Ladies and gentlemen, can I start by thanking the Roots Millennium Schools, and in particular Faisal Mushtaq, for inviting me here as your guest. It is a great honour. When you are invited as a foreigner to a school, you really are being invited to the heart of a country. Even more so on such an important day for everyone here.
I should probably confess to two things before I speak:
First, I always find speaking to students more daunting than pretty much any other audience. I am always kept on my toes, there is a great sense of challenge, the questions are more open. Perhaps I should be grateful today that there is no Q and A.
Second is that I have always had a particular interest in schools and education. And that is not just because of the work the British Government does on education in Pakistan. By far the biggest thing we do here is support Pakistan’s education system – and that is right. But it is also because of my background. I am, on my mother’s side at least, from a long line of educationalists.
You don’t, however, have to be an educationalist to know that after 2 hours of ceremony, no student wants to hear an Ambassador drone on for more than a couple of minutes.
So I will restrict myself to two things:
First is to congratulate you. You have all achieved fantastic things.
I remember well my own graduation ceremony and the sense of relief of getting over the months of hard work and angst. I confess that it took me a good few years to stop having dreams about exams after my university finals.
The second – and more important point – is to make the most of it. I can now speak as a diplomat. This is a country of fantastic potential. I have only been in Pakistan for 6 weeks, but this is coming back after an 8-year gap. I see how it has developed. I feel hugely more optimistic. Admittedly, I left Pakistan in 2008 – a difficult year – and a time when the outside world looked at Pakistan mostly in the context of risk.
Now, risks of course remain, but I and the British Government see also a country of hope and potential. We have the Governor of Punjab here. How many people know that if Punjab were a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world? Karachi is the world’s 6th biggest city; we don’t yet view it in the same way as we do Shanghai or Sao Paolo. This is a country buzzing with potential. Pakistan’s main task is to realise it – and you will find the British Government right behind you.
But in the end, the key to making all this happen – and realising Pakistan’s potential - is you. You are Pakistan’s future. You should grab it.