ISLAMABAD: Taking notice of the Pakistanis stranded at Doha airport, Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Mohammad Yousaf has directed private tour operators to cancel agreements with Qatar Airlines for Umrah pilgrimage, and asked PIA to arrange special flights to help out the stranded countrymen.
More than 200 Pakistani Umrah pilgrims got stuck at Doha airport after Saudi Arabia and six other countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, and the air traffic between Qatar and Saudi Arabia got suspended. With the closure of the air route, the Pakistani pilgrims who were in transit got stranded in Qatar.
In the wake of the diplomatic row, the religious affairs minister directed private tour operators to shelve all the agreements they had earlier signed with Qatar Airlines for taking Umrah pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and also avoid signing new contracts with the airlines.
The minister directed the secretary of his department to coordinate with the foreign affairs secretary and resolve the issue of the Pakistanis stuck in Doha as soon as possible. He has also requested PIA to arrange special flights to take those pilgrims to their desired destinations.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an official in the Ministry of Religious Affairs said: “Currently, authorities in both Pakistan and Qatar are trying to negotiate with Oman Airlines to airlift the stranded Pakistanis from Doha to Jeddah.”
Meanwhile, PIA is in talks to bring back Pakistani passengers of the Qatar Airlines stranded in Doha, an official said on Tuesday.
“There are two options for PIA – first, to take the stranded persons from Doha to Jeddah, for which permission from the Saudi government is required; and second, to bring them back to Pakistan and then take them to Saudi Arabia,” Mashhood Tajwar, spokesman for the national carrier, told Reuters.
Tajwar said the number of stranded Pakistani passengers was not clear because they were customers of Qatar Airways, but PIA was in contact with the Pakistani embassy in Doha to get details. (With additional input from Reuters)