Pakistani envoy takes caring role

Dubai resident given task of looking after expatriate interests.

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The country's huge Pakistani community has a new friend in high places with the appointment of Javed Malik, Islamabad's ambassador-at-large, as the first UAE-based governor on the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF). The foundation's remit is to look after the interests of Pakistanis abroad as well as those returning home. Mr Malik was given this additional role by Yousef Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister.

"I will be able to reach out to the community and advise them, I can also take the feedback from the community," said Mr Malik, who lives in Dubai. "I will be an ambassador to overseas Pakistanis." The main issue for the 850,000 Pakistanis in the UAE was the lack of schools offering the Pakistani curriculum, he said. "There are some problems with student education, there are too few schools offering the Pakistani curriculum and the choice is limited. More needs to be done. "

In addition, he saw a need for more community cohesion. "We will address the issue of community centres. The OPF does have a mandate to open community centres and schools and we will look into that in light of the local laws. We will have to see that there is no conflict. If there is a great need for a Pakistani centre, I am sure we can work with the Government to make that happen." Also high on his agenda was helping Pakistanis returning home to find affordable housing, improving education for children in Pakistan whose families were living abroad, boosting business links for those wishing to expand into the country and giving legal assistance where it was needed.

But he emphasised that what the OPF, funded by the Pakistan government, could not do was assist people made redundant in the UAE. "What we can do is facilitate their arrival and departure at the airports and if anybody experiences any problems, they can contact the OPF."