National and International Issues

A History of Brotherhood Between Pakistan and UAE

While standing in Sheikh Zayed International Academy Islamabad’s auditorium in my early college days and singing the national anthems of Pakistan and United Arab Emirates (UAE), I realized that the words uttered from our mouths are a reflection of the great culture we as Pakistanis share with the Emiratis. “Symbol of Almighty’s protection” and “whose religion is Islam and guide is Quran” are the lines in the anthems, which have eternally solidified the unbreakable bond of these two great nations in a timeless piece of brotherhood and trust.  Surely, this relationship blossomed under the two swords found in the emblem of Pakistan Army that protected both countries to thrive in the comity of nations peacefully. 

History stands witness to the support both nations have extended to each other in thick and thin. We salute this show of commitment by both nations, especially, when it is the 100th anniversary of the great friend of Pakistan and founder of UAE, H.H Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Interestingly, this saga of mutual and brotherly relationship dates back to ancient civilizations. Renowned historian, Peter Hellyer, traces the discreet relationship between UAE and Pakistan to the pre-1971 era. The link dates back to 5,000 years when the Gulf Coast and the Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley had strong economic cooperation. 

Today, despite the fact that hundreds of miles separate the two great nations, the unity of Islam symbolizes the ties between them. The deep relationship between two civilizations still remains as strong as ever, which was beautifully described in the words of H.H late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who once said:

“The success of the greater Arab nation in making itself known to the world and in supporting our solidarity does not depend on the Arab nation alone. Our solidarity also requires that the entire Islamic community works for the good of the Arab nation as the Arab nation works for the good of the Islamic community. There should be no barriers between the two because the ways of the two are one Muslim way and the Holy Qur’an is, and always will be, our common constitution.”

These words of UAE’s founder, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated around the world, still resonate in the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan and UAE. UAE’s obligation as a Muslim nation to support its fellow Muslims, particularly Pakistan, due to their deep cultural and religious history, is clearly seen in his words of wisdom. In fact, in the similar fashion, Pakistan also reciprocated UAE’s love and admiration by supporting their brothers since their independence in 1971. 

The fact that Pakistan was one of the first countries in the world to extend recognition to the newly born union named United Arab Emirates explains this deep partnership. Nayaf Al Obaid, a famous Emirati researcher at Sultan Bin Zayed's cultural and media centre, elucidates the respect Pakistan had for this young nation when it became the first Muslim country to have an embassy in Abu Dhabi. And, till date, Pakistan is supporting Baba Zayed’s extraordinary vision. H.H Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan staunchly believed, “The grace of wealth bestowed upon us by the Almighty must be unfolded to encircle our friends and brethren around the world”. Hundred years have passed since his birth year but the zeal and commitment of people of Pakistan to UAE is still reflected in our bilateral relationship.  

The brotherly relationship that started 47 years ago still amazes the world and is an exemplar for future generations to come, as both countries have left no stone unturned to support the social, economic and security needs of each other.  From the initial training of Abu Dhabi’s young army and air force to the on ground support by Pakistan Armed Forces to blood and sweat given by Pakistani labor to build a state-of-the-art infrastructure across UAE in helping Emirates Airlines to become the no.1 airline in the world, Pakistan made sure that this young Arab nation reaches heights of international recognition. In return, the sons of Baba Zayed always kept Pakistan’s brotherly gestures in their hearts and responded wholeheartedly through the socio-economic development of Pakistan and employed millions of Pakistanis to uplift their well-being. Be it the health, education or infrastructure needs or the help of rehabilitation of Pakistanis after national disasters or military operations against terrorists, UAE has always reciprocated well and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in supporting the nation of Quaid. Pakistan’s needs changed but the support and commitment of UAE remained unequivocal.

On March 23, 2018 as Pakistan marked her resolution day and whilst UAE declared and celebrated 2018 as the year of Zayed, the Islamabad Parade Ground witnessed specular views of the solidarity, unity and brotherhood when the UAE Armed Forces uniformed in dark green paraded to exhibit to the world that they stand side by side with Pakistan. The presence of H.E Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al Zaabi, Ambassador of UAE to Pakistan whose father was also a seasoned career diplomat, reminded Pakistanis of the legacy of H.H Sheikh Zayed. Each step taken by the Emirati soldiers rejuvenated the support they lend to their Pakistani counterparts who built the foundation of the early UAE Army.  This reminds us of the quote of Baba Zayed who said, "History is a continuous chain of events. The present is only an extension of the past.” The leadership and the people of UAE realize the sacrifices Pakistan Army has made for the protection of the Muslim ummah. The unfathomable support of Pakistan Army in training and providing military education to officers in Emirati Armed Forces and civic security institutions is still remembered in golden words and stories of Pakistan Army’s professionalism continue to resonate in the memories of young Emirati soldiers.  No one can forget the way the Pakistani elite SSG commandoes saved the holiest place of Muslims, Masjid Al-Haram from extremists in 1979. 

