Pakistan, Saudi Arabia have always stood by each other

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman riding in a carriage during a welcome ceremony in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2019. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia have always stood by each other




Ambassador Raja Ali Ejaz 

It gives me immense pleasure to extend my congratulations to my fellow Pakistanis on the Independence Day of Pakistan. I am happy to be celebrating the occasion with our brothers in our second home: Saudi Arabia.

This day provides us with an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and to the aspirations of Dr. Allama Mohammed Iqbal. The founding father worked tirelessly for the creation of Pakistan so that the Muslims of the subcontinent could flourish in an independent homeland without any fear of oppression and injustice.

Since the inception of Pakistan, our leadership has consistently moved forward to realize the dreams of our founding fathers. We are proud to have developed into a responsible state in the comity of nations, through the untiring efforts of our people and leadership.

Pakistan, a country of more than 200 million people, is a progressive Islamic state with a functional parliament, independent judiciary, free media, vibrant civil society and resilient economy. Above all, Pakistan is endowed with abundant natural resources and inhabitants that are industrious and peace-loving.

Saudi Arabia and its leadership have a special place in the hearts of Pakistanis because of their outstanding services and guardianship of the two holy mosques. The countries have always stood by each other and the bilateral cooperation continues to grow.

We are grateful to the Kingdom for the warmth and hospitality extended to nearly 2.6 million Pakistanis, which is the largest overseas Pakistani community. Saudi Arabia has always acknowledged the contributions made by professionals and other workers from Pakistan to the development of the Kingdom. Saudi Vision 2030 provides opportunities for investors and professionals on both sides to enhance cooperation in all fields.

On this occasion, on behalf of the government and people of Pakistan, and myself, I would also like to express gratitude to the government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for providing free medical treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic to all Pakistanis. Further, the Kingdom undertook all necessary measures to protect the livelihoods of expatriate Pakistanis despite the economic slowdown.

Let us today renew our pledge to make Pakistan the state envisioned by its founding fathers. As ambassador, I congratulate all Pakistanis on this auspicious occasion. Let us work together to build our country and further strengthen our fraternal ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

May Allah bless Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with lasting peace and prosperity in the times ahead.

Long live Pakistan. Long live Saudi Arabia. Long live the Pakistan-Saudi friendship.

 

• Raja Ali Ejaz is the ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia


US bans palm oil imports from Malaysian production giant over labor abuse claims

Updated 4 min 52 sec ago

US bans palm oil imports from Malaysian production giant over labor abuse claims

  • American customs agency probe into Malaysian government-linked firm FGV revealed indicators of forced and child labor, physical and sexual violence
  • The allegations of abuse related especially to migrant laborers who make up the company’s main plantation workforce

KUALA LUMPUR:  The US has banned palm oil imports from Malaysian production giant FGV Holdings after a probe revealed forced labor practices at its facilities.

Human rights groups said the abuse of agricultural workers had been rife across the whole sector for years.

The American ban came into effect after a year-long investigation by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) into FGV, which revealed indicators of forced and child labor, as well as physical and sexual violence, said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of the CBP’s Office of Trade.

FGV is a Malaysian government-linked company and one of the world’s largest palm oil producers.

In a statement, the company said it was “disappointed” with the decision by the US which had come at a time when it had been taking “concrete steps over the past several years in demonstrating its commitment to respect human rights and to uphold labor standards.”

The company said the issues raised by the US agency had “been the subject of public discourse since 2015 and FGV has taken several steps to correct the situation.”

It added: “FGV became a participating company of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and is currently implementing a long-term and comprehensive action plan under its affiliation to the FLA that comprises a number of initiatives to further strengthen various aspects of our labor practices such as our recruitment process, human rights training programs, working and living conditions, as well as grievance mechanisms.”

The allegations of abuse related especially to migrant laborers who make up the company’s main plantation workforce. According to FGV data from August, it had 11,286 Indonesian and 4,683 Indian workers.

Malaysia’s Minister of Human Resources M. Saravanan said on Thursday that he was unclear about the details of the ban and had only found out about plans to impose it several days ago from the US ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir. However, he had not expected the ban to be implemented “so soon.”

“As mentioned by the ambassador, these issues are mainly in Sabah and Sarawak (two states on Borneo island), especially in the plantation sector. Action will be taken,” said Saravanan, adding that the ban was “not a good sign” for the country which was heavily reliant on exports.

He said that the Ministry of Human Resources would work closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs which had much of the jurisdiction over foreign labor.

The timing of the ban is particularly unfortunate for Malaysia’s economy, which has been affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. Palm oil exports from Malaysia — which constitute over a third of the world’s exports of the commodity — are one of the country’s key revenue sources.

“FGV would need to step up efforts to increase exports to other countries while addressing the US government’s concerns on the forced labor issues,” Prof. Yeah Kim Leng, economic studies director at Malaysia’s Sunway University, told Arab News.

He said that other palm oil companies would also need to take heed of the causes leading to the ban and address those concerns if they wished to avoid the US’ big stick.

Malaysian rights activists pointed out that they had been highlighting the issue of forced labor in palm oil supply chains for years.

In a statement, Glorene Das, director of Malaysian migrant rights group Tenaganita, said: “We demand all palm oil producers, including FGV Holdings, to take proactive steps to ensure human and labor rights of workers in plantations are respected and upheld at all time.

“Malaysia, as one of the main producers of palm oil in the world, must be an example of fair labor practices rather than be known and cited for exploitative practices.”