Pakistani expats have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity, says diplomat

Updated 23 March 2018

Pakistani expats have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity, says diplomat

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strong brotherly relations, deeply ingrained in the hearts of the people of the two countries.
The presence of more than 2.7 million Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia is a reflection of the strong bonds between the two nations. These expatriates have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity.
The invaluable work done by Pakistani engineers, doctors, financial experts, architects, educationists and ordinary laborers is not only acknowledged but has also helped further cement the subterranean bonds of love and affinity between our two countries.
According to the available data, some 2 million Pakistani workers came to Saudi Arabia between 1971 and 2005.
With the arrival of the Pakistanis, the huge task of the development of the Kingdom began.
Roads and motorways, bridges, the two Holy Mosques, the holy precincts, deluxe hotels, immaculate highways, winding flyovers and underpasses, multi-storied residential complexes, the landmark Kingdom/Al-Faisaliah tower, royal guest houses and communications networks took shape out of brick and mortar. Pakistanis were engaged from designing to execution, everywhere.
In 1978, Pakistani engineers and technicians working with Bell Canada, Ericsson and Phillips were involved with the installation, operation and maintenance of switching, transmission and communication networks.
In addition, the present structure of the Saudi Electric Company is the brainchild of a handful of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA)-trained Pakistani engineers who completed the tasks of planning, designing, installation, operation and maintenance of the company.
Our specialists and consultants also helped to shape the banking and finance sectors of the Kingdom.
The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) was one of the few international banks which, in 1949, received a license to operate in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) was established in 1952, and in 1964 King Faisal appointed a dynamic Pakistani economist, Dr. Anwar Ali, as the first governor of SAMA (1964-74). He formulated the agency’s banking control laws in 1966, introducing an annual report system and established an investment department to divert dollars — pouring in due to the oil price boom in 1973 — toward infrastructure development of the country. These initiatives still work as the bible of monetary policy of the country.
SAMA advisers Saeed Hamid, Hassan Mustafa, Misbah Uddin Farooqi and Pervaiz Hassan toiled from the early 60s till the early 90s to develop banking systems and procedures. Dr. Mohammed Umar Chabra (1966-1998) was another economist and researcher from Pakistan who propounded his theory on Islamic banking and won the prestigious King Faisal Award. He pioneered establishing the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah.
Tariq Jawaid, another well-known economist and Pakistani finance wizard, started his services at SAMA in the early 80s and continues to do so.
He brought in more skilled bankers of Pakistani origin such as Jamil Ahmed, Rana Shahid Habib, Qaisar Noor, Mehdi Hassan and Abbas Hassan, who rendered their services for more than two decades. They made up the second generation of Pakistanis supplementing the commendable work done by their predecessors.
In the late 80s, almost 75 percent of CFOs were of Pakistani origin, and NBP held 40 percent of the shares in Bank Al-Jazeera. World-renowned Pakistani monetary expert Shaukat Aziz worked as a bank CEO from 1986 to 1988 and made a great contribution to the development of the banking sector in the Kingdom. The legacy continues with bankers such as Ghayas Beg, Shujaat Nadeem and Sajjad Rizvi.
Health care is yet another sector where Pakistani medical professionals have earned great prestige for their country.
In 1970, Dr. Naeem Ghani, a UK-trained general surgeon, joined the Military Hospital in Riyadh and established its surgical department, and his commendable work led to him being appointed as personal physician to the current King Salman. The late Princess Sultana Foundation was also established in Rawalpindi at his behest.
Dr. Shahid Nawaz helped to establish the Department of Cardiology in Buraida, and became a renowned cardiologist in the Kingdom. In the early 70s, Dr. Ashraf Ali and Dr. Halim Khan helped to set up the histopathology department in Riyadh.
Dr. Fazal-ur-Rehman, another prominent Pakistani cardiologist, headed the late King Khalid’s medical team and for his services in the health sector he was given a ministerial position.
Over 40 years ago, Dr. Ameer Bux Channa established the department of anesthesiology at the King Khalid University Hospital of King Saud University. His training programs are still followed at the university.
The second generation of health professionals came in the early 80s. Prof. Riaz Qureshi initiated the first Saudi Board Family Medicine Program. Senior Consultant Endocrinologist Dr. Sohail Inaam has been at the Prince Sultan Military Medical City for several decades. His contributions to research in diabetes are well recognized.
In the Eastern Province, the inaugural Eye Hospital was staffed by Pakistani consultant ophthalmologists such as Dr. Wajahat Ali Pirzada, who has been in the post for more than a quarter of a century. Dr. M F Siddiqui is a renowned author.
The Saudi Ministry of Health has been hiring thousands of physicians, medical specialists and consultants from Pakistan to run its national health program.
In addition, Pakistanis have left deep imprints in the educational sector of Saudi Arabia.
At the College of Medicine of King Saud University, Prof. Dr. Sultan Ayoub Meo, an internationally renowned Pakistani scholar, has made an important contribution toward research in diabetes in the Kingdom, for which he has been awarded the King Abdul Aziz medal of excellence.
Another notable Pakistani, Prof. Dr. Mohammed Khurram Khan, has played a pivotal role at the college of Computer and Information Sciences of the university, and set up the Center of Excellence for research in cybersecurity. His endeavors have also earned him the King Abdul Aziz medal of excellence.
There are also dozens of Pakistanis who have worked tirelessly for the university and earned great respect. Dr. Mujahid Kamran was a professor in the physics department before he joined Punjab University as its vice-chancellor.
In the development of mass communication and media, Pakistanis did not lag behind. Professor Javed Iqbal, from the College of Languages and Translation at King Saud University, made the first announcement from Saudi English Channel 2 in June 1981.
He remained as the only Asian program presenter who interviewed dozens of Pakistani dignitaries during their visits to Riyadh and produced programs on Pakistani culture.
In the Urdu service sector of Saudi Radio, he has presented his weekly programs for the past 37 years. For his contribution, he has been awarded the King Fahd Shield.
The hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who helped to build Saudi infrastructure consider this country their second homeland.
Every inch of Saudi Arabia today bears the aroma of Pakistani sweat, and our Saudi brothers gratefully acknowledge it.


Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 10 August 2020

Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

  • Jeddah destination provides a taste of Japan with anime, comics, desserts and films

JEDDAH: Japanese comic books, known as manga, have captured the hearts of some Saudis so much that a 31-year-old citizen decided to give the genre’s fans a specialist Jeddah cafe so that they can pursue their passion as well as meet others who share it.

Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer who spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.
Manga cafes can be found in most cities across Japan. They are a place where people can spend hours reading manga, and they are also considered to be a cultural space where people can relax and have conversations about manga.
He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in the Kingdom. As an urban planner, he was able to grasp the Japanese concept and implement it in Saudi Arabia with a few tweaks and changes to suit the local audience.
“Manga cafés are all over Japan, albeit executed differently,” Baghlaf told Arab News. “They’re a little like internet cafés where people can spend the night. Of course, recreating that here doesn’t go along with our culture and traditions, so we recreated the concept in a way that accommodates that.”

Signature drinks
Akiba has only been open for a few months but, by the time Arab News visited the manga hotspot, people have already been flocking to the cafe to try out its signature drinks and read their favorite comics.

We have contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.

Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, Urban planning engineer

Friends and families can be seen relaxing together on the ground floor flicking through the pages of a comic book, or delving into a more accessible e-reading option as manga is still in short supply in Saudi Arabia.
Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales.
Akiba also airs popular anime and animated films throughout the day, uploading their schedule on their Twitter and Instagram pages.
Baghlaf is an avid gamer, but watching anime and reading manga is definitely on his list of favorite things to do. Keeping up with popular stories also helps him to figure out what manga volumes to acquire and which anime films to screen.
The urban planning engineer noticed the Kingdom’s approach in linking many objectives in the Vision 2030 reform plan to entertainment and, as cafes continue to draw large crowds in Saudi Arabia, he felt encouraged about going for Akiba.
“Specialty cafes are very popular here nowadays, so how am I going to be special? I went for a manga or anime cafe,” he said.
The cafe’s target audience are those who are interested in specialty coffee, manga and anime. For people with a sweet tooth there are Japanese desserts on offer, including cheesecake.

BACKGROUND

• Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer.

• He spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

• He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in Saudi Arabia.

• The name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers.

• It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.

• Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.

Baghlaf has to make frequent trips to Japan to discuss screening rights with creators in Tokyo. “We’ve contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.”
Due to the deals Baghlaf has made with distributors, he receives the episodes prior to their airing date to green-light them in terms of translation accuracy and censorship, in order not to air anything that goes against the Kingdom’s culture.
The same goes for manga. “I would bring in a story with 70-something volumes and, out of those, one book could end up with something inappropriate and I’d have to shelve the whole series.”


Baghlaf believes that the market for Japanese storytelling is massive in Saudi Arabia and continues to grow each day.
“It’s definitely popular and it’s why you see major events happening like Comic Con and Anime Expo, which I’ve been to myself with 200,000 others. It was so crowded,” he said.

Friendship
The Saudis have grown up with Japanese stories for decades, as well as slapstick US cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and the Loony Tunes that lack storytelling or arcs, according to Baghlaf. The Japanese stories have taught generations of Saudis about friendship, brotherhood, integrity and how to deal with others.
“There’s also a huge likeness between Japanese and Arabic culture. Within families, respecting those older than you whether through language, which has levels of formality where elders deserve the most respectable form when talked to and they have a lot of respect for familial bonds as well.”
The cafe owner revealed that the name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers. It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.
Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.