DUBAI // Prominent Pakistanis in the UAE described ways to better unite their community during an awards ceremony in Dubai last weekend.
The Pakistan Association Dubai rewarded 19 community members on Saturday for promoting a positive image of their country. Asif Durrani, Pakistani ambassador to the UAE, presented the awards to the winners in the ceremony, which followed the country’s national day on March 23.
“This is the third year the association has given awards to recognise Pakistani individuals who have achieved excellence in their professional fields, thereby portraying a positive image of Pakistan,” said Dr Faisel Ikram, the association’s general secretary.
The community plays a positive role in the development of Pakistan and the UAE, through an estimated US$4.1 billion (Dh15bn) in remittances, said Mr Durrani.
Munir Ahmed Khalili, a former academic, was awarded for his contributions as a schoolteacher and author. He has written more than 16 books on education and political and social issues.
The awards boost morale of Pakistani expatriates in the UAE, but Mr Khalili said more could be done to keep the community engaged as they faced their own set of challenges.
“Unlike other communities in the UAE, we are most loosely connected. We don’t care about each other,” said Mr Khalili, 72, who has lived in the UAE for 40 years. “Even those who are in a better position and are privileged do not care about other fellow community members who are not so fortunate and need their support.”
He believed the community’s performance in the UAE had declined over the past four decades.
“We might have progressed individually, but we have failed to perform as a community that cares for each other, no matter who you are and how you are placed,” he said.
Younger generations of Pakistani expats were disconnected with their national identity, he said. “I cannot blame young Pakistanis who are born and brought up here,” said Mr Khalili. “We as elders have not been able to connect them with their motherland. Pakistani schools in the UAE have also not been able take the responsibility to give them their identity and teach them about their home country.”
Another winner, Dr Jameela Haq, 25, believed that uniting the community was the major challenge to projecting the right image of Pakistan in the UAE.
Born and raised in the UAE, Dr Haq was awarded for establishing Pakistan Youth Forum, aimed at helping them work together for the betterment of the community.
In a competitive society such as that in the Emirates, where talent from around the world worked together, the best way to promote Pakistan’s image was to excel and outshine in professional and social responsibilities, said Dr Haq.
“The major challenge is to make everyone realise that in whatever way and mode possible, we have the responsibility and the duty bestowed upon us to help others and work towards the improvement and enhancement of the society,” she said.