Hassan Afzal Khan, Consul General of Pakistan to Dubai
Hassan Afzal Khan, Consul General of Pakistan to Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

What key services does the Consulate offer Pakistani residents in the UAE and how has the team been working to improve these services?

The welfare of the community remains the top priority of the Government of Pakistan. We at the Consulate General of Pakistan, Dubai, put a special emphasis to ensure that we are connected to our community and that their needs are attended to and responded to in time.

The Consulate General of Pakistan Dubai offers all consular services to the Pakistani community residing in Dubai and Northern Emirates. This includes the issuance and renewal of passports, identity cards (NICOP), verification and attestation of several documents and many other services including legal advice for the welfare of the community.

In the last year, we have simplified the processes and digitised the consular services in an endeavour to facilitate the community. Today all our consular services can be accessed through digital platforms - through our website and mobile app. This step has helped the community in saving time and visits to the Consulate. Additionally, the expansion of our telephone exchange to cater to more telephone calls from information seekers makes consulate staff available to community around the clock. A recent addition to our Consular services has been a one window operation where visitors are able to process their documents in an easy and efficient manner, reducing the time and queues at the Consular halls.

Additionally, keeping in view the weather of the country, we have extended our air conditioned halls and waiting lounges for the community. We have also made special arrangements for visiting mothers by constructing special nursing rooms and play areas at the premises.

What are some of the current challenges facing Pakistani expats in the UAE and how is the Consulate working to mitigate some of these issues?

The last two years (2020-2021) have been challenging for the whole world. Life was either at a standstill or moving at a very slow pace due to the global pandemic world. The Consulate General of Pakistan not only continued community services 24/7 during those difficult times but also transformed and shifted to the needs of the time by moving to digital platforms. Today, fortunately Pakistan and UAE have successfully dealt with the pandemic and now is the time to look for opportunities. Recently all travel restrictions due to covid between the two countries have been lifted. We have more than 1.6 million Pakistanis living in UAE. The ease of travel between the two countries has given relief to the community. With the prospering economy of UAE, employment opportunities have opened up. The year 2022 has been a good start for Pakistan and UAE in this respect.

How does Pakistan’s special relationship with the UAE benefit the expat population here?

Pakistan and UAE enjoy mutually beneficial relations based on historic, cultural and religious ties. Since 1971, Pakistan has been an important partner in the development of the UAE. The presence of more than 1.6 million Pakistanis in the UAE is a manifestation of the people-oriented relationship between two countries. Our expat community has played a vital role in development of both countries. This has been possible because of the continuous support and trust by the UAE in Pakistani talent and hard work. We are confident that this mutually beneficial relationship will further expand and diversify in the years ahead.

What message do you have for expats on the occasion of Pakistan Day?

I wish all Pakistanis residing in UAE a very happy Pakistan Day. This day is a reminder that with dedication, commitment and perseverance, the realisation of all dreams is possible. Today let us pledge to work harder for the progress and development of the country and keep our green flag flying high in the world.

I would also like to add that this year is especially important as we are celebrating 75 years of the independence of Pakistan and we have the honour to hold three flag hoisting ceremonies in the UAE this year. While the Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Consulate General of Pakistan in Dubai hoist flag in traditional ceremonies, we will also celebrate it at the Expo 2020 Dubai. In addition to that, all day activities are planned at the Expo starting with flag hoisting up to a musical event in the evening. We welcome Pakistanis and all nationalities and friends of Pakistan to join us for the events at the Expo 2020 Dubai and celebrate Pakistan Day with us.