Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has hit out at an editorial piece run in the Dubai-based Gulf News daily which claimed that the UAE had been ‘betrayed’ by both Pakistan and Afghanistan during the recent Expo 2020 vote.
Entitled ‘Expo 2020 vote: UAE deserves answers from Pakistan and Afghanistan’, the Gulf News article, which ran on December 14, claimed that the two countries had reneged on official promises to vote for Dubai and said that the move led to “serious questions about their credibility as allies”.
Dubai won the Expo 2020 bid on November 27, after winning 116 out of 163 votes in the final round.
“We in Gulf News were stunned and disappointed to learn that two close allies of the UAE chose not to vote for Dubai. Pakistan and Afghanistan voted for other cities despite their governments’ official assurances that they would vote for Dubai,” the opinion piece said.
“As we feel it is only fair to be grateful and thank those countries which supported Dubai’s bid to host the Expo, we feel we have been betrayed by two close allies.”
In a statement, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the allegations as “baseless and malicious”, insisting that the country had voted for Dubai in the later stages of the vote.
The Ministry also said that “responsible newspapers are expected to ensure greater accuracy in their reporting”.
“In the case of Expo 2020, Pakistan was committed to vote for Turkey which requested for Pakistan’s support as far as back in May 2011. The UAE entered the race much later. This fact was explained to the UAE leadership,” the statement read.
“It was also conveyed that if Turkey were to withdraw its candidature, Pakistan would not only support the UAE but also lobby for it. Consequently, when Turkey withdrew its candidature, Pakistan voted in favour of the UAE in the subsequent rounds of voting. Pakistan’s supportive efforts have been acknowledged by the UAE leadership, which has conveyed its appreciation at the highest level.”
The Gulf News piece resulted in a backlash from the Pakistani community in the UAE, with nearly 1,000 – mostly negative – comments posted on the site before the newspaper closed the comments section on Sunday evening.
In an open letter to the editor of Gulf News, the general secretary of the Pakistan Association in Dubai, Dr Faisel Ikram, argued that the Pakistani community felt “deeply hurt” by the strong language used in the editorial, and claimed that it was “misleading and unprofessional”.
“The perception created by your reputable newspaper has eroded the newspaper’s credibility in the hearts and minds of the Pakistani community,” Dr Ikram wrote.
“We believe such matters should not be open for public debate and are best served at Government and Diplomatic level.”
On Sunday, Gulf News editor-in-chief Abdul Hamid Ahmad defended the newspaper’s position on Twitter, writing in one post that “the article is about the government not people of Pakistan”. In another tweet, he also thanked the Pakistani community in the UAE for supporting Dubai’s Expo bid.