ISLAMABAD: The Sub-Committee of Senate’s Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis on Monday came down hard on the country’s foreign missions and consulate generals, stating that instead of facilitating overseas Pakistanis, they always increased problems for the expatriates who were considered as backbone of the country.
The issue came under discussion during the committee’s Monday meeting at the Parliament House, with Senator Sehar Kamran in the chair.
The committee convener was of the view that expatriates were doing well on a self-help basis but the foreign missions’ performance was dismal, as they had completely failed to facilitate expatriates, particularly those in foreign jails.
The chair notably mentioned Saudi Arabia where, according to her, the Pakistani community was facing multiple problems since the Kingdom had changed the rules for foreigners. She said there was everything for influential people, but not for the common overseas Pakistanis who, she said, contributed $1 billion in the shape of foreign remittance to Pakistan annually. Sehar said there were a number of Pakistani women and children in Saudi jails who were unable to travel to Pakistan due to absence of computerised national identity cards with them. She stressed the need for increasing efficiency of the existing Pakistani staff in Saudi Arabia and also to increase their numbers.
The convener laid stress on enhancement of work over exchange of prisoners under the agreement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and recommended establishment of Pakistani offices in uncovered parts of the Kingdom.
During the meeting, the committee asked for establishment of full-fledged legal offices in Gulf countries, noting that Pakistanis living there were faced with a plethora of issues.
The committee expressed displeasure over contradiction in statistics of Pakistanis sent back from Saudi Arabia, and directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide it with the details on those Pakistanis returned to the country and those still waiting for deputation after the verification.
The committee also instructed the ministry to upgrade the mission and consulate generals in Riyadh and Jeddah. These missions should play their due role in facilitating overseas Pakistanis who had incomplete documents or were confronting legal problems, it instructed. Also, the committee decided to pay a visit to Saudi Arabia the next month, May, to find out the truth. Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash, a committee member, demanded the committee be provided with the details about collection of welfare funds in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the past five years, in the next meeting. He also claimed that these funds were misused and never utilized for welfare of Pakistani community.
The committee was told by the additional secretary for the ministry, Naela Chohan, that the ministry and foreign mission in Saudi Arabia were trying their level best to facilitate the expatriates. Due to efforts of the government, 950,000 Pakistanis had been regularised in Saudi Arabia and the same efforts were in progress for other Pakistanis as well.
She said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was providing legal services to those Pakistanis who were in different prisons in other countries. She also informed the sub-committee that the foreign mission was helping those expatriates who had completed their sentence in foreign jails, but could not return due to incomplete documents. She also claimed that translators were provided to those expatriates who did not understand local languages of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Immigration Director General Habibur Rehman told the committee that the last three years were a boom period for Pakistan manpower exports. In 2011, he said, the government sent 254,000 people abroad while 636,000 and 626,000 during 2012 and 2013, respectively, to different countries of the world.
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