DUBAI // A stalled project for a Dh6.3million community hall will be a key issue for many voters in this Friday's election for the emirate's Pakistani association.
The cause has become the focus of bitter arguments between two factions within the Pakistan Association of Dubai (PAD).
Both the incumbent Pakistan Friends Panel (PFP) and the Pakistan People's Panel (PPP) agree the hall is important. They differ, however, on how much of a priority it should be.
Dr Zia ul Hassan, the PFP candidate for president, says: "I think it is a crucial issue, and the sooner we can complete it the better for everyone associated with the Pakistani community.
"It's going to be an important asset for the community and will be something that will encourage younger members to engage with the association."
His rival, the PPP candidate Mohammed Rashid Chughtai, meanwhile, believes the association should focus more on helping poorer Pakistanis. "I do intend to complete the hall, but I think we shouldn't do it at the expense of supporting the less fortunate members of society," he says.
Both men are seeking to succeed Riaz Farooq Sahi, who is stepping down after serving a second two-year term as president - the maximum allowed.
Mr Chughtai, 50, a businessman who has lived in Dubai for 31 years, says he wants to work with the Pakistani consulate to speed up the delivery of passports.
He wants to develop a medical clinic for those unable to afford care, and provide legal advice and assistance on employment issues.
To staff the clinic, he says he would encourage doctors to work voluntarily. He aims to have one lawyer and an administrative staff member man the legal desk.
Mr ul Hassan, a doctor at the North West Clinic in Umm Suqeim, also wants to develop a medical centre. "We will look into whether it is better to have the medical centre at the PAD centre or look for another location," he says. "The centre would be open to people from other communities as well."
Mr ul Hassan is also keen to push a more positive image of the Pakistani community in the UAE and to work more closely with the Pakistan embassy and consulate.
Both men say they want to ease the difficulties faced by bereaved relatives in repatriating bodies to Pakistan, by offering help with the paperwork.
In all, 16 candidates have put their names forward for the 12 posts, four of which are being contested: president, vice president, general secretary and community welfare officer.
The incumbent welfare officer, Rizwan Fancy, 43, is seeking re-election as a PFP candidate.
"Helping other people is my passion," he says, "and although we have done a lot over the last few years there is still much to do."
He says he will continue policies that provide education and health funding for individuals and families. "Over the past two years we have spent Dh550,000 on providing for education alone and I intend to continue that."
He also wants to give more support to Pakistanis imprisoned over bounced cheques.
His opponent is Mohammed Nasir, 56, who runs used car and construction businesses in Ajman.
"My aim is to help poor people as much as possible," he says. "I want to open a pharmacy in the PAD centre, which can offer cheap medicine to those less fortunate than us.
"I also plan to open a similar hospital in Pakistan to help people there as well."
If he wins, he says he will work in an open spirit with everyone on the committee.
More than 2,000 members of the association are eligible to vote in the secret ballot, which takes place at the PAD centre in Bur Dubai.
Voting runs from 8am to 8pm with the results being announced the same evening.
The winners will take their oaths on July 17.
President: Dr Zia ul Hassan (Pakistan Friends Panel); Muhammad Rashid Chugtai (Pakistan People’s Panel)
Vice president: Syed Zahid Ali Shah (PFP); Muhammad Shakeel (PPP)
General secretary: Dr Faisal Ikram (PFP) Dr Arif Ali (PPP)
Community welfare officer: Rizwan Fancy (PFP); Muhammad Nasir (PPP)
Uncontested posts: Joint secretary: Tariq ur Rehman (PFP) Treasurer: Usama Saeed (PFP) Social and legal affairs secretary: Naseer Hussain (PFP);
Public relations secretary: Abdul Waheed (PFP) Religious affairs secretary: Imtiaz Ahmed (PFP);Culture secretary: Syed Tahir Hussain (PFP);Sports secretary: Sajjad Ali (PFP); Education and personal development secretary: Samina Nasir. (PFP)