By Dan Qayyum
I consider myself privileged to be able to live and work in one of the most dynamic and forward looking cities in the world. Dubai, if you’ve never visited, is a wonderful melting pot of different cultures, and a delightful example of how different nations can not only coexist in perfect harmony, but excel and contribute to achieve incredible feats. You could be stood on an elevator and find yourself sharing the space with ten different nationalities. Visit the food court of any of Dubai’s malls and you’ll find hundreds of nationalities consuming a variety of different cuisines representing all corners of the globe.
When Dubai won the rights to host the 2020 Expo last month, the news was received with jubilation across the nation – with Expats and locals hugging and congratulating each other as they watched the celebratory fireworks lighting up the Dubai skyline. Expatriates, including those hailing from Pakistan, took out massive rallies as a show of support to Dubai and to congratulate its efforts.
Imagine then, my dismay this morning when picking up Gulf News – the most widely read English daily newspaper in this region. The front page carries an editorial demanding explanation from Pakistan for its ‘betrayal’, as Gulf News calls it, for not voting for Dubai’s bid in the voting that took place last month to determine the winning bid.
Here’s why I think this is a disgusting piece of so called ‘journalism’ attempting to sow discord among the populace.
Firstly, Pakistan is an independent and sovereign nation, with its own foreign policy and interests. Voting is a democratic process, with each voter having the right to vote for whichever candidate it wishes, without having its motives questioned or explanations demanded. Gulf News obviously has zero intention to publish the full results of the voting and criticize others who haven’t voted for Dubai. Why target Pakistan? What is the motive?
Secondly, Pakistan committed its vote to another nation it has extremely friendly ties with – Turkey. Pakistan pledged its vote to Turkey months before Dubai made a late entry into the bidding process for Expo 2020 in late 2011. After fulfilling its pledge to vote for Izmir in the first voting round, Pakistan switched to Dubai and supported it in the next two voting rounds, leading to Dubai’s win.
Since its inception, UAE’s relations with Pakistan have been exemplary. Pakistanis constitute one of the largest and most diverse set of expat communities in the UAE, woven into the fabric of the local economy. Pakistanis own and run business, restaurants, retail outlets, educational institutions, and are the third highest investors in Dubai’s real-estate market. Pakistanis have also worked for decades as waiters, construction workers, delivery men, and taxi drivers. Pakistan’s government has been a key contributor to the UAE in setting up its vital national institutions since the late 70s, including Emirates Airlines which today stands proud as the World’s leading carrier.
Among the first aircraft flown by Emirates in mid 1980s were an Airbus A300 and Boeing 737, leased from Pakistan. Pakistani crew worked hand in hand with their Emirati counterparts in getting Emirates in the air. Even today Pakistani military and civilians contribute massively in training and assisting their Emirati counterparts in many technical fields.
The UAE 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. It has been one of Pakistan’s key supporters diplomatically and is responsible for a number of development programmes in Pakistan. The UAE is among Pakistan’s most important economic and trade partners.
The above is a very tiny detail of the much broader exemplary relations enjoyed by thes two nations which have stood the test and trials of time. Which is why it is an absolutely shameful, if not criminal, attempt by Gulf News to create a rift between the two.
The reader’s comments section of Gulf News is filled with comments from outraged residents, not just Pakistanis, calling for action against those responsible for allowing such a bigoted, baseless, and despicable editorial to go to press. It goes against everything that Dubai’s ruler HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum has supported and promoted over the years – peaceful coexistence and inclusiveness leading to personal and social growth, which makes Dubai an example for the rest of the world.
The celebratory mood in the Emirate will continue, its Pakistani residents will participate wholeheartedly to continue to take Dubai to newer heights. Hosting the 2020 Expo brings a lot of attention from the entire world’s media and last thing Dubai needs is negative press. One only has to look across to Qatar to see how hosting a global event can backfire from a PR perspective. Thankfully Dubai has no such concerns that have bogged down the Doha World Cup campaign.
Which is why the shameful editorial by Gulf News has no place in the vision Dubai is working to achieve for 2020, and nothing short of a front page apology and the immediate resignation of those responsible will suffice.