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Celebrating freedom: Austria marks national day



ISLAMABAD: At a reception held on Monday to mark Austrian National Day, what should have been a celebratory environment was rendered relatively sombre by the deadly Afghanistan-Pakistan earthquake, which struck just a few hours before the event.

Ahead of the speeches, the national anthems of both countries were performed on saxophone, which the assembly appreciated.

Austrian Ambassador Dr Brigitta Blaha started her speech by noting that, “Nature has given a bit of a headache,” in reference to the torrential rain over the last few days, after which she referred to the earthquake, saying, “I would like to express our sympathy to our Pakistani friends.”

She then gave a quick rundown of Austria’s history since 1955, the year in which the Austrian State Treaty was signed, and a few months later came the Declaration of Neutrality — the signing date of which is marked as the national day.

Blaha then spoke of Austria’s efforts in making the world a better place, especially through the United Nations, while also noting that Vienna is home to one of the UN’s four major office sites.

She then spoke on economic, military and cultural ties between Pakistan and Austria, noting how Muhammad Asad — one of the fathers of the first constitution of Pakistan — was born Leopold Weiss in Austria. She also mentioned Viqarunnisa Noon, the Austrian-born social worker who was also the wife of former prime minister Feroz Khan Noon.

The ambassador also referenced Austrian mountaineers and their love of Pakistan’s great peaks, while noting that the embassy is planning an Austrian-Pakistani music festival, with the saxophone performance of the national anthems being a bit of a preview of what is to come.

Later, she presented the Energy Globe Award to the Association for Humanitarian Development.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, National Taekwondo champion Rana Sadaqat Ali appreciated the event and offered his best wishes to the Austrian people. Works of photographer Silvia Grossmann were also on display.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2015.

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