Pakistan requests Saudi Arabia to extend travel deadline for Iqama holders
72-hour period given to citizens and valid residency holders to return to their countries is set to expire on Sunday
RAWALPINDI: Pakistani authorities have requested the Saudi Arabia government to extend the travel deadline by March 25 on humanitarian grounds to allow more time to travellers to reach their destinations.
The 72-hour deadline set by the kingdom on Thursday is due to expire on Sunday at 3pm.
The Saudi government had asked its citizens and Iqama holders (residency permit holders) to return to their respective countries as part of preventive measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“The decision gives a 72-hour period for citizens and those with valid residency of the citizens of those countries to return to the kingdom, before the travel suspension decision becomes effective,” the official Saudi Press Agency had announced on its website.
Aviation authorities of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, including national and private airlines management, have requested the Saudi officials to allow more time as they were unable to handle the large number of passengers in the given deadline, which is due to expire tomorrow (March 15) by 3pm.
According to the official data available with The Express Tribune, 142 special flights were operated between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia since Thursday in which as many as 39,980 passengers from both the countries travelled.
Iqama-holders rush to PIA offices after Saudi restrictions
CAA officials told The Express Tribune that there are still over 5,000 Iqama holders in Pakistan and similar number of passengers in the kingdom who want to return to their countries.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended travel of citizens and residents and halted flights with several states including Pakistan which also caused passengers to face delay.
CAA officials have expressed hope that the Saudi government will seriously consider their request.
COVID-19, a mysterious pneumonia-like disease which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, has now spread all over the world.
The global death toll is now over 5,500 with more than 145,500 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organisation, which has declared the outbreak a pandemic.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has so far reported 24 additional cases, taking the national total to 86.
The kingdom, besides extending travel bans to and from the EU and 12 other countries, also closed land crossings with Jordan, allowing only commercial and cargo traffic. The kingdom had already banned travel to some 19 countries, including neighbouring Arab states.