Pakistani expats have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity, says diplomat

Pakistani expats have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity, says diplomat
Updated 23 March 2018

Pakistani expats have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity, says diplomat

Pakistani expats have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity, says diplomat

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have 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 Saudi Arabia is a reflection of the strong bonds between the two nations. These expatriates have contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development, growth and prosperity.
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 million Pakistani workers came to Saudi Arabia between 1971 and 2005.
With the arrival of the Pakistanis, the huge task of the development of the Kingdom began.
Roads and motorways, bridges, the two Holy Mosques, the holy precincts, deluxe hotels, immaculate highways, winding flyovers and underpasses, multi-storied residential complexes, the landmark Kingdom/Al-Faisaliah tower, 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 were involved with the installation, operation and maintenance of switching, transmission and communication networks.
In addition, the present structure of the Saudi Electric Company is the brainchild of a handful of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA)-trained Pakistani engineers who completed the tasks of planning, designing, installation, operation and maintenance of the company.
Our specialists and consultants also helped to shape the banking and finance sectors of the Kingdom.
The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) was one of the few international banks which, in 1949, received a license to operate in Saudi Arabia.
The 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 an annual report system and established an investment department to divert dollars — pouring in due to the oil price boom in 1973 — toward infrastructure development of the country. These initiatives still work as the bible of monetary policy of the country.
SAMA advisers Saeed Hamid, Hassan Mustafa, Misbah Uddin Farooqi and Pervaiz Hassan toiled from the early 60s till the early 90s to develop banking systems and procedures. Dr. Mohammed 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 the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah.
Tariq Jawaid, another well-known economist and Pakistani finance wizard, started his services at SAMA in the early 80s and continues to do so.
He brought in more skilled bankers of Pakistani origin such as 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 percent of CFOs were of Pakistani origin, and NBP held 40 percent of the shares in Bank Al-Jazeera. World-renowned Pakistani monetary expert Shaukat Aziz worked as a bank CEO from 1986 to 1988 and made a great contribution to the development of the banking sector in the Kingdom. The legacy continues with bankers such as Ghayas Beg, Shujaat Nadeem and Sajjad Rizvi.
Health care is yet another sector where Pakistani medical professionals have earned great prestige for their country.
In 1970, Dr. Naeem Ghani, a UK-trained general surgeon, joined the Military Hospital in Riyadh and established its surgical department, and his commendable work led to him being appointed as personal physician to the current King Salman. The late Princess Sultana Foundation was also established in Rawalpindi at his behest.
Dr. Shahid Nawaz helped to establish the Department of Cardiology in Buraida, and became a renowned cardiologist in the Kingdom. In the early 70s, Dr. Ashraf Ali and Dr. Halim Khan helped to set up the histopathology department in Riyadh.
Dr. Fazal-ur-Rehman, another prominent Pakistani cardiologist, headed the late King Khalid’s medical team and for his services in the health sector he was given a ministerial position.
Over 40 years ago, Dr. Ameer Bux Channa established the department of anesthesiology at the 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 the early 80s. 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. His contributions to research in diabetes are well recognized.
In the Eastern Province, the inaugural Eye Hospital was staffed by Pakistani consultant ophthalmologists such as Dr. Wajahat Ali Pirzada, who has been in the post for more than a quarter of a century. Dr. M F Siddiqui is a renowned author.
The Saudi Ministry of Health has been hiring thousands of physicians, medical specialists and consultants from Pakistan to run its national health program.
In addition, Pakistanis have left deep imprints in the educational sector of Saudi Arabia.
At the College of Medicine of King Saud University, Prof. Dr. Sultan Ayoub Meo, an internationally renowned Pakistani scholar, has made an important contribution toward research in diabetes in the Kingdom, for which he has been awarded the King Abdul Aziz medal of excellence.
Another notable Pakistani, Prof. Dr. Mohammed 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 cybersecurity. His endeavors have also earned him the King Abdul Aziz medal of excellence.
There are also dozens of Pakistanis who have worked tirelessly for the university and earned great respect. Dr. Mujahid Kamran was a professor in the physics department before he joined Punjab University as its vice-chancellor.
In the development of mass communication and media, Pakistanis did not lag behind. Professor Javed Iqbal, from the College of Languages and Translation at 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 sector of Saudi Radio, he has presented his weekly programs for the past 37 years. For his contribution, he has been awarded the King Fahd Shield.
The hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who helped to build Saudi infrastructure consider this country their second homeland.
Every inch of Saudi Arabia today bears the aroma of Pakistani sweat, and our Saudi brothers gratefully acknowledge it.


Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council
Updated 2 min 3 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council
  • Both sides discussed ways to strengthen and enhance economic and trade relations between the two countries
  • Saudi Arabia and Pakistan affirmed their full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people

DUBAI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan have signed an agreement to establish the Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council.
Both countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and chemical precursors, state news agency SPA reported.

“Another MoU for financing eligible projects in the fields of energy, infrastructure, transportation, water, and communications between the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was signed as well,” Al-Arabiya TV reported separately.

The two leaders likewise witnessed the signing of two agreements: Increasing cooperation in the field of people sentenced to penalties depriving freedom, and increasing cooperation in the field of combating crime.

They also discussed ways to strengthen and enhance economic and trade relations between the two countries by exploring areas of investment and opportunities available in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, SPA reported.
They both confirmed their satisfaction with the strength of bilateral military and security relations, and agreed on further cooperation to achieve common goals between the two countries, it added.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan affirmed their full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. They also discussed the country’s right for the establishment of its independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
They have also affirmed their support for political solutions in Syria and Libya, and the efforts of the United Nations and its envoys in this regard.
“The two sides stressed the need for concerted efforts of the Islamic world to confront extremism and violence and reject sectarianism, and strive to achieve international peace and security,” SPA said.


Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 57 min 2 sec ago

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
  • Energy, economy and welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the agenda during Khan’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Remittances sent home from the Kingdom are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has long enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia, deeply rooted in their common faith, shared history and mutual support in times of crisis. More than 2 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom, contributing to its prosperity and sending home billions in remittances. Trade, meanwhile, continues to blossom between the two nations.

With an eye to boosting their mutual cooperation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to begin a three-day official visit, with energy, economy and the welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the diplomatic agenda.

“We believe this is a very important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia with respect to our historic bilateral relationship, trade and economic ties,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office, told Arab News.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman riding in a carriage during a welcome ceremony in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2019.  (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

“The two sides will discuss economy, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia, besides signing a number of agreements on energy and infrastructure related projects.”

Indeed, the Kingdom is an extremely important trade destination for Pakistan and both countries have been searching for ways to boost their partnership along with the volume of imports and exports.

At present, the trade volume between both countries stands at $3.6 billion, with imports from Saudi Arabia worth $3.2 billion and exports to the Kingdom worth $316.3 million, according to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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“Our exports to Saudi Arabia have increased this year after our companies were allowed to export halal meat and livestock, and we are trying to further boost it,” Shahid Ahmed Leghari, chairman of the Pak-Saudi Business Council, told Arab News.

Pakistani companies had also started exporting spices and garments to the Kingdom, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can boost our bilateral trade to $20 billion per annum if we are allowed to export rice, fruits, vegetables, wheat flour and dairy products to the Kingdom,” Leghari said.

Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia will help “open new business opportunities” for Pakistani businessmen and exporters, he added.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Supreme Coordination Council between the country and Saudi Arabia to “remove hurdles” to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019. 

During the crown prince’s 2019 visit, officials of both countries signed key memorandums of understanding worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing. 

