Pakistani orphans visit Dubai

Eight among 142 orphans travel to Dubai to meet the sponsors who helped them to rebuild lives ruined in Taliban insurgency.

Children from the conflict-torn Swat Valley in Pakistan are entertained at the Lal Qila restaurant on their first visit to Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // Eight children from Pakistan who lost members of their families during the Taliban insurgency, visited the UAE for the first time to thank the country and the people who supported them.

The children are now being looked after by an organisation called Parwarish, which is supported mainly by Dubai-based Pakistani expatriates.

Parwarish (which means “upbringing” in English) is a boarding school in Swat Valley. It not only gives education but also provides shelter to more than 230 orphans between the ages of five and 15.

One of the children who visited Dubai, H H, was eight when the Taliban killed his father and hanged his body at a marketplace. He was murdered and made an example of because he sent his child to school. Now aged 15, H H is in Grade 9 and has not stopped going to school.

“We are not scared of the Taliban, or any evil force who stop us from becoming a good and educated human being,” he said.

H H was adopted by a Dubai family and is visiting the city for the first time.

“Dubai is like a dream city. I want to be an engineer and make my Swat city like Dubai.

“It will be the best revenge for all those evil powers who want to destroy us,” he said.

“During military operation against the Taliban between 2007 and 2009, more than 10,000 children lost their parents in Swat Valley,” said Naeem Ullah, the founding director of Parwarish, who established the boarding school in 2009.

“Most of these children’s parents were killed by the Taliban, in some cases in front of their eyes. We realised that if these children don’t get proper support then they might become Taliban themselves. We had to protect them to protect our future,” he said.

Mr Ullah got the idea while working as a volunteer at one of the camps for internally displaced people (IDP) and found the children standing in long queues for food.

“I shared my thought with the Pakistan Association Dubai volunteers who were also providing support and assistance to IDPs in Swat. They not only supported me morally but also helped me in establishing the school.”

Mr Ullah said almost 90 per cent of the financial support to Parwarish came from people in Dubai.

“More than 142 children have been adopted by extremely generous people here. They are supporting not only their education but also their expenses.”

Mr Ullah said despite being connected with the UAE for the past six years, this is the first time the Parwarish children had visited Dubai.

During the stay this month, the children visited tourist attractions, attended a Pakistani Association dinner and also saw one of the Pakistan Super League cricket matches.

“Almost all the reconstruction and development work done in Swat following military operations and floods have been done by the government of the UAE. Whenever they see the UAE flag in Swat, these children understand something good is coming up,” Mr Ullah said.

Dubai businessman Rehan Hidayat, his wife Huda, and two of their close relatives have adopted four children, three boys and a girl, from Parwarish.

Mr Hidayat, an Indian national, adopted the girl and met her for the first time in Dubai.

“We adopted her five years ago but we never got the chance to meet her, although we have been regularly updated about her educational and other progress. We are very happy to meet her and glad that the school is taking care of her very well.”

Mr Hidayat said he heard about the children from his wife, who is a Pakistani.

“When we heard about Parwarish and how it is supporting such beautiful children who were the victims of circumstance, we immediately decided to at least take responsibility for one child. My mother and my brother joined us later,” he said. “For me and my family, nationality means nothing. I don’t care what is the nationality of a child as long as he or she needs support.”