Abu Dhabi: Syed Zahid hasn’t seen his family since last year. A series of unfortunate events has left the 43-year-old Pakistani expat living alone in the capital, burdened by debt and unsure of when he can once again set his affairs in order.
“Just about three years ago, my three children and wife were here with me and we were actually considering emigrating to the United States. Things have changed so drastically,” he told Gulf News.
It all started with Zahid took a Dh150,000 bank loan to apply for emigration to the United States in 2014. The loan amount was granted just before a long weekend, so Zahid was not able to deposit the funds into his bank account.
“I took the cash home. Little did I know that within a matter of hours, my home would be burgled,” Zahid said.
The family had left their apartment on Khalifa bin Zayed Street for about two hours, and returned home to find all the cash gone, along with jewellery worth Dh80,000.
“We reported the burglary, but no progress was made in finding the perpetrators. Needless to say, I never received the money back either and my wife lost all her jewels,” Zahid said.
Zahid began to pay back the loan amount, along with two other car loans that he had taken earlier.
“It was a huge debt, but I had what I thought was a steady job as a system analyst at an oil company. My rent was covered, so I had enough to pay back the monthly instalments slowly,” he said.
Then in 2016, Zahid was terminated from his job.
“I was among a number of people at my company who were made redundant. Perhaps it was a symptom of the economic slowdown, but even then, I thought I would quickly find alternative employment,” he said.
But another job never materialised. After about two months, Zahid was forced to send his family back to Pakistan so that the children could continue their schooling. Without a job, he could no longer afford to pay schools fees in the capital, so the family left for Pakistan.
The expat now has a total debt of Dh272,000 but no source of income.
“I almost managed to find a job, and did some unpaid work for a company last year. But the offer was withdrawn. So here I am, stuck without my family, and the banks have told me that unless I start paying back my debts, my case will be referred to the UAE Central Bank,” Zahid said.
“I have managed to maintain good relations with all my acquaintances and friends in the UAE, and would not want to lose favour with them or be jailed. But without a job and the means to pay back my loans, I am at a complete loss,” he added.
In the meantime, Zahid has sold off one of his cars, and is looking for buyers for the next.
“Unfortunately, what I owe is so much more than even that will not earn me anything,” he said.