Khan will be accompanied on his Saudi visit by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan walk along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Nur Khan Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

He will also meet Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League; and the imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Khan will also meet with members of Pakistan’s diaspora community in Jeddah during his stay in the port city. The Kingdom remains the largest source of overseas remittances to Pakistan, with Pakistani workers sending home $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year and $5.7 billion from July to March this fiscal year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

These remittances are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This visit is important because Pakistan is facing real financial challenges where we have to maintain our foreign exchange reserves,” Qamar Cheema, a Pakistani foreign-relations analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan is also facing challenges since the UAE visa (for Pakistanis) has not been resumed and at the same time the Pakistani diaspora is very much important. So, Pakistan wants its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to remain the same.”

Just weeks after Khan assumed office in August 2018, Saudi Arabia helped Pakistan stave off its looming balance of payments crisis by extending a $3 billion interest-free loan and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for the import of oil.

In exchange, “Pakistan wants to share its experiences with Saudi Arabia, making Saudi Arabia green. And Pakistan also wants to share its (military) experience to protect the security of Saudi Arabia,” said Cheema.

 

“We are going to nudge forward from where we left off back in 2019 when the crown prince came here.”

The Kingdom has often stood by Pakistan during difficult times, extending financial support during wars and natural disasters.

“Pakistan cannot forget the extensive Saudi financial support in the form of oil supply and cash during our difficult times, such as the earthquake in 2005 and flash floods in 2010 and 2011,” Javed Hafeez, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The presence of Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in the Kingdom ahead of the prime minister’s visit indicates both countries are interested in “enhancing defense cooperation” and economic ties, he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan, and the prime minister’s visit will definitely help open new vistas of economic cooperation,” Hafeez said.

 


Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad
Updated 08 May 2021

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

RIYADH: A mosque named after Saudi Arabia's King Salman will be built at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said Saturday.

The planned mosque, which will be located at the university's campus, includes a prayer hall for men accommodating 4,000 worshipers and another for women accommodating 2000 worshipers, said the report.

King Salman. (SPA photo)

The project also contains a museum and a library each in the name of the King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Conferences Hall, an administrative area and a parking lot.

There will also be outdoor yards that can accommodate 6,000 people. 

SPA said King Salman has approved the plan.


Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway

Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway
Al-Qassar village consists of old buildings and is located in the south of Farasan Island. (Supplied)
Updated 08 May 2021

Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway

Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway
  • Al-Qassar village becomes a top destination for those seeking moderate climates and potable water

MAKKAH: The village of Al-Qassar — located 5 kilometers away from the Farasan governorate — has long been a hub for the people of the Farasan Islands who are always in connection with the place.

This is especially noticeable during summer, when people migrate to the village to escape from the heat.
For more than 50 years, Al-Qassar’s historic homes have witnessed vibrant ceremonies, as their walls were built with stones, roofed from palm tree fronds, and adorned with seashells and beautiful Arabic inscriptions.
Saudi historian and poet Ibrahim Moftah said that Al-Qassar is one of the first villages that was inhabited in the Arabian Peninsula hundreds of years ago. The village enjoys moderate weather, is covered with palm trees, and is full of fresh wells and rich in history and events, he added.
“Farasan was a deserted island on all levels and the love of change is in the nature of Jizani people, so they used to go to Al-Qassar for change,” he told Arab News.
He said that at the beginning of the month of April, the village becomes a top destination for those seeking moderate climates and potable water. “Water in Al-Qassar can be found at a depth of six meters, whereas it can only be found in Farasan at a depth of 23 meters.”
Previously, most travel and trips to Al-Qassar village were during what Farasani people call the “Shaddah” season, where families ride camels to travel.
People of Farasan would postpone their wedding ceremonies in order to travel to Al-Qassar in summer, where the weather is cool during the Shaddah season.
Those trips to the village were done in two phases: One morning trip for a bride, who rides a camel carrying water and boxes with accompanying music, and another second trip during the afternoon for families.
“The Farasan people used to celebrate new brides in Al-Qassar in a unique way, especially if the bride was in the first year of her marriage, amid the chants and songs of joy,” said Moftah. “A calm and trained camel is chosen, then they decorate the camels with beads, pearls and silk, and copper bells that are fixed to its ankles to make sounds as it walks.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For more than 50 years, Al-Qassar’s historic homes have witnessed vibrant ceremonies, as their walls were built with stones, roofed from palm tree fronds, and adorned with seashells and beautiful Arabic inscriptions.

