x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Pakistanis celebrate 62 years of statehood

Pakistanis in the UAE are wrapping up their three-day Independence Day celebrations on a high note, hopeful of a brighter future for their homeland.

ABU DHABI // Pakistanis are wrapping up their three-day Independence Day celebrations on a high note, hopeful of a brighter future for their homeland. Today marks the day Pakistan was established as a separate nation in 1947, and the UAE's 850,000-strong Pakistani community has been celebrating with flag-hoisting ceremonies, traditional folk dance and songs.

The Pakistani government, however, urged its embassies to tone down official celebrations and send the money they would have spent to those suffering in the Swat Valley. More than two million people in that region have been displaced during the Pakistani military's operations against the Taliban. Unofficial celebrations here included a formal dinner on Wednesday hosted by the community leader Izhar Haider, who has lived in the capital for more than 30 years.

"On this day, 62 years ago, Pakistan came into being," he said. "There was tension with India and we were having a lot of problems. We needed a separate homeland and we like to give thanks to the founder of our country, Quai-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah." Yesterday, the Pakistan Association Dubai marked the occasion by laying the first brick of its new building. Shakila Zubair, 32, said: "I wanted to come because it stirs a feeling of national pride in you. It's also one of the few opportunities for everyone to get together."

Afsheen Farooq, 29, attended with her four children and her husband, Farooq Ali, 37. It was the first time they had attended any Pakistani events since moving to Sharjah four years ago. "We were really missing Karachi, and that's why we came today," she said. "Plus we felt it was important to celebrate Independence Day. We heard there was a big function going on so decided to mark the occasion." Her husband, an account manager, added: "We were excited about coming today as they are laying the first foundation. We wanted to see how they celebrate outside Pakistan. But Dubai matches up with the homeland any day."

Association officials said it was as much a celebration of the nation itself as its independence. "However precarious the situation in my homeland may be, I am convinced about one simple fact: our nation has all the ingredients, including vision, faith, determination and talent, to fight out the current turmoil and bring back peace, justice and respect for the common man," said Muhammed Khaleeq, the general secretary for the association.

"Today is a day of thanksgiving," he added. "It reminds us of great sacrifices that our forefathers offered for us to breathe in an independent state and form a society based on Islamic principles." This morning, the Pakistani ambassador to the UAE, Khurshid Ahmed Junejo, plans to raise a national flag at the embassy during a small celebration open to all Pakistanis. "Let us resolve on this occasion that we will work together for the prosperity, sovereignty and progress of our nation so that we attain the ideals of the father of the nation," Mr Junejo said. "Pakistan is a vibrant nation with tremendous human and natural resources."

Dr Saeed Mohmand Khan, the consul general of Pakistan in Dubai, said Pakistanis, the UAE's second-largest community after Indians, should strive for unity during difficult times. "Keeping in view of the prevailing environment, internal unity is far more important then ever before in the entire history of Pakistan," he said. "It is therefore our foremost duty to demonstrate firm determination for upholding the unity of the nation and strengthening integrity and solidarity of the country. It is predominantly a unique day for us to celebrate in UAE, our very close and brotherly Islamic state."

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, sent a cable of congratulations to the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, according to WAM, the state news agency. Other government officials, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, sent similar messages, WAM said.

Pakistan's ambassador at large, Javed Malik, will also hold a celebration at the Westin hotel in Dubai today. asafdar@thenational.ae