Facilitating The Need Of Every Pakistani

Bilateral ties between the UAE and Pakistan continue to grow strong as both nations look to strengthen their bonds through areas of mutual interest, asserts CG

By Muhammad Ali Bandial

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Hassan Afzal Khan, Consul-General of Pakistanin Dubai and the Northern Emirates
Hassan Afzal Khan, Consul-General of Pakistanin Dubai and the Northern Emirates

Published: Wed 23 Mar 2022, 11:15 AM

To Hassan Afzal Khan, the Consul-General of Pakistan in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, the UAE has always been a second home for the Pakistani community. Although the CG took charge six months ago, he said that during his time, the Consulate has been focused on providing timely and efficient service to overseas. He added that the Consulate is available to facilitate the needs of the Pakistani community at every corner.

Trade fairs and exhibitions

On the question of identifying specific trade markets for Pakistani exporters, Khan said: “The government in general, has a very limited role to play when it comes to guiding the business, but they are always at hand to supply whatever support is needed. All the trade fairs and exhibitions that take place in the UAE are very high on the list of priorities of our Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), which is responsible for coordinating and reaching out to the Pakistani exporters and trade associations and making sure that they are able to attend these trade fairs and exhibitions all across the world. In doing so, they have to pick and choose and decide on those events which are more closely aligned with the sectors of interest to Pakistani exporters. Thus, for Pakistan, the UAE market is very important and that is why the Pakistani businessmen and exporters set up their offices here as it is a gateway to the Middle East and the GCC region.” Continuing on the topic, Khan said that for the current year, eight trade fairs had been identified by the Government of Pakistan through TDAP to facilitate and help the Pakistani exporters in participating in these events.

Bilateral Trade Ties Between the UAE and Pakistan

Khan said that with regard to 2021, the numbers were still coming, and it was too early to speculate. But, he added: “for 2020, the figure for bilateral trade between the two countries was more than $8.5 billion dollars. The major items of import from the UAE were petroleum and petroleum related products, which also tilts the trade balance heavily in favour of the UAE. From Pakistan’s side, the export items are predominantly related to cotton products and rice, vegetables and fruits which have a huge market in the UAE due to the large Pakistani and Indian diaspora in the country.”

Serving the Pakistani community

On the question of initiatives launched by the Consulate to serve the Pakistani community, the Consul-General said: “The present Consulate was built in 1982 when the Pakistani community numbered 120,000 in the UAE. Fast forward to the present and that number has grown to 1.6 million legal residents who are still being served within the same building. In meeting the needs of such a large number, the core focus has always been to ensure that consular services are available to every Pakistani. Through outsourcing of IT and e-services to third parties, the Consulate has lived up to the expectations of its 1.6 million fellow countrymen.” Khan added: “The priority remains to provide efficient and timely consular services and for that, the Consulate has built makeshift air-conditioned halls with water and toilet facilities to keep people out of the sun while they wait their turn. That has been one of the major initiatives taken by the Consulate. Linked with that, the Consulate has also streamlined its services. One such area where the Consulate is working on is transforming the machine-readable passport services from a six to seven step process to a single-window operation. The same has been operationalised for NADRA services as well. With this, the 1,000 to 1,200 visitors to the Consulate are entertained in a smooth and efficient manner.”

People to people connections

When asked about the people to people connections, the Consul-General said: “As we emerge from the pandemic enforced restrictions, there has been a significant increase in the movement of Pakistani nationals to the UAE, including celebrities as well. In this regard, the Consulate plays an important role as it facilitates not just individuals but organisations and associations as well. Then there are regional organisations as well which are being facilitated by us with all their logistic and operational needs.” He added: “There have been a lot of artists who have been performing in the UAE and the numbers are going up. Just as an example, in the last week, there have been three artist exhibitions that had been arranged. So that overall, there has been an uptick in the activity that the Consulate has been actively involved in. And with the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai related activities, the people-to-people connections have only strengthened further with more concerts, exhibitions and events.” The Consul-General said that he remained fairly optimistic that they were finally seeing the beginning of a positive growth spurt in business and activities after the pandemic induced downturn of the last two years.

Pakistan Resolution Day events

The Consul-General said that as has been the practice every year, there is a flag hoisting ceremony that is held at the Consulate. He also said: “With the Expo 2020 Dubai going on, the UAE Government has been very supportive in arranging for a number of activities celebrating Pakistan’s Resolution Day that will be held all over the Expo venue and not just the Pakistan pavilion.”

Message on Pakistan Resolution Day

The Consul General said: “For Pakistan, the UAE holds a special place and the bilateral relations between the two are very deep. This has been also acknowledged by the UAE government and they have always supported the Pakistan government. I would like to thank the leadership of the UAE and the people of this great nation for continuing to support their Pakistani brethren and for providing them with a region where Pakistani people could come and make it their second home.”

— ali@khaleejtimes.com

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