Pakistanis in the development of Saudi Arabia — a page in history

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PAKISTAN and Saudi Arabia has 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 the Kingdom is reflection of the strong bonds between the two nations. These expats have been contributing to the development, growth and prosperity of the Kingdom. 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 2.0 million Pakistani workers reached Saudi Arabia during 1971 to 2005.

With the arrival of Pakistanis, the huge task of development of the Kingdom began. Roads & motorways, bridges, Two Holy Mosques, the holy precincts, deluxe hotels, immaculate highways, winding flyovers and underpasses, multi-storied residential complexes, landmark Kingdom/Faisaliyah Towers, 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, got involved with the installation, operation and maintenance of switching, transmission and communication networks. In addition, the present structure of Saudi Electric Company is a brainchild of a handful of WAPDA-trained Pakistani engineers, who completed the tasks of planning, designing, installation and operation and maintenance of the company.

Our specialists and consultants also helped shape the banking and finance sectors of the Kingdom. National Bank of Pakistan was one of the few international banks, which, in 1949, got license to operate in Saudi Arabia. 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 annual report system and establishing an Investment Department to divert dollars, pouring in due to oil price boom in 1973, towards infrastructure development of the country. All these initiatives even today work as the bible of monetary policy of the country.

Furthermore, Saeed Hamid, Hassan Mustafa, Misbah Uddin Farooqi and Pervaiz Hassan as advisors of SAMA toiled from early sixties till early nineties to develop banking systems and procedures. Dr. Muhammad 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 Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah. Tariq Jawaid, yet another well-known economist and Pakistani finance wizard, started his services in SAMA in early eighties and continues to do so till date. He brought in another lot of highly skilled bankers of Pakistani-origin like 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% of CFOs used to be of Pakistani origin, and NBP held 40% shares in Bank Al-Jazeera. World renowned Pakistani monetary expert Shaukat Aziz worked as CEO in a bank from 1986 to 88 and made great contribution to the development of banking sector in the Kingdom. The legacy continues with bankers like Ghayas Beg, Shujaat Nadeem and Sajjad Rizvi.

Healthcare is yet another sector, where Pakistani medical professionals have earned for their country great prestige. In 1970, Dr. Naeem Ghani, a UK trained general surgeon, joined the Military Hospital in Riyadh, established its surgical department, and his commendable work got him appointed as personal physician to King Salman. The late Princess Sultana Foundation was also established in Rawalpindi, at his behest. Dr. Shahid Nawaz, helped establish the Department of Cardiology in Buraidah, and became a renowned cardiologist in the Kingdom. In the early seventies, Dr. Ashraf Ali and Dr. Halim Khan helped set up the Histopathology Department in Riyadh. Dr. Fazal-ur-Rehman is another prominent Pakistani cardiologist who headed the late King Khalid’s medical team and for his services in the health sector was given ministerial position.

Over 40 years ago Dr. Ameer Bux Channa established Department of Anesthesiology in 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 early eighties. 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 from now. His contributions in the research on diabetes are well recognized.

In the Eastern Province, the inaugural Eye Hospital was staffed by Pakistani consultant ophthalmologists like Dr. Wajahat Ali Pirzada, who has been in the post for over a quarter of a century. Dr. M. F. Siddiqui, is a renowned author. Saudi Ministry of Health has been hiring thousands of physicians, medical specialists and consultants from Pakistan to run its national health program.

Pakistanis have left their deep imprints in the educational sector of Saudi Arabia, as well. In the College of Medicine of King Saud University, Prof. Dr. Sultan Ayoub Meo, an internationally-renowned Pakistani scholar has made fabulous contribution towards research in diabetes in the Kingdom for which he has been awarded King Abdulaziz Medal of Excellence.

Another notable Pakistani, Prof. Dr. Muhammad 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 cyber security. His endeavors have also earned him the King Abdulaziz Medal of Excellence.

Besides, there are dozens of other Pakistanis who have worked tirelessly for the university and earned great respect for their motherland. Dr. Mujahid Kamran was a professor at Physics Department here before he joined Punjab University as its Vice Chancellor.

In the development of mass communication and media, Pakistanis did not lagged behind. Professor Javed Iqbal, from the college of Languages and Translation of 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 of Saudi Radio, too, he has continuously presented his weekly programs for the last 37 years. For his contribution, he has been awarded King Fahd Shield.

The hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who helped built the splendid Saudi infrastructure, consider this land their second homeland. Every inch of Saudi Arabia today bears aroma of Pakistani sweat, and our Saudi brothers gratefully acknowledge it. The nation is proud of their achievements and contributions. — SG


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