Potential, Prospect and Will — UAE-Pakistan economies complementary


Dr. Arif Alvi, President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Dr. Arif Alvi, President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

The investor-ready country has created huge opportunities for the UAE as well as the world

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Published: Wed 23 Mar 2022, 12:00 AM

The bond between the UAE and Pakistan has developed strongly over the years and it continues to prosper, according to Afzaal Mahmood, Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE.

According to the Ambassador, “The UAE and Pakistan are complementary economies. We have wonderful bilateral ties between both the nations. What Pakistan produces, the UAE purchases and vice-versa. The potential is there, the prospects are there and the will is there. We see the efforts put in by the top leadership at government levels to ensure regular contacts, including His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, President Dr. Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan.”

Message from the President

"Pakistan Day is a landmark day in the history of the sub-continent on many counts. On this day in 1940, the Muslims changed their demand from ‘separate electorates’ to a ‘separate state’ and made it clear to the British that partitioning of the subcontinent could not be delayed any further. On this historic day, therefore, it becomes our duty to pay homage to the founding fathers of this nation for taking timely and prudent political decisions.

Achieving national freedom is considered as half work done in such struggles. The remaining half, being crucial for a state’s security and stability, is equally important. This includes blending of various ethnic and minority groups into a single nation, ensuring the supremacy of law, curbing differences on the basis of social and class status, eliminating terrorism and internal disturbances, achieving economic growth, promoting good relations with the world, especially with the neighbouring countries, and above all, protecting human rights of all the citizens of the state.

These tasks are achievable. The way the Pakistani nation has overcome polio and Covid-19, there remains no doubt that the challenges which Pakistan is facing now can be addressed by the collective efforts of all. The day will not be far away when Pakistan becomes an economically strong and prosperous country. We need to stand united and collectively work for the unity and socio-economic development of the country to materialize the dream of our forefathers. May Allah be with us all. Ameen!"

Message from the Prime Minister

Imran Khan, Prime Minister, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Imran Khan, Prime Minister, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

"March 23rd is the day to renew our commitment to adhere to the principles of justice and equity; the real objectives of the creation of Pakistan. Today, we pay tribute to the ‘Father of the Nation’ and all the leaders of the freedom movement who struggled for uniting the nation through their unparalleled sacrifices. It is important for our youth to note that Pakistan came into being through a long democratic struggle and now the key to its stability and development also lies in hard work, honesty and morality.

While commemorating this day, we need to adhere to the principles of Unity, Faith and Discipline laid down by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and re-dedicate ourselves to developing Pakistan as a truly democratic welfare state on the model of Riyasat-e-Madina.

On this day, it is pertinent to reflect upon the challenges confronting us as a nation. Our Government has brought in long-term reforms and initiatives to alleviate poverty and promote justice. Our focus remains on the marginalised segments of the society and to provide them equal opportunities. Kamyab Pakistan Programme offers huge economic benefits for the youth, farmers, small scale business and the low cost housing sector. Our flagship initiative of Qaumi Sehat Card will provide universal health coverage to all citizens, that is unprecedented in the history of our country.

We are now on the path to regain our past glory. The struggle to eliminate corruption and improve moral standards would require the same persistence as our founding fathers persevered during the freedom movement.

I pray to Almighty Allah to bless us with the strength to follow in the footprints of our great forefathers.

Pakistan Paindabad."

Apart from the leadership, he also stated that there are high-level ministerial visits between the two nations, including Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi who visited the UAE in April 2021 and in February this year, that help build better trade and investment ties, including in the tourism area.

Investors’ haven

Mahmood reiterated the fact that Pakistan is open for investment, adding that both the nation and foreign investors, including the UAE, have a lot to gain by helping each other. Right now, Pakistan is looking for investors in its energy and tourism sectors because there is a huge potential and benefit for both the parties.

“Right now, there are a few sectors that we have identified and prioritised when it comes to investment in Pakistan. We are looking at investors in the UAE, based on their experience and the strong expertise they have. Energy takes the top spot; next comes tourism. Coming to tourism, Pakistan government wants to develop this sector as fast as possible. I would say that there is a huge potential for investment in star-rated hotels, motels, food chains — basically the whole hospitality sector.”

Speaking about infrastructure benefits, he spoke highly about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The highly anticipated corridor will help create a commercial hub within the country. “That is where we are inviting investors. On the sidelines of CPEC, we are developing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) with incentives for investors, wherein they can establish their industries and tap the Central Asian market. The Islamabad-Istanbul rail services via Iran to Europe is now operational and will not only connect countries, but continents as well. Pakistan is very ambitious about connecting Central Asia to the Middle East and then the West. This will create a huge economic interaction.”

Another key CPEC project is the Gwadar Deep Sea Port, referred to as the ‘Gateway of Asia’. The Ambassador said that the port will facilitate regional trade connection that will be beneficial to Pakistan. He also revealed that soon Gwadar Port and Dubai Ports will be complimenting each other through trade and transit shared between the Central Asia and Middle East regions.

