Pakistani community in Rwanda marks Independence Day

By: MOSES OPOBO
New Times | August 16, 2016

Bilateral ties between Pakistan and Rwanda are on track and could only grow stronger, nearly a century after the first Pakistani national settled in Rwanda.

The sentiment was shared by the Pakistani community in Rwanda and their Rwandan counterparts as the former marked 69 years of their country’s Independence on Sunday, August 15.

The event, that was held at in Nyarutarama, Kigali, attracted members of the Pakistani community, diplomats of various accreditations, and Rwandans.

Speaking on behalf of the Pakistani community in Rwanda, Imaduddin Ahmed, the Transactions Advisor at the Rwanda Development Board, gave some perspectives on what it means to be a member of the Pakistani community in Rwanda.

“You get a sense that you are very welcome here. You get a lot of respect here. And we are talking of a context which is very particular in Pakistan as well.”

Ahmed, who at one point was a special policy advisor in the Ministry of Finance, added that the warmth and hospitality accorded to foreigners in general and the Pakistani community in particular, should not be taken for granted.

“While entering Rwanda an immigration officer looked at my passport and then looked at me, then asked if I was Pakistani. I looked at him and I said yes I am. Then he said ‘give me five’. Then he told me, ‘my housemate in London was a Pakistani. Very beautiful. ‘I love Pakistani food.’ I knew immediately the sort of reception that awaited me in the country.”

He explained that the presence of Pakistani nationals in Rwanda adds value not only in a business sense but also socially, for instance through social interaction with locals at mosques.

Over the years, the Pakistani community in Rwanda has been growing in numbers, with the majority working as professionals in international NGOs, the United Nations, private business, foreign exchange, apparels, rice import business, and auto dealership, among others.

“We look forward to going from strength to strength in building our relationship with Rwandans as well as other international guests both socially and in business and professional capacities,” Imad concluded.

Speaking, as guest of honour, the Sheikh Abdul Karim Harelimana, a former member of the East African Legislative Assembly, who represented the Government of Rwanda at the event, took the gathering through brief histories of Pakistan and Rwanda, revealing that the first Pakistani nationals to settle in Rwanda arrived in the early 20th century.

“I knew the first Pakistanis in Rwanda, especially the family of the late Rahmat Ali who arrived here in Rwanda in the early 20th century. He lived in Northern Rwanda for years. Even his first children were born here in Rwanda. These people came to Rwanda before the Independence of Pakistan from the sub continent of India and before the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.

‘‘That was between 1915 and 1918. They married Rwandan girls and begot children who were not 100% Pakistani. So you can see it’s almost more than a century that this relationship between Pakistan and Rwanda started.”

He added that the century-long relationship between the two countries could only grow stronger.

“A while ago, all the Pakistani families here in Rwanda were known. Some were in Nyanza, others in Northern Rwanda, but today you cannot say how many they are. They are spread all over the country, even in remote villages. You find them doing government work, in business, even serving in mosques as Imams. We need to support our two governments that are supporting this kind of friendship.”

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