From Sudan: Thank you Pakistan!
I would like to say a big shukriya (thanks) to Pakistan. Despite the struggles you face every day, do not give up.
This blog is not just based on my interest and respect for Pakistan. It is a personal thank you from a Sudanese person living in the United Arab Emirates for all the things Pakistan has done for my nation. The two countries share a very strong, special bond that I wish would strengthen further over the years to come.
For 13 years I have lived in the UAE; a home to over 130 different nationalities, working and living together striving for a better life for themselves and their families back home. South Asians constitute 42 per cent of the population. Of them, the Pakistani community stands strong at 1.2 million people.
When walking in the streets of Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Sharjah for instance, down Electra Street or the Old Souq, one tends to hear more Urdu, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil and Bangla than Arabic.
When living in such a diverse country you naturally make friends, and Alhamdulillah (thanks to Allah), I'm lucky to have had the pleasure of meeting with several Pakistanis who told me a lot about their country.
As a historian, Pakistan's history has always fascinated me. I don't claim to be an expert on Pakistan and neither would my views on the country hold significance over someone who has lived in Pakistan. I truly believe that to understand the people of a certain country, you must visit and live amongst them. In this case, I follow the Arab proverb that says:
"Live with us then judge us."
As a Sudanese, I fraternised with more Asians than I did with Arabs in the UAE. I befriended my apartment block's security guard, Ijaz Khan. When returning from the mosque, we would talk for hours about everything; the updates about Musharraf's emergency laws to discussing our shock about Bangladesh leaving Pakistani behind in making it to the super eight in the cricket World Cup. Even childish topics like the red peek marks left on the pavements from paan chewers did not escape our conversations.
I realised how similar Pakistan and Sudan are. Both are plagued by corrupt politicians, Islamic extremism, poverty and have had their share of military dictatorship - though Pakistan, I feel, is definitely more developed than Sudan. I can empathise with Pakistanis on the depression and pain they must go through when they hear news about recurring suicide bombings and honour killings; we felt the same way when the Mohammad teddy bear incident occurred and when journalist Lubna Hussein was flogged for wearing trousers. Incidents like these bring shame upon Islam and our people.
An issue that upsets me thoroughly is the discrimination and maltreatment towards South Asians, particularly Pakistanis, in the UAE. In my first school magazine, I was compelled to write an article criticising the inhumane treatment and lack of workers’ rights for South Asian labourers in the UAE, many of which are Pakistanis.
Unfortunately, the Sudanese youth is solely focused on finding secure jobs, particularly in the fields of medical and engineering. They have no time to explore Sudan's foreign affairs and are oblivious to Pak-Sudan relations and the contributions Pakistan has made to their homeland.
The great diplomat, scholar, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Pakistani Ambassador to the UN, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan advocated the independence of Sudan while sitting in the Security Council. Muhammad Khan carried forth Jinnah's ethos on foreign policy being one:
"...of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world and moral support to the oppressed and suppressed people of the world."
Pakistan has contributed 1542 troops and 191 observers to the United Nations Missions in Sudan (UNMIS). These men have served to maintain peace and security in our nation after 21 years of brutal civil war. We pay utmost respect to the efforts of late Brigadier Ahmad Moin Uddin, the deputy commander of UNMIS who was killed by Tehreek-e-Taliban militants in Islamabad.
Pakistan even sent aid to Sudan during our times of drought and famine. In turn, Sudan sent food supplies to Pakistan during the calamitous 2010 flood crisis. Under the "memorandum of understanding" between Sudan and Pakistan, our nations also agreed to cooperate in the fields of agriculture and healthcare. Pakistan was kind enough to offer medical training without any tuition fees.
And for all these things, I would like to say a big shukriya (thanks) to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. In conclusion, my message to Pakistan is, despite the struggles you face every day, don't surrender and don’t say,
"Main to kehta hun bas karo aur Malaysia challo."
(I say, forget this and let's just go to Malaysia).
Instead, remain strong and proud in your history, heritage, culture and contributions to the world.
I hope that in the future, Pak-Sudan relations will grow and both nations will come out of their chambers of despair and into the limelight of peace and prosperity.
Follow Omar on Twitter @mightyoz92