Islamabad - British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew CMG yesterday celebrated the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth-II in Islamabad with a reception showcasing the shared cultural ancestry and history of Pakistan.

The event this year featuring the music from a British military quintet and delicious British cuisine also marked the 64th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne, when she became both the British Sovereign and the Head of the Commonwealth.

This high-profile event featured Ghulam Murtaza Khan Jatoi, Federal Minister for Industries and Production, as the chief guest along with prominent guests from the world of government, diplomacy, culture and the media.

Speaking at the Queen Birthday Party reception, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew CMG said, “Though I have been High Commissioner less than 2 months, I first came to work in the High Commission 10 years ago. I am not incidentally the only one. Look at the receiving line: our defence adviser served here in 2007; so did my wife, herself, a diplomat posted here in 2010. We have all seen a lot of changes.”

“One thing that has not changed is Pakistan’s unique buzz. For all the difficulties of the last decade, the country continues to exude energy, creativity and resilience. What has changed, however – and I hope that you will forgive the first impressions of a newcomer – is the sense of hope and change. It is great to come back and get a feeling of a country, for all the difficulties, starting to fulfil its potential.”

“The potential is exciting. You just need to look at the map to see it. How long will it take, for example, before we view Karachi through the same lens as its peers in Sao Paolo or Shanghai? I am sure we will.”

“That this country does fulfil this potential is of enormous importance to the UK. The nice thing about being a British diplomat in Pakistan is that our interests really are aligned. It really is the case that what is good for Pakistan is good for the UK and vice versa. And I am not just talking about my ambition to have the England cricket team come back to play a test series in Pakistan,” he added.

“Of course, the cynics among you will say that all of our ambassadors around the world are saying things like this on the Queen’s birthday perhaps. But I am lucky enough here to have the resources to support it. That is why we have our second biggest diplomatic mission in the world here; that is why we have our biggest bilateral development programme here. And why we continue to build. We have just opened a British Business Centre to help British companies; we are about to open a new British Council libraries in Lahore in Karachi.

“In short, the British government is behind Pakistan and wants to make a difference – for Pakistan and for the UK,” he said.

Meanwhile, American band Grupo Fantasma introduced Latin funk music to 125 high school and university students from across Islamabad during their live performance at Lok Virsa yesterday.

The concert, sponsored by the US Embassy in partnership with the Foundation for Arts and Culture (FACE), was part of the band’s three-city tour to Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore. The Grammy-award winning group played a 75-minute set featuring original songs in English and Spanish.

“Music is an essential tool to connect people across cultures and between countries. In Grupo Fantasma’s music, we hear influences from across the world, including South Asia. Their music is a great example of how music adapts and absorbs influences from other cultures. It’s a perfect reflection of American culture, which also blends traditions from all over the world,” US Embassy Islamabad’s Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer Erin Mains told the students.

Grupo Fantasma is a nine-piece musical collective formed in 2000 in Austin, Texas. The band has performed at major festivals and venues internationally, including: Bonnaroo, The Kennedy Center, London’s O2 Arena, The Montreal Jazz Festival, and South by Southwest (SXSW). They have been praised as one of music’s most important and unique independent Latin genre acts to come out of the United States in the last decade.

The US Embassy gives over 100 million rupees annually to support arts programming in Pakistan. Each year, with U.S. government support, dozens of Pakistani musicians participate in programs like the Pakistani Showcase at South-by-Southwest Music Festival, the Dosti Music Project, and Daniel Pearl World Music Days.