Picking up threads from my previous article published on these pages few days ago, I avail myself of the opportunity to lay accent on building lines of understanding and cooperation through people to people contact that is absolutely sine qua non and a proven recipe of enhancement of bilateral relations between nation states.
I strongly believe that inter-linkages between Dhaka and Islamabad through exchange of delegations comprising journalists, opinion makers, parliamentarians, artistes, think-tanks, youth, students, bureaucrats etc. with the blessings of the respective governments would help in settling down the dust of misunderstanding, misperception and confusion leading up to the path of normality in our bilateral relations.
Can it be argued that its people alone who make all the difference on the chessboard of interstate relations? As regards our ties with Dhaka notwithstanding the insurmountable challenges, there were indeed some friends who did not shy away in helping our Mission to make its presence felt in Dhaka. And the two names that flash on screen are irrefutably those of Nashid Kamal and Nazneen Ferdousi.
These two illustrious ladies with varied backgrounds helped me in a big way making inroads in Bangladeshi society
Nashid Apa, as I would call her, though younger in years dons too many professional hats over her wise head. Professor, writer, singer all combined in one she is the granddaughter of Abassudin Ahmad, an exponent of Bangla folk music and the niece of Firdausi Begum.
With her pleasing and graceful persona Nashid Apa invariably proffered a helping hand to the High Commission in its efforts to arrange various cultural programs. In my view, the only course left to us to reach and get connected with our Bangladeshi comrades.
Many a times, Nashid Apa, through her Urdu Gazal renditions mingled with Bangla songs at musical events arranged at the High Commission would perform with great gusto and win the hearts of all and sundry listening to her melodies. Her larger than life presence on such occasions would always be a source of symphonic aura which is akin to Bangladeshi culture.
Effervescent and giggly Nazneen Firdausi with a perpetual smile on her charming face is a prolific writer-cum-journalist. Though soft in fa�ade, she is a lady of steely determination who would brook no-nonsense if one tries to tamper with her principles.
Being born and spent early years of her life in Karachi, Nazneen connects with Pakistan in a different way. She led a Bangladeshi delegation of journalists in March 2017 to Pakistan, and visited different cities including Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The Bangladeshi delegation under her leadership left a deep impact on all the Pakistani high-ups and others who came into contact with her.
The successful visit of the delegation was arranged by the Ministry of Information of Pakistan.
As I planned to celebrate Pahela Boshak in our High Commission with fun and frolic to express our solidarity with the people of Bangladesh, I sought Nazneen's assistance to make the event memorable and admittedly she did not fail us in doing so.
Pahela Boishak turned out to be a huge and monumental success. The large number of our Bangladeshi friends from all walks of lives with many heads of diplomatic missions along with the other diplomats and Pakistani diaspora attending the affair enjoyed the event immensely.
The dance troupe arranged by Nazneen added feisty, flavor and color to the program. However, monsoon downpours falling in sheets came as an uninvited guestfailed to dampen the zeal and fervor of the participants whose bodies did not stop gyrating to the mesmerizing beautiful Bangla folk beats with abandon.
Nazneen also helped arrange a Ghazal Evening at my official residence, Pakistan House. Shakeela Ahmad, a great Urdu ghazal singer with Bangla roots now based in the United States and an old friend from my earlier posting to Dhaka on her yearly visit to Dhaka, happily agreed to perform.
Shakeela's sonorous and bewitchingly beautiful performance stole the show hands down. My two pence contribution in sharing few Pakistani ghazal numbers along with a solo Bangla song received generous applause from the audience. Nazneen, later wrote a beautiful account of the evening in ��which for our High Commission turned out to be a phenomenal diplomatic success.
Last but not least, how can I wound up this piece without mentioning gregarious, garrulous and flamboyant Shahariar Feroze (Misha), sprightly Assistant Editor of this newspaper who made me and my High Commission relevant in Dhaka through his writings and contacts. I can write in detail later about the umpteenth delightful diplomatic dinners hosted by her former diplomat mother, Ambassador Selina Mohsin with style and panache that knew no bound.
Selina Apa always treated me like her younger brother. A great raconteur that she is, Selina Apa was adept at the art of holding forth, in a small or big company. I was overwhelmingly charmed over by her warm hospitality and remained beholden to her to this day for all the love and sisterly care, I received from her. Her two accomplished and talented boys Towheed and Shahriar have certainly inherited the genes of writing from their redoubtable mother.
There's a long and interminable list of people ranging from government officials to retired diplomats to businessmen/entrepreneurs to artists to writers to journalists to singers to professors to jurists to some from Aga Khan Community and finally members from Pakistani Diaspora who made my posting to Dhaka the most memorable one.
I know one of my very able senior who had served as High Commissioner to Bangladesh many years ago and having served in very important capitals of the world admits that 'Dhaka remains his favorite posting.' And I cannot but agree with him on this account.
It is not the beauty of the city or town that matters at the end of the day; it is people who make the place good or bad for you. And Dhaka can never fail you on that score.
And so I say, people matter!
The writer is former Pakistan High Commissioner to Bangladesh