Overseas Pakistanis not facing issues in Saudi Arabia – Qureshi

Overseas Pakistanis not facing issues in Saudi Arabia – Qureshi
In this file photo, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi looks on during a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the US State Department in Washington, DC on Oct. 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2018

Overseas Pakistanis not facing issues in Saudi Arabia – Qureshi

Overseas Pakistanis not facing issues in Saudi Arabia – Qureshi
  • Foreign minister rubbishes reports that several are stranded in the country
  • Says only those who had overstayed or indulged in illegal activities held back

ISLAMABAD: Dismissing reports that nationals residing in Saudi Arabia were facing problems in the country, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday that the reports were untrue.
In a written reply to questions about Pakistani expats in the Kingdom, Qureshi told the National Assembly: “Pakistanis employed in the Kingdom on proper work visas do not face problems pertaining to their work permits (Iqamas), outstanding dues etc,” adding that the Saudi was home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats.
Qureshi added that only those Pakistanis who had overstayed, were involved in illegal activities or had traveled to GCC countries on a free visa faced problems. “In some cases, Pakistanis going on ‘Hajj and Umrah Visas’ to Saudi Arabia overstay and thus become liable for deportation by the Saudi authorities,” he said.
Earlier, Moulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, a lawmaker from the religious political alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, had asked the government whether any Pakistani workers were stranded in Saudi Arabia due to a nonpayment of salaries by their employers.
Qureshi explained to the house that Saudi Arabia was an oil-based economy and more than 70 percent of its budget was financed by the sector. Due to a slump in oil prices in the past, some projects were put on hold by the Saudi government.
He narrated the example of a construction company which had incurred a huge loss after several other companies defaulted due to an economic slump and failed to pay the wages to expatriates from various nationalities, which included 9,360 Pakistanis.
“The workers were stuck with expired visas and without salaries. The government of Pakistan, through our missions, facilitated the final exit and free tickets of 4,810 workers,” he said.
“We coordinated with different companies to relocate the workers and more than 4,548 were transferred to new employers within the Kingdom.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia last week, where he participated in the Future Investment Initiative Conference. Foreign Minister Qureshi said that during the meeting with Khan, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “agreed to bring visa fee for Pakistani workers at par with the visa fee charged from Indian workers i.e. SR305.”
Qureshi added that there are around 3,000 Pakistani nationals detained in Saudi prisons and a majority of those are “unfortunately detained on drug-related charges.”