x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai businessman on shortlist for award

Mobisher Rabbani set up a philanthropic foundation from his Dubai home after the Pakistani earthquake in 2005.

Mobisher Rabbani has been named on a shortlist of 20 people for the second Azme Alishan AZM Awards.
Mobisher Rabbani has been named on a shortlist of 20 people for the second Azme Alishan AZM Awards.

DUBAI // When a devastating earthquake hit Pakistani Kashmir in 2005, Mobisher Rabbani felt powerless to help. "People had lost everything," says the Dubai-based businessman. "It was heartbreaking to see."

But rather than sit back, frustrated, he decided to make a difference. With his own money, and some from his family's trading companies, Mr Rabbani set up a philanthropic foundation.

Through it, he has been closely involved in work to rebuild schools, homes and other infrastructure. "I just wanted to do the best I could to help," he says. Last year, the foundation got to work again after the floods.

Now he has been named on a shortlist of 20 people for the second Azme Alishan AZM Awards, an honour intended to highlight such efforts and promote a positive image of Pakistan abroad.

"I feel really proud that someone has put me forward for this award," says Mr Rabbani, 27, who was born in Dubai but whose family is from Sialkot, in north-eastern Pakistan.

"At first I thought it was some kind of joke," he says. But then he got the call asking him whether he was free for the ceremony in Karachi. "It's started to sink in now."

Initially too modest to tell his family about his nomination, he was forced to come clean after being contacted by The National.

His uncle Inam Rabbani, 70, says they are all proud of his achievement. "From a very young age he has always been the kind of person who wanted to help other people," he says.

"He has amazing energy … he is always flying to Pakistan or somewhere else to check up on how the different relief projects are going. We are all wishing the best for him."

Mr Rabbani does his best to promote a positive image of his homeland through lectures to university students in the UAE and Pakistan. "Over the last few years most of the media reporting of Pakistan has become very negative," he says. "I want people to know that there is also another side to life in that country.

"Many people are unaware of the amazingly diverse cultures we have in the country, and I want to show people this aspect."

The awards are independent of the Pakistani government or big business, with organisers describing them as a movement.

The awards website says it aims to celebrate Pakistan's culture and identity of peace, diversity, tolerance and unity.

The organisation says it wants to challenge Pakistanis to speak up for these values and act on them by promoting the country away from the negative stereotypes.

Voting, at www.azmealishan.com, is open to anyone. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Pakistan Day, March 23.

nhanif@thenational.ae