Pakistan association to elect new leader

Group expanded and built new hall under outgoing president Riaz Farooq Sahl, whose term concludes at the end of March.

Riaz Farooq Sahi's second two-year term as the president of the Pakistan Association Dubai concludes at the end of March. Galen Clarke /The National
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DUBAI // As Riaz Farooq Sahi's four years as president of the Pakistan Association of Dubai draw to a close, he counts a massive expansion of membership and a new community hall as the proudest achievements of his time in office.

Mr Sahi's second two-year term concludes at the end of March.

He is not allowed to run for election again, but will remain as an executive member.

He says the association's future looks bright and the organisation is more financially secure.

"I decided to join the association in the first place because I had a desire to help Pakistanis living in Dubai," says Mr Sahi, 54, who moved to the UAE in 1997.

"I wanted to serve my community and, thanks to the help and support of other members of the association, we have achieved a lot."

He joined the association as welfare secretary in 2002 and was elected president in 2007 and again in 2009.

"When I joined we had only 167 members. Now we have about 4,000, of which 2,300 are long-term members."

During that time, the association's annual welfare budget has jumped from Dh100,000 to Dh2m, reflecting the fact that Dubai's Pakistanis, like many of the 1.25 million Pakistanis in the UAE, were hit by the fallout from the financial crisis.

"We help people who have lost their jobs and want to return home [or] pay for school fees for children from underprivileged backgrounds and medical costs," he says.

Meanwhile, a Dh6.3m multipurpose hall next to the existing PAD centre in Bur Dubai is almost complete.

Designed as a "focal point for the community", the hall will be rented out for weddings and the like, generating revenue that can be put back into other projects and services.

Mr Sahi now plans to devote more attention to his gold, property and transport companies in Sharjah and Dubai, as well as his business interests in Saudi Arabia.

On top of that, he has ambitions for a political career in his native Punjab.

The association's executive board will be dissolved at the end of March, and a temporary committee formed to organise fresh elections within three months. Voting will be open to long and short-term members.