Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan visits Islamabad in 1972. Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economy and Industry of UAE, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then prime minister of Pakistan, are also seen. Image Credit: WAM/Gulf News Archives

Islamabad: A huge hospital built in Lahore with financial assistance by the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan is a living symbol of the affection he had for Pakistan and its people.

His large portrait at the main entrance to the Shaikh Zayed Hospital in the second largest Pakistani city catches the eye as one enters the spacious and well-equipped facility.

It was in 1986 during his visit to Pakistan that he announced financial aid for building the hospital, which has proved a great boon in the health sector, providing quality health care to the people.

It has seen expansion over the years, having now an allied medical and dental college and a national institute for kidney diseases.

During an ongoing dengue fever epidemic in Lahore, the hospital has played a leading role combating the potentially life-threatening disease. Shaikh Zayed had also extended help for other valuable infrastructure projects in the brotherly Islamic state. His legacy of friendship and support for Pakistan has lived on.

Pakistan was the first country to accord formal recognition to the UAE after its emergence in 1971. Over the past four decades the bilateral relations and mutually beneficial cooperation have progressed steadily. "The close fraternal relations are founded on deep-rooted cultural affinities, shared faith and traditions, as also geographic proximity and identity," said a foreign ministry official here.

The UAE has been a major donor of economic assistance to Pakistan. It has been appreciative of Pakistan's contribution to the evolution of key institutions in the Emirates such as armed forces, police, health and education, and has reciprocated in the same friendly manner to the full satisfaction of Pakistan, the official said. A special rapport has developed between UAE President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Pakistan's political and military leadership.

The UAE is one of Pakistan's major economic and trading partners. Pakistan has received significant assistance from the UAE whenever it has been struck by natural disasters, including the worst earthquake of its history in 2005.

Relief activities

Currently the UAE is aiding relief activities in flood-hit southern region of Pakistan. The UAE maintains a leading position as foreign direct investor in Pakistan. This has encouraged others to also invest in the country.

A UAE-Pakistan Joint Ministerial Commission is in place for periodical meetings to give impetus to bilateral cooperation in economic and other fields. A joint business council also exists.

UAE airlines, Emirates and Etihad, are also investing in Pakistan. In the real estate sector, Emaar, Limitless and Tameer are to make large investments.

In addition, Al Ghurair-Giga is investing in real estate and food sectors, while IFFCO of Sharjah is investing in edible oil.

Pakistan's investment in the UAE is mainly in the sectors of real estate, construction machinery, and technical services industry. The total volume of trade between the two countries during 2010 was around $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion), the balance being heavily in favour of the UAE.

Pakistan is also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the UAE is playing an important role in expediting it, a foreign ministry official said.

"We must appreciate that the good relations with the UAE and its support at all forums are helping Pakistan in the GCC states and in the Arab World."

Strengthening bonds

According to Pakistan's Ambassador to the UAE Jameel Ahmad Khan around 1.2 million Pakistanis residing in the UAE have contributed to their country's economy by remitting over $2.2 billion which is equal to the remittances sent by Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia.

New UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Eisa Abdullah Al Basha Al Nuaimi has arrived in Islamabad, hopeful his tenure would witness further strengthening of relations between the two countries. He replaces Ali Saif Al Awani, whose contribution to the development of bilateral cooperation was praised by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani when he made a farewell call on him.

Meanwhile, the UAE is to hold a exhibition titled "Magnificent-7" in Karachi from November 30 to December 2 at the Expo Centre in the port city.

  • 1.2m: Pakistanis residing in the UAE have contributed to their country's economy by remitting over $2.2 billion
  • $7b: total volume of trade between Pakistan and the UAE during 2010