Media plays a very important role: Pakistani envoy
The Consul-General of Pakistan in Dubai, Ahmed Amjad Ali holds the first edition of the Khaleej Times during his visit to the newspaper office in Dubai - Photo by M. Sajjad
Dubai - Ali said journalists carry a responsibility of informing the public and setting the popular perception on each subject.
Media plays an important role in society, often helping shape the opinions of the masses and it is a responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly: This is the message from the Consul-General of Pakistan in Dubai, Ahmed Amjad Ali.
A fan of traditional media who reads the newspaper every morning, Ali said journalists carry a responsibility of informing the public and setting the popular perception on each subject.
Ali, who was appointed as the consul-general eight months ago, spoke to Khaleej Times exclusively during a visit to the KT headquarters on Monday, October 14.
"Media, I think, always plays very important role. That space (for traditional media) is there and will always remain. A traditional person like me, who always opens the paper in the morning, will remain and it will never go," he said.
"Media changes the perception of anything - positive or negative. Khaleej Times produces supplements of almost all countries - some of them where I'd never been to - and I learn more about them through those supplements. It's a tool which I say can be used positively or negatively. You want to promote something, media can do that. Create a hype? Media can do that as well. If you want to go after something, media can do it. It's a make or break situation. As journalists, it's a great responsibility on you people as well."
Ties with UAE
Speaking on Pakistan and UAE relations, he highlighted the deep-rooted ties both the countries have. Currently, 1.6 million Pakistanis live across the UAE.
He said trade between the UAE and Pakistan "are not what should have been", though "gradually" Pakistani economic sector and indicators are growing. Last year, Pakistan had about $9 million trade, which is the highest in many years.
"Obviously, with the Galadari family and with Khaleej Times, Pakistan has historic relations. Talking about the UAE, Pakistan and the UAE enjoy brotherly relations since 1971. UAE Founder, Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, always used to call Pakistan as a second home. So, we drive our relationship from that point. In the last one year, we've had four high-level visits, three from Prime Minister of Pakistan to the UAE and one from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Amed Forces, to Pakistan. Our trajectory in the bilateral relations is going up."
Ali also touched on the Pakistani workforce in the UAE and said 200,000 Pakistani work force have arrived in the UAE in the past few years.
Out of the 1.6million Pakistanis in the UAE, 70 per cent are blue-collared workers, though there has been a significant increase in the number of skilled and semi-skilled workers coming to the UAE.
"Rough estimates show that there were 200,000 working class people coming into the UAE in the last few years. Pakistan has 16 per cent of youth work force, from ages between 18 and 30. Many youngsters with very high education and qualifications are coming to the UAE," he said. "I've seen so many professionals coming in the IT sector and banking sector, which is a very positive sign. That trend is growing. The unskilled workforce demand is decreasing and that's not just in the UAE, it's global. In construction and transport, Pakistanis still have a hold. They are doing well."
When it comes to the welfare of the Pakistani community, Ali shed light on the consular services being provided across the UAE on weekends.
The consular team travels to Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Ajman every Friday to give support to the community. Because of the lack of space in the current consulate building, the team travels to the people.
"When our consulate was built in 1982, there were 200 people coming daily. Now it has grown to an average of 1,200 people daily. You see the increase in number," Ali said.
"Space was the biggest problem for us. After I came here, we made two new halls and almost 250 people can sit in those air-conditioned halls. Every Friday, we provide consular visits and we are on a six-month schedule. We are also helping Pakistani inmates who have completed their term but need air tickets to go back. We have given Eid packages to our prisoners."
And in terms of the prisoner exchange programme, Ali revealed that they have signed a treaty already and the implementation will start soon.
He also revealed that the consulate building will soon be reconstructed and the process is under way. The current building has never been changed since it was first built in 1982.
Schools to have better infrastructure
The Pakistan Consulate in Dubai is working with the Government of Ras Al Khaimah to receive more land for the Pakistani community school, which will help accommodate more students, said Ahmed Amjad Ali, Consul-General of Pakistan in Dubai.
The current problem with some of the community schools under the jurisdiction of the consulate is the lack of space for pupils. The number of admissions are on the rise, though, limited space remains a struggle.
"We have more than 2,500 students in these three schools. This year, we have more than 450 new admissions. Our school in Ras Al Khaimah is the best Pakistani school in the UAE. It had an increase of over 200 students. With the land that was given in the late 90s, it's becoming small for those kids," Ali said.
"We are in talks with the government about a bigger plot and we'll start reconstruction of a bigger campus. Similarly in Fujairah, the school was inaugurated was in 1988, we will be starting phase 2 of that school. We will be soon making a multipurpose ground there, which can be used for football, basketball, volleyball and a cricket pitch."
The consulate has also started a scholarship scheme for deserving children, with high academic merit, but cannot afford fees. A total of 50 students from each school will receive a scholarship per year.
"Other than that, in the last eight months, the consulate has really helped the schools to financially come out of the crisis. Since they are community schools, mostly children from not-so-high income families go there. Economically these schools are non-profit and go into financial crisis. We've tried to reduce that. We've tried to improve the infrastructure," Ali said.
"With the help of the Pakistani community, we have helped the children who are out of school because they cannot pay the fees. There are many philanthropists from the Pakistani community who have taken care of those children now, so that they can go to school. There are a lot of kids who cannot pay fees and are out of school. The number is a bit high and it's alarming. But we are trying that the consulate could help them."