A gathering for harmony

The country's largest Pakistani women's group held an Eid al Fitr event to enhance the image of their homeland.

Pakistani dancers wait to perform at the Renaissance Hotel in Dubai.
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DUBAI // The country's largest Pakistani women's group held a belated Eid al Fitr event to enhance the image of their troubled homeland. More than 500 women attended the event organised by the Pakistan Association Ladies Wing (PALW) at the Renaissance Hotel in Dubai, which included a cooking contest, traditional dancing and games.

"It is important to enhance the image of Pakistan and Pakistani women at this time of crisis. People should know that we do not belong to terrorist lobbies. We are peace-loving people and we want people to live with people in harmony. It is always important to have this function, but at this point it is even more important," said Naheed Nafees, an adviser to the PALW. She added that it was especially important for those concerned about relatives back home: "My family and I think twice when we have to go to Pakistan. And if we ever get a phone call from there, we always hope for good news."

Pakistan is facing a host of challenges, from a Taliban-style insurgency, highlighted by the deadly bombing of Islamabad's Marriott hotel, to financial turmoil. Islamabad's relations with Washington, its principal financial backer, have also deteriorated because of US incursions into tribal regions. Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, visited Dubai this month to ask expatriates to support the new government of President Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widower, with cash.

The guest of honour at the PALW event was Sheikha Hana Al Qassimi of Sharjah's royal family, who said: "I hope everything will be OK after all this time of struggling and fighting. I like to be with the women and see the activities of Pakistani women. We live as families for a long time so I am very happy to meet them and to see their kind of activities, because they are Muslims and our neighbours."

The Szabist University campus in Dubai helped the association organise the event. Meena Safdar, a 21-year-old Pakistani university student, was one of those who danced in the show wearing traditional salwar kameez outfits. "There is more to Pakistan than terrorism. The PALW are giving a lot of information out. I was born and brought up in Qatar and I haven't been into my Pakistani culture. We get to know a lot here, even about ourselves with the national dances. People can see Pakistan here, how colourful and lively it is."

Shaheeda Saeed, a Dubai-based volunteer with the PALW, recited a verse from the Quran before the entertainment began. "I don't know at which point it will get better [in Pakistan], but Allah will help us. Every time Allah will help us. We believe in Allah," she said. asafdar@thenational.ae