Lahore’s effusive welcome to the Ontario Premier

An anonymous visitor recommended this story by Ian Urquhart of the Toronto Star on her perspective of Ontario Prime Minister, Dalton McGuinty’s visit to Lahore and how he was over-welcomed…

LAHORE, Pakistan-Every day at sunset, a remarkable ceremony takes place 25 kilometres from here on the border with India.

Permanent grandstands are built on both sides of the border crossing so that hundreds of Indians and Pakistanis can watch – and cheer – as honour guards from their respective countries march menacingly toward each other, stopping inches apart.

On the Indian side, the spectators chant, “One India.” On the opposite side, the Pakistanis retort, “Pakistan Forever.” The two sides also hurl unprintable insults at each other while cheerleaders urge them on. Finally, after half an hour of this sort of stuff, the flags of both countries are lowered and two soldiers, one Indian and one Pakistani, symbolically shake hands across the border. Then the gates are slammed – and I mean slammed – shut.

The ceremony speaks volumes about relations between the two countries, which have fought three wars and just a couple of years ago threatened to hurl nuclear weapons at each other. Yet, as the handshake at the end of the ceremony suggests, they share a rich history (as “One India” under British rule before independence and partition in 1947), and many families have relatives on the other side of the border.

It also helps to explain why Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has been so warmly – some might say effusively – received in Pakistan after spending 10 days in India…………

The Pakistanis are enormously proud people, but it is a pride mixed with an inferiority complex vis-à-vis their bigger and more successful neighbour, India.

India has more people (1.1 billion, compared to 160 million for Pakistan); its army is more powerful (although both now possess nuclear arms); and it has been more successful economically.

The economies of both countries are expanding rapidly, but India is growing faster and has overtaken Pakistan. Whereas in 1950 Pakistan had a gross domestic product per capita that was slightly higher than India’s, today India’s GDP per capita is almost 50 per cent higher.

India also finds greater acceptance in the Western world because it is a democracy, whereas Pakistan is a military dictatorship – albeit, a “soft dictatorship” that tolerates criticism from opposition parties and the press.

And Pakistan is being pilloried in the Western media these days for allegedly harbouring known terrorists and Taliban insurgents.

So when a Western leader comes calling – even a sub-national politician like McGuinty – the Pakistanis roll out the red carpet.

It also probably helped that McGuinty came to talk business rather than security. The Pakistanis crave more foreign investment but resent being lectured by westerners on terrorism.

Accordingly, McGuinty was greeted in spectacular fashion on Sunday at the border by an honour guard, two-dozen members of the government of Pakistani Punjab, 60 children in ceremonial dress, and hundreds of people in the grandstand. The road into Lahore was festooned with banners welcoming “His Excellency, Mr. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, Ontario, Canada.”

Yesterday, McGuinty’s photo was prominently displayed in local papers and on posters around the city.

The premier was the guest of honour at a luncheon and a state dinner, both hosted by his counterpart, the “chief minister” of Pakistani Punjab, Pervez Elahi.

“We feel honoured by your presence,” said Elahi at the dinner.

“You have outdone yourself,” responded McGuinty, adding: “I want to thank the people of Lahore and Pakistan for the warmth of your welcome.”

McGuinty did not, however, reply directly to Elahi’s request that Ontario establish a permanent trade office in Lahore.

Lahore is neither the capital of Pakistan nor its biggest city, but it is the most historic, and is perhaps best known to westerners as the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.

Among the historic sites are the Lahore Fort, which dates back a millennium, and the 17th century Badshahi Mosque, a three-dome structure that rivals St. Peter’s Basilica in magnificence. McGuinty visited both yesterday, and was greeted with yet more welcoming banners and another honour guard at the entrance to the mosque. He also laid a wreath at the tomb of Muhammad Iqbal, a 20th-century poet who is credited with first proposing the idea of a separate state for Indian Muslims.

Everywhere he went he was given a police escort, with sirens wailing and crossing traffic made to wait for his entourage to pass through.

Today McGuinty is to deliver what is being billed as a “substantive” speech at the Lahore University of Management Sciences before travelling to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, for the conclusion of his two-week tour of the subcontinent.

Post Credit: Anonymous
Story Link: Toronto Star

5 Comments so far

  1. Asad (unregistered) on February 21st, 2007 @ 9:27 am

    Ouch.. ripped pretty bad….


  2. karachiite (unregistered) on February 21st, 2007 @ 10:45 am

    Don’t worry guys for treating McGuinty well. Last Eid-al-Azha he showed up at the Eid prayer in Toronto and gave an Eid ‘khutba’ along with some other politicians, something that is unheard of in the US.

    Canada treats Pakistanis better than any Western country so treating Canadian leaders is a GOOD thing.


  3. Tara (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 9:58 am

    Umm, sorry for splitting hairs but Ontario doesn’t have a Prime Minister. It’s a province not a country. Duh!


  4. karachiite (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    In Canada the head of the province is called the ‘Premier’. He is like our Chief Minister.


  5. samra (unregistered) on March 7th, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

    ahan!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    its kool



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