200 Pakistanis fly home, thanks to Galadari Brothers
Sayed Zulfi Abbas Bukhari at the Khaleej Times headquarters.- Photo by Neeraj Murali
Dubai - The special flights were arranged by Arshad Malik, CEO of PIA. The airline also offered discounted fares for the operation.
Two hundred Pakistanis, who had been stranded in the UAE for months, flew home on Monday on two special flights sponsored by Galadari Brothers.
Carrying 100 people, the Multan-bound Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK6238 took off at 9am from Sharjah International Airport, while the second one - PIA flight PK6212 - headed for Islamabad at 4pm, with the same number of passengers on board.
Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Pakistan's Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development, conveyed his gratitude to Suhail Galadari, Co-Chairman of Galadri Brothers, for providing free tickets to the Pakistanis, most of whom lost their jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Suhail Galadari had made a Rs10-million pledge to sponsor the air tickets as he met Bukhari at the Khaleej Times office on July 25.
During the meeting, Suhail Galadari had also pledged to invest in the hospitality and tourism sector of Pakistan, in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan's tourism vision.
"Thank you brother Suhail Galadari for fulfilling your promise and standing with the Pakistani nation through Covid times," tweeted Sayed Bukhari.
Ahmed Amjad Ali, the Consul-General of Pakistan in Dubai, thanked Suhail Galadari for supporting the repatriation of Pakistani nationals. The consulate's officials distributed the air tickets to the passengers prior to their flights on Monday.
The special flights were arranged by Arshad Malik, CEO of PIA. The airline also offered discounted fares for the operation.
Khalid Malik, a reprentative of Suhail Galadari, was also at the airport to see off the passengers.
Relief for passengers
Ecstatic passengers thanked Galadari Brothers and the Pakistani mission for arranging the special flights to send them home. Most of them had either lost their jobs or their visas had expired.
Among those who received free tickets was 37-year-old Sher Ali, who had been jobless for months and had lost all his savings during the pandemic.
"I came two years ago and worked as a labourer. When Covid-19 struck, I lost my job so I wanted to go back home. I am thankful to Galadari Brothers for giving us free ticket to head back to our families," said Ali, who hails from Pakistani city of Swat.
Arshad Mahmood was another blue-collar worker who was finally able to heave a sigh of relief as he got his ticket home. He came in the UAE in 2017 but the company he worked for closed down a year later. Since then, he was not able to earn much for his struggling family.
"We were sleeping under the palm trees for the last few days. Though I was able to get a job offer, I had made up my mind to go home. We are really thankful to our sponsor, Galadari Brothers. We will pray for their long and healthy life," said Mahmood.
Mohammad Ishfaq, who hails from the Pakistani city of Muzaffargarh, also lost his job to Covid-19. "I have been working here for two years. After losing my job, I approached the consulate to arrange a ticket for me. I am really thankful to the Galadari Brothers for providing us the free tickets."
Some Pakistanis on board the flights had arrived in the UAE just a few months ago, hoping to build better lives for their families.
Akhtar Hussain, a 37-year-old from Multan, was in the country for only seven months, working for a small private company. "I lost my job after the outbreak of Covid-19. I am going back because I don't have the money to survive. I approached the consulate and they helped me go back. I thank Galadari Brothers for providing us free tickets."
Kashif Javed, who is in his mid-20s, came to Dubai a few months ago in search of better opportunities, however, he wasn't able to find a job. "I came here in December on a visit visa in search of a job but couldn't get one because of the coronavirus. I was really going through a tough time financially. But I am thankful to Galadari Brothers for providing us with free tickets to fly back home."
Some passengers hope to return
Some of the passengers who were flown to their hometowns in Pakistan on Monday still hope that, one day, they will be able to come back to the UAE and find their fortune.
"I intend to come back and look for a good job once the situation improves. My brothers also work here so I hope to be back," said Mohammed Nauman Aziz, 28, who had worked for an AC and fridge maintenance company for eight months. He was laid off as the firm grappled with the challenges arising from the pandemic.
Another expat, Mohammed Usman, who was an accountant at a leading UAE bank before losing his job, is also determined to return and rejoin his company after a few months.
Long-term residents, families express gratitude as they leave for good
Pakistani families who lived in the UAE for decades were among those who boarded the special flights sponsored by Galadari Brothers. And as they leave their second home for good, they have nothing but gratitude in their hearts.
Haji Muneer, who had called UAE home for over 40 years, flew back to Multan with five family members, including two sons, two daughters and his wife.
"We spent a good part of our lives in the UAE. I have no complaints. We pray for the UAE and all the people who had been our friends during our 40-year stay. May God bless them," said Muneer, who worked as a truck driver.
Thanking Galadari Brothers, he said: "I have reached 60 years of age. Now is the time to retire. I want to thank the Galadari Brothers for providing us with the free air tickets."
Suleiman John and his family, who were UAE residents for 10 years, said the free air tickets they received came at a time they needed them most.
Suleiman was displaced from his employment in 2018, while his wife Zeba, who worked as a staff nurse, was made redundant during the pandemic.
"We were short of food and struggling to pay rent, but Galadari Brothers and the Pakistan consulate provided us the tickets to go back. This is a really big effort. I'll always be thankful on behalf of my family," added John.
"Whatever time we spent in Dubai was a memorable one, but Covid-19 affected our kids' education," said Zeba, John's wife.