UAE's Pakistani community celebrates independence day

Families who settled in the Emirates decades ago reflect on their twin homes

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 14, 2019. Rafeeya Pasha and her husband and daughter celebrating Pakistan's independence day at home.  --  (L-R)  Mohammed Sultan Pasha, Aisha Ahmed and Dr. Rafeeya Pasha.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:Anam Rizvi

The UAE's Pakistani community of one and a half million celebrated its country's independence day on Wednesday, dwelling on their nation's history and their adopted homeland.

Gathered early at the embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai, they raised the flag to mark August 14, the day their country became a sovereign nation at the end of British rule in 1947.

For Dr Rafeeya Pasha, 81, the Emirates have been home to she and her husband for 51 years. Three generations of her family now live in the capital.

“When I moved here in 1968 there was a tiny Pakistani community and we would celebrate independence day together in Abu Dhabi," said Dr Pasha, who worked as a doctor before retirement and lives near Umm Al Emarat Park.

"Every 14th August we would get ready early in the morning and go to attend the flag hoisting at 7am at the Pakistan embassy.

When I moved here in 1968 there was a tiny Pakistani community and we would celebrate independence day together in Abu Dhabi

"We loved the atmosphere and spending the morning there.

"There is a great community of Pakistanis here in UAE and people come over to celebrate with us at home."

Her husband, Mohammed Sultan Pasha, 84, said he treasures memories of their earliest days in Abu Dhabi.

“We would speak with our family at home in Pakistan and this would be a joyful day," he said.

“In the 1970’s the Pakistani community was a very close-knit one and everyone was concerned for everyone. If anybody was in trouble, the entire community would be there to support them."

Coinciding with the Eid holidays this year, Dua Ahmed, Dr Pasha's daughter, said this week is a special one.

"My parents moved here and we are here now with our daughter, so we are three generations of Pakistanis here in the UAE. In many ways, this is home for us," said Ms Ahmed.

"It is a wonderful occasion and this year it overlaps with Ed so it's a double celebration for us.

"We are filled with a renewed hope for the future of our country. The whole community feels a strong sense of belonging and patriotism."

Pakistani Students singing patriotic songs at the Independence Day of Pakistan commemoration ceremony held at Pakistan Embassy Abu Dhabi.

At the embassy, children from local schools danced and sang, while Ambassador Ghulam Dastgir recalled the sacrifices made in the first years of his nation.

He spoke of the Pakistani community's role in the rapid development of the UAE, where many work in constructing, hospitals, banks and family-run businesses.

Mr Dastgir also spoke of his appreciation for the UAE's leaders and their friendship towards Pakistan.

Ammar Sheikh, vice president of the Pakistan Business Professional Council UAE, said thoughts are never far from their home country.

"We celebrate every year and talk of the great memories we have of independence day in Pakistan," he said.

"For people who are new to the country, Independence day definitely helps you feel like you are part of the community," said Mr Sheikh.

He said expatriates who have moved to the country recently feel welcomed by their countrymen who are already here.

"People invite each other to their homes and even dress us in green and white, the colours of our national flag."

On Wednesday, the UAE's leaders congratulated Pakistan and its people. The President, Sheikh Khalifa, sent a message to President Arif Alvi.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, also sent messages to President Alvi and to Prime Minister Imran Khan.