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Pak embassy ejected two schools in Abu Dhabi

ISLAMABAD: In a troubling development that threatens to develop into a full-scale diplomatic crisis between Islamabad and Abu Dhabi, the Pakistan embassy has been ejected from two of its schools by a “pseudo business partner” who had been introduced to the arrangement by the UAE Minister of Higher Education, Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak Al Nahayan.

The two embassy schools in Abu Dhabi taken over by its partner, Khalifa al-Naeemi, are Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Pak-Arab School and Pakistan Community School Mussafah, Foreign Office sources disclosed on Monday.

The schools offer subsidised education to students of low-income Pakistani families living in Abu Dhabi. The change is likely to affect 3,000 pupils.

Sources in Abdu Dhabi told Dawn that Mr Naeemi had issued notices to banks over the weekend, indicating that he had withdrawn management rights from the Pakistan embassy.

Speaking over telephone, Ambassador Jameel Ahmed Khan said the issue would be dealt with both legally and diplomatically. “I have written to the Foreign Office to diplomatically intervene in the matter, while our legal consultants are preparing a suit for the return of management control to the embassy,” he said.

The ambassador, a former police service officer and a political appointee who has been recently posted there, described the takeover as ‘legal action’ by the partner, withdrawing management rights from a junior partner.

The embassy’s law suit is based on a verbal agreement and perhaps a power of attorney that the management rights should remain with the embassy. The memorandum of association does not speak of such an understanding nor does the mission have any other proof to substantiate that Mr Naeemi was just a pseudo partner.

The two schools have a combined paid-up capital of about 500,000 dirhams which have been put together by the institutions themselves without any external investment.

Land for one of the schools was obtained from UAE authorities in exchange for a plot given to the UAE embassy in Islamabad for a school. The building for the second school was provided by a Pakistani expatriate.

One of the schools has been built on a prime estate worth millions of dirhams, which is believed to be a major motivation behind the takeover.

The pseudo-partner was originally brought to the arrangement for meeting local legal requirements which bar foreign diplomatic missions from running schools in the UAE.

Initially, the embassy made its partner Education Minister Sheikh Al-Nahayan, who also heads the Abu Dhabi Group, Union National Bank and United Bank Limited and is a major investor in Pakistan.

But after the UAE authorities enacted another legislation disallowing royal family members from becoming business partners, the embassy asked Sheikh Al-Nahayan to nominate someone else as the pseudo business partner.

The education minister suggested the name of his manager Mr Naeemi to keep the embassy in compliance with regulatory demands.

Although the pseudo business partnership has existed for four years, Mr Naeemi became the embassy’s partner after replacing Sheikh Al-Nahayan six month ago.

The FO sources alleged that an official of the embassy might be involved in the matter.

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