Crown prince of Abu Dhabi departs Islamabad after day-long visit

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces, leaves Islamabad after his one-day long visit to Islamabad on Jan.06, 2019. (Photo courtesy: UAE Embassy Pakistan)
Updated 07 January 2019

Crown prince of Abu Dhabi departs Islamabad after day-long visit

  • Government’s talks with the UAE on setting up an oil refinery in Pakistan “reached final stage” during visit
  • Implementation of 40 development and humanitarian projects worth $200mn launched in the country

ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan departed from the capital after his day-long official visit to Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan received the crown prince at the Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi where an artillery unit honored him with a 21-gun salute, and the PM himself drove his guest to the Prime Minister House.

A Pakistani minister, speaking to Associated Press (AP), says the government’s talks with the UAE on setting up an oil refinery in Pakistan “reached their final stage” during the visit of the crown prince.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal said on Sunday: “The crown prince, upon the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, is visiting Pakistan after nearly 12 years.”

“This is the third interaction between the leadership of the two countries in less than three months, a testimony to the special nature of brotherly relations with the GCC country,” the statement added.

PM Khan, in order to acquire financial assistance to tackle Pakistan’s economic crisis, has visited the UAE twice since assuming office in August. In return, the UAE pledged $3billion in balance of payments support and oil supply on deferred payments.

“We are hoping the crown prince’s visit will result in Pakistan getting oil on a deferred payment facility, forex assistance to ease balance of payment’s difficulties, preferred investment contracts for UAE firms willing to work in Pakistan and cooperation on exchange of information on Pakistani persons holding assets in the UAE,” Dr Vaqar Ahmed, an economist who is also the joint executive director of a think-tank named Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News.

During PM Khan’s visit to the UAE in November, the two countries agreed to chalk out a comprehensive roadmap to accelerate cooperation and partnership in areas specific to the trade, investment, economic development, energy, infrastructure, and agricultural sectors.

PM Khan and Sheikh Mohammed had also decided to hold the next Pakistan-UAE Joint Ministerial Commission, to be co-chaired by the respective Foreign Ministers, in Abu Dhabi, in February next month.

“A new page is being turned between both countries, $3 billion support to new Pakistani government proved to be a lifeline for the incumbent fiscal year,” Qamar Cheema, a strategic and political analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan needs to develop strategic partnership with the UAE as it’s too important to be ignored,” Cheema added.

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

Updated 11 min 39 sec ago

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

  • Will give migrants a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes torn apart by partition of 1947

Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak grew up listening to their grandparents narrate stories of the partition from 1947.
Ahuja’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two by the British, creating India and Pakistan. 
More than 14 million people were displaced at the time, and about one million perished in the fighting that followed.
Arora moved from a Pakistani village, named Bela, to Delhi after living in several refugee camps and escaping the violence.
Meanwhile, Malak’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, moved from the Indian city of Hoshiarpur to Pakistan’s Lahore.
Now in their 70s, both the grandparents yearn to go back home and see the places where they were born and spent their childhoods. 
However, the constant uncertainty in the relationship between India and Pakistan and their old age has made the task of visiting their respective birthplaces extremely difficult.
To fulfill the wishes of their grandparents, and several others who yearn to visit their ancestral homelands, Ahuja and Malak decided to launch Project Dastaan (story).
“What started as an idea for a student project last year at Oxford University became a larger peace-building venture,” Ahuja, the director of the project, said.
Project Dastaan is a university-backed virtual reality (VR) peace-building initiative reconnecting displaced survivors of partition with their childhood through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences.
Backed by the South Asia Programme at Oxford, it uses VR headsets to give these migrants, who are often over 80 years old, a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes. It shows them the people and places they most want to see again by finding the exact locations and memories that the survivors seek to revisit, and recreates them.
“It is a creative effort to start a new kind of conversation based on the direct experience of a now-foreign country in the present, rather than relying upon records and memories from the past,” Ahuja told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan-based Khalid Bashir Rai “teared up after his VR experience, and told us we had transported him back” to his childhood.
“At its heart, the project is a poignant commentary on its own absurdity. By taking these refugees back we are trying to highlight the cultural impact of decades of divisive foreign policy and sectarian conflict on the subcontinent. This is a task for policymakers, not university students. In an ideal world, a project like this shouldn’t exist,” Ahuja said.
Other members of Project Dastaan — Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple — have a connection with partition, too. Gardezi grew up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather witnessed terrible violence as a young man.
Dalrymple’s grandfather had been a British officer in India during the twilight years of the British Empire. So scarred was he by the partition that he never visited Dalrymple’s family in Delhi, even after 30 years of them living there.
“I think Dastaan is ultimately about stripping away the layers of politics and trying to solve a very simple problem: That children forced to leave their homes, have never been able to go back again,” Dalrymple told Arab News.
Ahuja added: “The partition projects are a peace offering in the heart of hostility. It is an attempt at creating a wider cultural dialogue between citizens and policymakers of the three countries.”
The project aims to reconnect 75 survivors of the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with their childhood memories, when the subcontinent observes 75 years of partition in 2022.
Project Dastaan is also producing a documentary called “Child of Empire” that will put viewers in the shoes of a 1947 partition migrant, and will be shown at film festivals and museums.