ABU DHABI // Nearly 2,800 Pakistani criminals are to be sent back to serve the remainder of their prison sentences in their home country following a prisoner swap agreement signed by the two nations.
Jamil Khan, the new Pakistan ambassador to the UAE, said the soon to be implemented prisoner exchange programme would "only work to further nurture the relationship" between the two countries.
The diplomat added that "there is a spectrum of prisoners who had committed petty to serious crimes".
The exchange will be the first step towards boosting ties between the countries and highlighting Pakistan's deep-rooted and time-tested relationship with the Emirates, he said.
This relationship was also underlined by the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, during a meeting with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in Islamabad last week.
Mr Khan said he was keen to cooperate with the UAE to fight terrorism in the region.
"The UAE is paving the way for the long-term development of Afghanistan, which will automatically help [the] Afghan people in addressing the problem of extremism and terrorism," he said.
"And Pakistan, being a key player in the region, will continue augmenting the efforts of UAE and members of the world community in their efforts to ensure peace and tranquility in the global community."
Mr Khan said he was confident that Pakistan's government would be able to assist the UAE in its leadership role in "countering zealotry and violent extremism that uses a distorted view of religion to further an aggressive political agenda".
"Pakistan has one of the biggest component of security forces, like the army," said Mr Khan. "And the institutions have very strong foundations, which have been able to not only withstand the biggest challenge of the present-day world that is counter-terrorism and counter-extremism with the given resources."
Mr Khan said Muslim countries had a special relationship, evident in the words of Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the Emirates, who once said that "Pakistan is my second home". And the way the UAE came forward to help the flood victims of Pakistan showed that Sheikh Zayed's sentiment was "still fresh in the minds and hearts of the people of this country", Mr Khan said.
During a three-day telethon, Dh72 million was raised for flood relief. Emiratis "have been on the fore in flood relief programmes and have gone to all nooks and corners", Mr Khan said. He expressed his gratitude to the UAE for its relief efforts, with US$60m (Dh220m) donated and three military helicopters dispatched for rescue and relief.
"I must also here express my gratitude to organisations like the Sheikh Zayed Foundation, Sheikh Khalifa Foundation, the Red Crescent and Dubai Care for their timely efforts and contribution," he added. The ambassador stressed that the geographical proximity between the countries offered an opportunity to do serve the needs of one another.
"Being cognizant of the stature and the importance of [the UAE]and relations which it maintains with Pakistan, there is a lot more potential to enhance these relations and take it to new heights," he said.
The ambassador, who had previously been posted in Libya, hoped to increase exponentially Pakistan-UAE trade during his tenure. He planned to match traders and businessmen to explore possibilities. Pakistan produces petroleum products, rice, textiles, fish and fruit, all popular in the UAE, making the Emirates the second-largest export destination behind the United States.