07/13/2009 11:10 PM | By Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief Reporter
Dubai: The Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) came under harsh criticism at a community meeting on Sunday for having failed to serve Pakistani expatriates.
The members said the OPF should play its role effectively to help solve issues of education, health and housing, and should also help in rehabilitation of expatriates going back to Pakistan either after retirement or after losing their jobs.
The meeting was held as part of the outreach programme - an initiative taken by Javed Malek, Ambassador At Large of Pakistan, who is based in Dubai.
"The purpose of this initiative is to listen to the issues overseas Pakistanis are facing and take them back to the government to seek a solution," Malek, who has also recently been appointed as member of the OPF Board of Governors, told the gathering at the Pakistan Association in Dubai.
He said he would hold a series of meetings in different emirates to get a first-hand knowledge of the main issues and seek their solutions. Salah Al Deen Khan, Community Welfare Counsellor in the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai was also present.
"The OPF should stop playing with the sentiments of people living abroad," Malek said after listening to countless complaints against the OPF. He said that it was very unfortunate that the OPF did not effectively perform the task for which it was created.
The major issues taken up were lack of quality Pakistani schools in the UAE and other Gulf countries; lack of healthcare facilities for the poor Pakistanis and absence of a welfare scheme for expatriates, who send huge remittances back home.
Malek said he would request the government to open an OPF office in the UAE to directly interact with the community here. Around 800,000 Pakistanis live in the UAE.
He said he has also set up an Overseas Pakistani Council which will have representation from the UAE. "It will be a kind of pressure group to safeguard the interests of overseas Pakistanis," he said.
Riaz Farooq, president of the Pakistan Association in Dubai, said the association is playing a pivotal role in the welfare of the community. "I believe that the OPF should have better interaction with the community abroad," he said.
Farooq noted that the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai is not big enough to deal with such a large community. "The government should expand the consulate or should open more offices in other emirates," he said.
Hamid Malek, Chairman of the Pakistan Professional Wing of the Association, said that Pakistan government should help overseas Pakistanis progress in their businesses and jobs. "We seriously need to improve Pakistan's image by interacting with people, especially Emiratis," he added.
Dr Ziaul Hassan, president of the Pakistan Doctors Wing of the association, noted that a basic health unit should immediately be opened in Dubai to provide free treatment to poor Pakistanis.