. Countless visits from German parliamentarians show a high level of professionalism, expertise and hospitality.
Thank you to the staff
Here it is high time to thank for all the intense and professional work of our staff in Pakistan – those who worked with us in Lahore and those who shifted with us to Islamabad. Here is a team that has been working tirelessly over the years and never hesitates to go the proverbial extra-mile, including occasional night-shifts and weekend events.
The face and heart of our organization in Pakistan over the past 20 years has been without any doubt Saima Jasam.
Saima who joined us as early as 1993, bore with us even in the most difficult times such as the interim phase of 2001 to 2003. Her in-depth-knowledge and contacts to civil society allowed us to make inroads and build confidence among the relevant actors, not only in Pakistan but also in India.
Her expertise in gender as well as peace and security studies has strengthened our in-house capacity and makes her a sought-after interview partner for the German media. Thank you so much for your loyality and advice.
Almost the same is true for Mazher Zaheer who has been with us since 1997. His energy and skills as a manager have been a driving force in all our activities.
As Finance Coordinator he has been steering the ship of the Heinrich Böll Foundation office in Pakistan through the changing tides of reporting formats and donor demands and he never fails to discover money – somewhere between currency exchange gains and the secret science of accounting.
Many, many thanks for your continuity of engagement.
I want to thank once again Roshan, Gregor and last but not least Britta, who took over the office in 2010. She had to bear the brunt of our decision to move to Islamabad despite her pregnancy and maternity leave in 2012.
The move was not easy for our team members either, all of whom have family and friends in Lahore. But we believe that it was the right decision. Britta continues to work on our new strategy that reflects the strategic changes of the Heinrich Böll Foundation as an international organization.
As an award-winning journalist and former correspondent, who has been living for more than ten years in South Asia, Britta combines in-depth and first-hand-knowledge of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan – what makes her an important resource person for German policy makers and the public alike.
Being a facilitator between Germany and Pakistan is only one of our roles. As a think tank for policy reform and a catalyst for green visions and projects affiliated with the Green party, we too developed over the course of time.
We are proud to cooperate with Pakistan’s vibrant civil society and we wish to remain that.
But we also learned that in order to carry out a democratic reform agenda effectively and strengthen human rights, stakeholders on all levels of society need to be involved.
Hence, we have started to work at the interface between civil society and policy making and Britta has contributed a great deal to this ongoing process of scrupulous assessment of what can and needs to be done under the changing local and global conditions. That too, drew us to Islamabad.
A good example for this development might be our cooperation with Shirkat Gah: They started off as our first partner in Pakistan and received significant support from us.
Today, we remain partners with financially much smaller projects – but probably a greater outreach. Shirkat Gah’s founder-director Khawar Mumtaz has just become Chair of the “National Commission on the Status of Women” and is today here with us in Islamabad.
Shirkat Gah will also host our liaison office in Lahore – a fact that I would like to highlight here.
We will by no means stop working in Lahore and with our partners there.
Our cooperation with the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus that started in 2010, too is a fruit of our long involvement with women’s rights groups that gave us the credibility among policy makers. Among them is Aurat Foundation that is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the leading institutions for enhancing women’s economic and political status in the country.
This – by the way – is the contrary of an often criticized approach of international donors, who allegedly parachute into a country, spend millions of dollars and disappear a year later after much of the money has vanished in some deep pockets.
We at Heinrich Böll Foundation believe in long-lasting partnerships and a serious engagement with the society in our host countries! And that includes social activists, academics, researchers, the media, parliamentarians and bureaucrats. We also want to reach out to those who might not always share our opinion, to business, military and religious leaders.
Despite the remaining problems, the last five years have been encouraging for the democratic development in Pakistan. By engaging the democratically elected government, we support this process.
We also do by supporting the media, which is a new area of our work established by Britta. Pakistan’s vibrant media have played an important role in the democratic development of the last years.
By supporting women in the media and tribal journalists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we strengthen two groups of journalists that are particularly vulnerable and need empowerment. The female perspective is often missing in media reports worldwide and journalists in conflict areas such as the tribal areas of KP are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis. Much more needs to be done to protect them.
But are there not enough international organizations in Islamabad? Well, we do not know what is enough. But we know that we do have strong links to Lahore and we will not neglect them. We also know that by moving to Islamabad, we are extending our scope of work. And that is the message that I would like to convey here.
There is a saying in Pakistan that goes: “Lahore is Lahore”. As much as that is true, for a political organization like ours – the capital is the capital. And what counts in the end is the outreach of our work.
We therefore hope that our moving to Islamabad will actually not only strengthen our work but also our partners in the rest of the country.
Mutual trust, mutual respect and appreciation lay the foundation of a fruitful partnership and cooperation - let me say the next 20 years!