But in 2018 Dubai Airshow the friendship reached new heights as the ingenuity of Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 jet fighter flew over the Arab peninsula cementing the support it historically lent to Arab Kingdom in developing its air force and airlines. The JF-17, which thundered across the gulf, sent a clear message to its host that Pakistan will remain committed in supporting Abu Dhabi’s military aviation like it did decades ago when Pakistan Air Force, which had several years of flying Mirage fighter planes, trained and advised young UAE pilots.  Similarly, the technical expertise of PIA allowed Emirates Airlines to embark on its first flight from Abu Dhabi to Karachi. Such warmth of cooperation has set an example for many generations to come as both nations are on a trajectory of sustainable growth.  

Pakistan witnessed new example of affection by UAE when exactly at 12.00 a.m., the Burj Khalifa turned green. It was no ordinary green; it was the flag of Pakistan whose 200 million people bleed green. This gesture won the hearts of many Pakistani expatriates in UAE and millions of Pakistanis at home.  Ibn Taymiyyah, a renowned Arab philosopher said, “The two armies that can never be defeated are: the sincere heart and the righteous dua.” The sincerity of our UAE brothers could not be questioned as they continuously water the seeds sowed by H.H Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan and continue to contribute in the image and socio-economic development of Pakistan. 

The recent $200 million by the UAE government for the upliftment of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan under the special directives of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan reiterates the vision he has for the progress and economic development of Pakistan. The special focus on human security is reminiscent of Zayed’s dream to educate and economically uplift the youth in both nations. Surely, the leadership of UAE has not forgotten Pakistan in its quest for global sustainable development in communities. 

Since 1970s, the country of Baba Zayed has been constantly supporting the health, education sectors and infrastructure needs of Pakistan. From the development of Sheikh Zayed Airport in Rahim Yar Khan to the state-of-the-art hospitals in Karachi and Lahore to the rehabilitation efforts in Pakistan’s tribal areas to providing aid assistance during floods and earthquakes, the people of UAE stood with the government of Pakistan, especially when Pakistan is fighting the war against terrorism. For instance, in 2011 a UAE project at a cost of $100 million supported major sectors: education, public health, roads, bridges and supply of water treatment plants and networks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, including its areas of Bajaur and South Waziristan. No one can forget the support UAE gave to the Pakistani Kashmiris who lost everything in the devastating earthquake of 2005. The unprecedented bravery of Pakistan Army and the financial relief of UAE and from countries around the world rekindled the lost hope of millions of victims.  Furthermore, in times of natural disasters, UAE established Military Field Hospitals in many remote areas of the country to treat thousands of flood-victims and launched necessary vaccination campaigns to save children, women and the elderly from diseases.

The special focus of UAE government on supporting Pakistan’s education sector heralds the understanding and vision that an educated person can escape poverty and then transform many generations to come for economic empowerment through employment, changing the lives of their families and others.  Education is the pillar on which a sustainable economy survives and is an impetus for future innovation and development. Keeping this in view, UAE in 2003 under the special leadership of H.H Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan opened Sheikh Zayed International Academy Islamabad. Despite being relatively young in the industry, the academy has become one of the best schools in Pakistan under the dynamic guidance of Wafaa Abdul Ghaffar.

The success stories of its alumni, who are now the graduates of world famous universities such as Harvard and Oxford, are already speaking volumes of the commitment Pakistan and UAE share in educating the Pakistani youth who make up around sixty percent of the population. Similarly, the numerous schools opened by Pakistan Army with the support of UAE in the tribal areas are helping fight extremist ideologies and reintegrate the youth in the civilized society. The sacrifices made by Pakistan Armed Forces for peace will not go in vain as the annals of history will write the friendship of Pakistan and UAE in golden words.

Moreover, the strings of brotherhood are deeply entrenched in the economic structure of both nations; where according to World Bank report 1.2 million Pakistani diaspora proudly put their share in the advancement of UAE’s future and who then send remittances worth $4.36 billion to Pakistan annually. This strategic economic interdependence has further strengthened the faith in a collaborative future. In reality, UAE has acted as a pillar for Pakistan’s growth and in return it provided the gulf nation with one of the best minds in the world. The cooperation is expected to make both nations globally responsible citizens. The dream which Quaid-i-Azam and Baba Zayed saw for their nations. 

In short, both nations are following the lessons of specialization and comparative advantage as guiding principles for success. We must remember that Pakistan, the only Muslim nuclear power, is the guarantor of peace and security in the Eastern hemisphere whereas our gulf partners in return are guarantors of human and economic security of Pakistan. This common vision of two great Islamic nations has also aligned the dreams and aspirations of the youth that is relentlessly striving to realize the idea of their founding fathers. The year of Zayed, especially celebrates the mutual collaborative approach of educating the manpower in Pakistan and UAE because Baba Zayed said, “It is man who makes the machines”.

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