Hassan Afzal Khan, Pakistan Consul General in the UAE

How did the Pakistan Consulate collaborate with the Dubai and UAE Government to help Overseas Pakistanis cope with the pandemic?

The UAE hosts about 1.7 million Pakistanis, the second-largest Pakistani expat community in the world. The pandemic years — 2020 and 2021 — were difficult the world over. During the time, like the rest of the world, Dubai and the rest of the UAE were under strict lockdown. However, the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai was available 24/7 to support its community during the pandemic. Immediately after closing of air space by many countries including Pakistan, a number of Pakistanis were stranded overnight in the UAE.

The Pakistan Consulate General started online registration for repatriation and repatriated over 60,000 Pakistanis in Pakistan’s biggest repatriation operation to date, through Covid Special Flights. The Consulate General, with the help of philanthropists, provided free tickets to thousands of passengers. The Consulate General also distributed ration bags among individuals/families in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, and free accommodation at its two facilities in Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah to hundreds of stranded Pakistanis. Once airspace was opened, Pakistanis returned back to their jobs and homes in the UAE. This was possible with the support of the UAE Government.

The Consulate has now moved to maximum facilitation through its online service provision. Apart from visa facilitation, the Consulate General also launched mobile application for various services to its community members. In addition to digital services, we have extended our space and also started a one-window operation for community services. This helps us in ensuring social distancing while providing fast services to the community.

The Pakistani Consulate has been a strong supporter of Pakistani entrepreneurship in Dubai and the UAE. How are you continuing the good work?

We have a very strong presence within the UAE business community, contributing positively towards the development of the UAE and Pakistan. The Pakistan Business Council Dubai is among Dubai’s vibrant and active business forums, with 600+ members representing companies in diverse sectors. We encourage and facilitate new entrepreneurs at the Pakistan Consulate Dubai.

The UAE has a favourable business environment and excellent infrastructure facilities. These are magnets for Pakistani entrepreneurs. For instance, at the recently concluded Expo 2020, more than 100 MOUs were signed by Pakistani companies. About 48 IT companies participated in Expo 2020 from Pakistan and among them about 20 were startups. This shows the interest among Pakistan-based investors in new business and entrepreneurship opportunities in the UAE.

How is the Consulate helping promote Pakistan’s value offerings in tourism?

Pakistan offers a diverse range of choices for all tourists. The country is home to one of the world’s oldest civilisations, has innumerable sites of scenic beauty, many religious and historic places, and unique art and craft. It is also a haven for adventure tourism, hosting five out of the world’s fourteen mountains above 8,000 meters, long coastlines, deserts, rivers, valleys and frozen glaciers.

The government of Pakistan has placed tourism at the top of its agenda and undertaken a number of steps to promote tourism including relaxing visa regime and the online visa system to facilitate and welcome foreign tourists to Pakistan. Pakistan currently offers visas on arrival to visitors from more than 50 countries, and electronic visas to 175 nationalities. Multiple digital resources provide consumers the information to plan their trips to their regions of choice including the official Pakistani Consulate website.

Even during Expo 2020, tourism promotion was the main theme of the Pakistan Pavilion and we received a good response and keen interest from visitors to the Pavilion.

Please share a personal message to Pakistani citizens and the Leadership of the UAE as Pakistan completes its 75th Independence Day.

This year Pakistan completes 75 years of Independence, and I congratulate my fellow Pakistanis living in the UAE on this great occasion. Overseas Pakistanis are our pride and I urge them to keep serving and contributing towards this country and towards Pakistan with dedication and keep earning respect for our homeland, Pakistan. I pray to Allah Almighty to grant us the strength to serve our great country with sincerity and lead Pakistan on the path to even greater progress and prosperity.

I would also like to thank the leadership of the UAE and the people of this great nation for continuing to support their Pakistani brethren and for providing them with a region where Pakistani people could come and make it their second home.