Dubai: Pakistani expatriates and diplomats in the UAE called for national unity in developing their country as they celebrated their 73rd Independence Day in the UAE on Wednesday.

Pakistanis from all walks of life visited the embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai, in addition to community social centres, to listen to speeches, sing patriotic songs and celebrate the occasion.

Pakistan became an independent country on August 14, 1947, after the end of the British Raj and partition from India. The occasion is celebrated each year on August 14, a national holiday in Pakistan.

In the UAE, around 1.5 million Pakistanis comprise one of the biggest expat communities.

Official ceremonies

On Wednesday, Ghulam Dastgir, ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE, hoisted the Pakistani flag in a ceremony on embassy grounds, followed in Dubai by Ahmad Amjad Ali, the consul general of Pakistan.

Independence Day messages of Pakistani president Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan were read out at both venues.

‘Stand tall’

In his address, Dastgir recalled “the great sacrifices rendered by our forefathers for the creation of a separate homeland”. He said the occasion should also be considered as “a day of introspection and to ponder over as to how we could re-direct our energies to the development of Pakistan to be able to stand tall among the comity of nations”.

Referring to the role of the Pakistani community in UAE, the ambassador appreciated their contribution in the development of UAE and the role they are playing in supporting the national economy and improving ties between Pakistan and the UAE.

He appreciated the UAE leadership‘s “special affiliation towards Pakistan” and said that “the leaders of the two countries were keen on further strengthening bilateral relations”.

Dastgir called for “a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir” issue, which was also mentioned in the speeches by Pakistan’s president and prime minister, as well as by consul general Ali in Dubai.

Students appreciated

During the ceremony in Abu Dhabi, children from Pakistani schools sang national songs, which were also sung at the consulate in Dubai.

At the consulate, Ali presented certificates of appreciation to students who had come from Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah to perform. He also facilitated members of the Pakistani Christian community in the UAE at the event for their choir performance.

‘Acts of kindness’

After praising the founders of the Pakistan and its armed forces, Ali also said in his address that Pakistanis in the UAE will be awarded for “acts of kindness and bravery” starting in 2020.

Ali, who has been the consul general in Dubai for six months now, said consulate officials “have removed our Friday off-day” to visit Ajman, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah to provide consulate services on Fridays for those who cannot come to Dubai. He added that the practice “has become a permanent feature now”.

Ali also said that air-conditioned and shaded seating for 300 people has been arranged for visitors to the consulate throughout the year.

Separately On Wednesday, a large air-conditioned tent had been set up in the consulate’s garden to accommodate scores of Pakistanis celebrating the event.

Community spirit

Farzana Mansoor, a Pakistani woman who lives in Sharjah, said she makes it a point to attend festivities at the consulate every Independence Day. “The consulate is like our home and Pakistanis from across the UAE come here to celebrate. The atmosphere is so lively and patriotic … What I wish for Pakistan is the spread of education in all corners of our country and the eradication of corruption from all quarters. Then there will be no stopping the progress of Pakistan,” Mansoor added.

Another attendee, Mohammad Nasir Khan, said he normally celebrates the occasion at his workplace but wanted to experience the festivities at the consulate for the first time.

“We start our day at work by singing the national anthem and then order a big cake. The office is really accommodating to us as they know how passionate we are about our country. I’ve come to the consulate this time to join more fellow Pakistanis in marking the special day,” added Khan, 32, who has been working for seven years in the UAE banking sector.