Hamad Obaid Al Zaabi, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, shares his thoughts on the time-tested ties between the two nations
How do you see relations between the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan?
Based on deep-rooted historical and cultural ties, the United Arab Emirates and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan enjoy a unique friendship that has stood the test of time. Over the years, our cooperation has expanded to encompass all key areas. In the economic field in particular, our two countries have strengthened their bilateral coordination in recent years. The UAE has played a vital role in supporting Pakistan’s economic and financial stability through assistance in critical times. In 2019, the UAE deposited $2 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan to support the country’s financial and monetary policy and increase liquidity and foreign exchange reserves.
The two countries have announced a strategic economic partnership by establishing a billion dollar investment fund to invest in vital sectors in Pakistan. In the political and diplomatic spheres, the UAE has also worked to enhance global security and stability alongside its international partners, including Pakistan.
The President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with General Qamar JavedBajwa, Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army in May 2022.
What are some of the activities undertaken by the Embassy to strengthen people-to-people ties in Pakistan?
Since my appointment as Head of Mission in 2017, I have worked to strengthen bilateral relations politically, economically and socially.
This happened against the background of the exchange of visits by the leaders of our countries at the highest level. The President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, visited Pakistan. Pakistani leaders, including Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, visited the United Arab Emirates in April 2022. Our two countries are important partners in the region and believe that these visits help to further strengthen our relationship.
The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, in cooperation with charitable and humanitarian organizations in the United Arab Emirates, has worked to implement humanitarian programs and social welfare projects. For example, the UAE Assistance Program to Pakistan (UAE-PAP) was launched to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Pakistan and support their development initiatives for a better future. Its mission is to execute development assistance projects that provide sustainability and continued benefits to the people of Pakistan over the long term. To date, PAP-EAU has carried out 165 projects related to economic, human and social development in the sectors of health, education, water and infrastructure. Here are some examples of this successful cooperation:
- In 2021, more than 30,000 Pakistani students enrolled in schools built by the UAE’s assistance program in Pakistan with an estimated investment value of $200 million.
- This program is also playing a vital role in polio eradication in Pakistan in coordination with WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
- The Emirates Polio Campaign has provided more than 86 million vaccines to Pakistani children.
- Many other humanitarian organizations, such as the Khalifa bin Zayed Humanitarian Foundation, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable and Humanitarian Establishment and the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent, provide assistance in several parts of Pakistan.
- The United Arab Emirates has supported Pakistan’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic by providing medical aid and vaccines.
- The UAE Embassy has launched various cultural programs such as marathons, art exhibitions, Covid-19 awareness campaigns and seminars.
Has there been an increase in interest in tourism in Pakistan?
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic to the global tourism sector, Pakistan’s cultural diversity and landscape have attracted many Emiratis. Notably, Emirati mountaineer Saeed Khamis Al-Memari successfully summited K2, Pakistan’s highest peak, becoming the first Arab to achieve this unprecedented feat. We are confident that Pakistan’s adventure tourism industry will continue to attract travelers eager to explore the country’s many offerings.
Following the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, what was the reaction of UAE companies to operate in Pakistan?
The response has been very constructive, as many investment and trade agreements were signed during Expo 2020 Dubai. Many companies are currently entering the Pakistani market to expand economic cooperation in projects covering various sectors.
What are some of the areas of interest that could generate business connections?
The UAE is Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East with $8 billion in trade in 2021. The country is also a major source of investment and remittances. The United Arab Emirates plans to invest $1 billion in gas, renewable energy, infrastructure, healthcare, biotechnology, agriculture, logistics, digital communications, e-commerce and financial services in Pakistan. This is in addition to the UAE’s existing investments in banking, telecommunications, agriculture and property development.
What is your message for Pakistan’s 75 years of independence?
First of all, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of its independence. I am happy to participate in this celebration, as our two countries are also commemorating the golden jubilee of our relations.
I believe that my second home, Pakistan, with its rich cultural history, geographical diversity and great economic potential, will continue its journey towards peace and development. I am also confident that under the leadership of the two countries, the bilateral relationship will continue to prosper and expand to new horizons.