Afzaal Mahmoodm, Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE speaks to Gulf News on Pakistan Day
Afzaal Mahmoodm, Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE speaks to Gulf News on Pakistan Day Image Credit: Supplied

What have been some of the standout highlights of Pakistan’s successful participation in Expo 2020?

Pakistan’s participation in Expo 2020 has been very successful. We have constructed state-of-the-art Pavilion to showcase Pakistan’s 9,000 years old history, its rich culture, unique tourism opportunities around the year and the potential for trade and investment. The country is showcasing its attractions through eye-catching documentaries, displays of traditional art pieces and authentic Pakistani cuisine. We are also displaying the resources of Pakistan ranging from human resource, agriculture, precious metals, industries and the potential to connect continents and sub-continents through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Gwadar deep seaport.

The Pavilion has been hosting variety of business meetings, seminars and match-making activities, trade, investment and cultural events in which delegations from Pakistan have actively participated. The latest figures show that we have crossed 300 events in the first week of March. The Pakistan Pavilion dedicated six months of Expo to our six regions. It is with this participation that we have been able to sign more than 120 MoUs with the UAE and international governments.

Our business community in the UAE has also played a proactive role to make the Expo a success. Myself and the Consul General has been actively supporting and facilitating the business community and the delegations coming from Pakistan to promote Pakistan’s trade and tourism potential and enhance cooperation between the two countries.

Our two restaurants at the Pavilion, Daawat and Dhaaba, offer authentic Pakistani cuisine and have been very successful. Our souvenir shop Bazaa, with traditional Pakistani handicrafts has also been attracting visitors regularly.

By the grace of God, Pakistan Pavilion is amongst the few pavilions to have crossed the benchmark of one million visitors in first week of March.

How would you describe the special relationship between Pakistan and the UAE and how the Embassy been working to enhance bilateral ties?

Under the current visionary leadership of Pakistan and the UAE, our bilateral ties continue to grow. There have been regular contacts between top leadership of the two countries and high level ministerial visits. The mutually beneficial brotherly relations encompass multifaceted cooperation, including political, economic, commercial, cultural and defence cooperation. The UAE is second home to about 1.6 million Pakistanis who not only bring pride to our two nations but also work as an effective bridge between our two countries. The contribution made by Pakistanis in the UAE towards strengthening our bonds of brotherhood has been remarkable over the decades. We are confident that this mutually beneficial relationship will further expand and diversify in the years ahead.

What areas are you working on to improve trade relations between Pakistan and UAE?

Pakistan and the UAE enjoy complementarity of economies. They trade goods and services on the basis of comparative advantage. Pakistan exports food items, textiles and manpower to the UAE while its imports from the UAE include petroleum, petrochemical products and hi-tech equipment. The business community from both sides has invested in each other’s country in infrastructure, service and manufacturing sectors which contribute to social welfare through job creation. Pakistan invites businessmen from the UAE to take advantage of special incentives, offered to foreign investors in the special economic zones. There is great potential for investment in the energy sector, hospitality sector and food processing. Pakistan is listed among top few countries in the region with regard to ease of doing business.

How is the Embassy marking Pakistan Day and what message do you have for Pakistani expats in UAE?

I extend heartiest felicitation to my Pakistani brothers, sisters and friends in the UAE on the auspicious occasion of Pakistan Day 2022. We consider overseas Pakistanis an effective bridge between our two brotherly countries and a source of pride for us. I encourage them to educate both sides on the potential for trade, investment and tourism cooperation, which can be explored and exploited in our mutual interest.

This year we are celebrating Pakistan Day at Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020, in addition to traditional flag hoisting ceremonies at Embassy of Pakistan, Abu Dhabi and Consulate General of Pakistan, Dubai. It will be a day full of celebrations at Expo 2020 on Pakistan Day. I invite all Pakistanis to join us and be a part of these celebrations.