Vote of Thanks by Director General ISSI, Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, at the Concluding Session of the Gandhara Symposium 2023, Islamabad, 12 July 2023

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Vote of Thanks by Director General ISSI, Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, at the Concluding Session of the Gandhara Symposium 2023, Islamabad

12 July 2023

Honorable Senator Talha Mahmood sb, 

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony,

Dr. Ramesh Kumar, MoS/Chairman PM Task Force on Gandhara Tourism

Excellencies,

Respected Faith Leaders,

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Let  me begin by congratulating you all at the successful completion of our academic sessions and in-door deliberations.

I believe everyone who has participated in the proceedings over these two-days would agree that we are just concluding a very meaningful and substantive interaction.

The significance of the Symposium lay not just in its ability to bring together faith leaders, scholars, experts, practitioners and policymakers, but also in generating a stimulating environment for an open, constructive, forward-looking, and result-oriented dialogue.

We were all united by a common purpose: i.e., the preservation, protection and further promotion of the Buddhist Gandhara heritage in Pakistan.

The themes explored, ideas exchanged, and perspectives shared during these enlightening sessions have enriched our knowledge and understanding of the unique Gandhara civilisation and its profound impact on human history.

This will certainly contribute to enhanced public awareness about Gandhara, both within Pakistan and internationally, and help us advance our shared objectives – from disseminating the message of peace and tolerance to fostering inter-cultural dialogue and harmony to promoting faith tourism.

The key takeaways from the various sessions would be instrumental in crafting a thoughtful strategy and an action plan for the realisation of these goals.

In my long list of thanks, I would like to begin with our esteemed foreign participants who graciously accepted our invitation and travelled all the way from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Myanmar, the UK and China. Your erudite presentations and thought-provoking discourse have kindled a renewed interest in the Gandhara civilization and its timeless treasures. On behalf of the organising committee, I extend our heartfelt gratitude for your active participation. We also wish you safe travel back home.

We are equally indebted to the scholars, researchers and experts who joined us from within Pakistan. Your expertise and scholarship have been invaluable in providing a comprehensive overview of the historical, artistic, cultural, and religious aspects of Gandhara and in suggesting a practical way forward in promoting this legacy.

Our most sincere gratitude goes to the Honourable President for his inspiring Inaugural Address and his warm and gracious reception accorded to the participants at the Aiwan-e-Sadr yesterday. I am sure this served to make the Symposium that much more memorable.

We also extend deep thanks to our esteemed chief guest for this Concluding Session, Minister Talha Mahmood Sahib. Your kind support for this initiative and words of wisdom today have helped further the goals set forth by the Organisers.

As for the organisers, I would like to pay special thanks to MoS/Chairman PM Taskforce on Gandhara Tourism Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani as well as Dr. Abdul Samad and his team at the Directorate of Archeology & Museums, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This Symposium would not have been possible without their full support and valuable efforts.

The ISSI team ably led by Dr. Talat Shabbir worked very closely with all the relevant Departments and Institutions to meticulously plan each activity. I thank everyone in ISSI and partner organisations in successful execution of the programme, Alhamdolillah. Now, the segment pertaining to site visits is commencing and we trust that this part would also be accomplished seamlessly InshaAllah.

Last but not least, I would like to express our gratitude to the custodians of the Gandhara civilization and Buddhist heritage in Pakistan, including the local communities. Their tireless efforts in preserving, protecting, and promoting this invaluable heritage are a testament to their unwavering commitment and passion. We acknowledge their indispensable role and reaffirm our fullest support to all their endeavours in ensuring that our future generations can also cherish the profound legacy of Gandhara.

In conclusion, let us remember that this symposium is not an endpoint but rather a stepping stone towards a future where the vibrant spirit of Gandhara civilization and Buddhist heritage thrives.

Let us remain committed to nurturing cultural diplomacy, fostering academic and practical collaboration, and spreading the ‘fragrance’ of Gandhara to the entire world.

This symposium has been a resounding success, thanks to the unwavering support of you all and our team of young volunteers.

May the spirit of Gandhara continue to inspire us and guide us towards a future of harmony, enlightenment, and cultural understanding.

Thank you.