Next, the Ambassador sees great opportunity for investment in the area of food security. He said: “Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy. We amply grow every type of produce, from grains, to vegetables, fruits and even meat. The food processing industry can be an ideal sector for investment. We are a country with 240 million people and a readily available market. We are rich in natural resources, precious and semi-precious stones, minerals, etc. complemented by affordable manpower and connectivity. All these make Pakistan an effective place to invest in the industrial sector. You just need to bring your capital and get going.”

Expo in Focus

Mahmood said that the Pakistan Pavilion has been a great success. The theme, ‘Pakistan – The hidden Treasure’, showcases Pakistan as a package.

“Blessed with a 9,000+ years of history, diverse cultures, and topography, we can turn these into a potential for trade, investment and tourism. Our pavilion showcases our strength to the world.”

He added that the government has put in every bit of an effort to make the pavilion a hit and in the end, they were able to achieve more than what they anticipated. About the pavilion showcase, the Ambassador said that Pakistan dedicated each month of the Expo to one region in Pakistan. “Pakistan has six regions in total and we dedicated one month to one region to showcase its potential. As a result of this, the regional governments were able to sign a total of 120 MoUs not only with the companies in the UAE, but global firms as well here at the Expo 2020 Dubai. We also held many trade investment conferences on the sidelines in many venues across Dubai. This was an achievement.”

He also said that the Expo provided the ideal networking platform for tourists who want to visit Pakistan. “We have an interactive platform at the Expo, which identifies potential tourists and provides tips to them on how to plan a trip to Pakistan. The six visual displays at the pavilion, as you walk through, have been wisely chosen by our team to not overwhelm the viewers and yet capture their attention at the same time. These displays showcase the diversities in our culture, landscape and ethnicity.”

The Pakistan Pavilion achieved another feather in its cap by crossing a benchmark of one million visitors as of March 6, 2022. According to Mahmood, this is a phenomenal landmark. “When we began our journey at Expo 2020 Dubai, we estimated to hold 138 events in six months. However, a month later, we revised the number to 180 and midway through December 2021, we crossed 200 events at the pavilion. The latest figures with me show that we have crossed 300 events in the first week of March. The Pakistan Pavilion is a magnet.” He went on to say how the Embassy still gets requests to hold events and many cannot be accommodated due to paucity of availability of dates.

Another feature that has drawn people from many nations to the pavilion has been the richly varied and delicious food. The Ambassador also attributes the success of the pavilion to the two restaurants — Daawat and Dhaaba. He said: “They serve authentic Pakistani cuisine from every corner of the country. While contracting the hospitality company, we were very clear to hire a chef who knew every cuisine in Pakistan. It was not an easy task because dialects and cuisines change every 10 km in Pakistan. But it wasn’t impossible either. We were happy to get a great chef who has included dishes from every corner — from Sindh to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — in the menu. We are so happy that people are eating and enjoying the food at the pavilion.”

Emerging Pakistan

Among the many initiatives that Pakistan is encouraging investments for, tourism and export of manpower are some of the vital ones, asserts Mahmood. The concept ‘Emerging Pakistan’ seeks to promote tourism, art and culture and industries to the world. “The concept of ‘Emerging Pakistan’ was created to attract tourists and businesses. As we emerged from the shadows of terrorism, people started to see our nation as a virgin economy once again. With peace and stability in the country, people are coming back. There is no such thing as ‘This is not the right time to visit Pakistan’ because of the geographical diversity — the northern highlands, beaches and the plains. So, tourists can plan a trip to the country any time of the year. We are developing the coastlines and the beaches in Sindh and Balochistan. However, before the tourists come, investments are vital for hospitality facilities. We are a very welcoming nation,” he said.

Afzaal Mahmood, Pakistan Ambassador
Afzaal Mahmood, Pakistan Ambassador

To promote and fast track tourism, the Ambassador also lays down the various initiatives by the Pakistan government, some of which include visa on arrival for many countries, visa-free arrivals. “We have very liberal policies for international airlines to be operating in and out of Pakistan. All Covid-19 related restrictions have already been removed. If you are vaccinated, you are welcome. We were fortunate to manage Covid through smart lockdowns and good planning that prevented us from being badly hit.”

He also said that Pakistani nationals and expats outside the country play a huge role as the ‘Brand Ambassadors’ of the nation. “With the colleges and universities on a break in many Western countries in the coming months, we are looking forward to the visit of Pakistani families living abroad with their children. They are the lifeline of tourism in Pakistan and they are the ambassadors of Pakistan because they introduce our nation to their friends abroad.”

Message on Pakistan Resolution Day

Extending his deepest and warmest greeting to all Pakistani expats in the UAE, he said: “They make us proud with their responsible behaviour and work ethics. They work with pride and they bring pride to our nation. We consider them as true ambassadors of Pakistan and they are an effective bridge between Pakistan and the UAE. I would like to invite them for the National Day celebrations and flag hoisting ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai Al Wasl Plaza at 4 pm. The more they show in numbers, the more it would make us proud.”

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