Hamad Obaid Al Zaabi Ambassador of the UAE to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan shares his thoughts on the time-tested bonds between the two nations
How do you view UAE-Pakistan ties?
Based on deep-rooted historical and cultural ties, the UAE and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan enjoy a unique friendship that has withstood the test of time. Over the years, our cooperation has expanded to encompass all key fields. In the economic field in particular, our two countries have strengthened bilateral coordination in recent years. The UAE has played a vital role in supporting the economic and financial stability of Pakistan 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 enhance liquidity and foreign reserves.
Both countries announced a strategic economic partnership by establishing an Investment Fund with $1 billion to invest in vital sectors in Pakistan. In the political and diplomatic fields, the UAE has also worked to bolster global security and stability alongside its international partners, including Pakistan.
The UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with General Qamar JavedBajwa, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff in May 2022.
What are some of the activities undertaken by the Embassy to strengthen people-to-people ties within Pakistan?
Since my appointment as Head of Mission in 2017, I have strived to strengthen bilateral relations on the political, economic, and social levels.
This has come against the backdrop of the ex-change of visits by our countries’ leadership at the highest levels. The UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, have visited Pakistan. Pakistani leadership, including Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, visited the UAE in April 2022. Our two countries are important partners in the region and believe these visits contribute to further bolstering our relations.
The UAE Embassy, in cooperation with the UAE charity and humanitarian organisations, has worked to implement humanitarian programs and social welfare projects. For example, the UAE Pakistan Assistance Program (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 aid projects that offer sustainability and continuous benefits to the Pakistani people over the long run. To date, the UAE-PAP has successfully completed 165 projects related to economic, human, and social development in the health, education, water, and infrastructure sectors. Some examples of this successful cooperation include:
- As of 2021, more than 30,000 Pakistani students have enrolled in schools built by the UAE Pakistan Assistance Program with an estimated investment value of $200 million.
- This program is also playing a vital role in eradicating polio in Pakistan in coordination with the 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 organisations, such as the Khalifa bin Zayed Humanitarian Foundation, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable and Humanitarian Establishment, and the UAE Red Crescent, provide assistance in several areas of Pakistan
- The UAE supported Pakistan’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic by supplying medical aid and vaccines.
- The UAE Embassy has initiated various cultural programs such as marathons, art exhibitions, Covid-19 awareness drives, and seminars.
Has there been an increase in interest in tourism to Pakistan?
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic on the global tourism sector, Pakistan’s cultural diversity and landscape have attracted many Emiratis. Notably, Emirati mountaineer Saeed Khamis Al-Memari successfully summitted K2, the highest peak in Pakistan, thereby becoming the first Arab to reach this unprecedented achievement. We are confident that the adventure tourism sector in Pakistan will continue to attract travelers seeking to explore the country’s numerous offerings.
In the aftermath of the successfully concluded Expo 2020 Dubai, how has the response from UAE businesses been towards operating in Pakistan?
The response has been very constructive, as many investment and trade deals were inked during Expo 2020 Dubai. Many companies are now in the process of entering the Pakistani market to expand economic cooperation in projects covering various sectors.
What are some of the sectors of interest that could generate business links?
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 investments and remittances. The UAE is planning to invest $1 billion in Pakistan’s gas, renewable energy, infrastructure, healthcare, biotechnology, agriculture, logistics, digital communications, e-commerce, and financial services. This is in addition to existing UAE investments in the fields of banking, telecommunications, agriculture, and property development.
What is your message for 75 years of independence for Pakistan?
First, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on its 75th anniversary of independence. I am pleased to share in this celebration, as our two countries are also commemorating the Golden Jubilee of our relations.
I believe that my second home of Pakistan, with its rich cultural history, geographic diversity, and significant economic potential, will continue its journey towards peace and development. I am also confident that under the leadership of both countries, the bilateral relations will continue to flourish and grow to new horizons.