• Previously, most travel and trips to Al-Qassar village were during what Farasani people call the ‘Shaddah’ season, where families ride camels to travel.

• People of Farasan would postpone their wedding ceremonies in order to travel to Al-Qassar in summer, where the weather is cool during the Shaddah season.

Moftah said that before a bride’s trip to Al-Qassar, “young women gather at the bride’s house and start singing, then they start their trip with the bride in the forefront. The camels would also be carrying wooden boxes that used to arrive from Aden and are made in India, loaded with expensive clothes and perfumes. The bridesmaid accompanies the bride, and she is usually of a similar weight. Men and women would stand on the sides to wave goodbye to the bride’s procession.”
The bride is then received in Al-Qassar with jugs of water and chants.
However, Moftah said that “nowadays, there are no more camels in Farasan” and that “life has changed and these traditions ended 50 years ago,” as cars, modern homes and air-conditioners have become common and Al-Qassar is no longer an escape or a shelter for anyone, now only home to “deserted houses and souvenirs.”
According to the Saudi historian, official festivals and a surge in tourism “was not fair” to the history of Al-Qassar village, as older traditions were not properly represented. “The region has lost one of the most beautiful cultural traditions.”
Saudi tourist guide Yahya Abbas said that Al-Qassar village consists of old buildings and is located in the south of Farasan Island, and includes almost 400 houses fixed with tree fronds, small stones and sand “to prevent water leaks.”
He added: “The history of this village dates back to the Roman era, and there are writings and drawings dating back to the Himyarite era.
“The village is considered the largest palm oasis in the region, with plenty of fresh wells.”
Abbas said that Al-Qassar has now become an area for tourists and visitors who want to discover its history and that of the Farasan Islands, as well as view the ancient houses in the village.


Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings
Ordering online has pros and cons. (Supplied)
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings
  • Ordering online has pros and cons

RIYADH: Hordes of Saudis have ignored government warnings to avoid crowded public areas and flocked to the shops in the run-up to Eid Al-Fitr holidays.
Many would rather head to the malls than buy online despite concerns about the dangers of spreading the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab told Arab News that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.
He said: “Some of my friends bought products off the internet and had problems such as delays in delivery, wrong sizes, and getting different products from those they had ordered.
“I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine. Besides, I have been infected with the coronavirus.

‘I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine.’

Fawaz Abdulwahab

“Also, many people have received the vaccine and are protected. Added to this, no one can enter a mall unless they have shown their status on the Tawakkalna app and had their temperature checked,” he added.
Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.
However, last year, due to the virus curfew and lockdowns, she had no choice but to order almost everything online.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab said that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.

• Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.

“Ordering online has pros and cons. It saves you from the risk of getting COVID-19 but on the negative side there can be delays in delivery and wrong sizes. I use online shopping when I don’t find my size at the mall,” she added.
Although initially fearful of contracting the virus at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Dayed said she was no longer worried. “People now seem to be a lot more aware of the gravity of the situation and wear face masks all the time and use sanitizers at the mall.”
Saudi businessman Mohammed Al-Qahtani said that while online shopping had its advantages, physical shopping was more fun.
“When one orders online, the price is fixed, and you cannot bargain with the seller. When
the COVID-19 pandemic started, it was dangerous to go out to the mall but today after millions of people have been vaccinated and with precautionary measures in place, I think many people prefer to go out to the mall than order online,” he added.