x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Construction begins on hall for Pakistan Association

The project, a multi-purpose hall at the Pakistan Association in Dubai, has been stalled for nearly two decades by a lack of funds and conflicts among the members.

Many hope the laying of the foundations of the new Pakistani community centre will put paid to years of internal wrangling.
Many hope the laying of the foundations of the new Pakistani community centre will put paid to years of internal wrangling.

DUBAI // After 19 years of broken promises, funding shortages and internal wrangling, work finally began today on Dubai's new Pakistani community centre. As the concrete was poured over the skeletal foundations of brick and iron, there was a sense that the disagreements that have plagued the project were being laid to rest. "I feel proud and happy to see this much-awaited project finally taking off," said Amjad Ali Sher, the country's recently appointed consul general to Dubai, who attended the ceremony with senior members of the Pakistan Association Dubai. "The delay so far has been due to the lack of concerted effort. We now have a newly elected body of members in the association who are determined to build this hall," Mr Sher said. The group later prayed together for the success of the hall. The first section, expected to be completed by August 14 - Pakistan's Independence Day - will include a multipurpose hall for stage shows, theatre, and sports, among other things, as well as a library equipped with computers. The second and third stages include a banquet hall, a hostel, a food court, a health club, a squash court. The old administration offices will also be replaced. It is eventually expected to be able to accommodate more than 750 people at one time. "Expatriates from Iran, Sudan, Jordan and all others have clubs in this area. Pakistanis, with such a huge population here, still have no place for a social gathering," Mr Sher said. Association members said they also had to overcome bureaucratic hurdles. "It has taken a lot of work from the team who have been designing this and getting required approvals over the last two years," said Muhammad Khaleeq, the association's general secretary. "The original designs were no longer valid as the municipality regulations have changed since, and we had to start from the beginning." The community still faces an uphill battle when it comes to finding the funds to complete the ambitious project, which is expected to cost as much as Dh25 million (US$9m). The first phase alone will cost Dh6.5m. Although the Pakistani government has agreed to pay for half of this phase, there is still a funding shortage. "We have managed to collect Dh1m so far, which we have put into the work. We have spoken to businessmen in the community who have showed signs of co-operation. We are sure that once phase one is completed, the others will be done as people have confidence in us," Mr Khaleeq said. The association's previous leadership was often criticised for not being able to complete the hall. Its new members have called on the 800,000 members of the country's Pakistani community to show faith in them and help them complete the project. "We have taken a positive step and hope for encouragement from the community," said Mr Khaleeq. When completed, it will be the community's only active centre in the country. Ones in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain were shut down by authorities over a decade ago after members tried to hold elections. Some in the community, however, said today they would believe in the new association leadership only after the hall was built. "I do not even go to the association any more. The common Pakistani person will be happy to have a place where he can meet others, but this promise has been broken for years. I will believe it only after the hall is ready," said Asmat Ali, 33, a sales executive who has lived in Dubai for more than five years. pmenon@thenational.ae