NA speaker directs repatriation of overseas workers, pilgrims

Aviation minister says 20 flights will bring home another 3,370 stranded Pakistanis soon

​ Our Correspondent April 23, 2020
Pakistan National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser. PHOTO: ANADOLU AGENCY

ISLAMABAD: Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaisar on Wednesday directed that allstranded Tableeghis, pilgrims and overseas Pakistanis who have tested negative or have completed quarantine period must immediately be repatriated to their homes by federal and provincial governments before the advent of the holy month of Ramazan.

Chairing a meeting of the Functional Committee of the Parliament on Covid-19 affectees at the Parliament House, the speaker commended the job done by the sub-committee led by Shehryar Afridi and directed it to take up the issues faced by the journalist community and get them resolved.

Speaker also directed Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate Ramazan package for laid off overseas Pakistanis.

Convener of the sub-committee of the Functional Committee, Afridi briefed the panel on steps taken to repatriate the Tableeghis, pilgrims and overseas Pakistanis.

He said that over 10,000 Tableeghis and pilgrims have been repatriated domestically while the rest were being facilitated by the authorities concerned.

He said that the focal persons of the provinces need to respond proactively to the committee while the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were taking lead in facilitating the return of the trapped religious travellers.

Briefing the committee on the issues faced by the journalist community, Afridi said that a delegation of Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) has submitted him a charter of demands, adding that there was a need to facilitate the working journalists with safety kits. He said the government should take immediate measures to ensure that working journalists are not laid off during the Covid-19 crisis while stressing that salaries of journalists which are pending for almost 11 months must also be paid.

Afridi said that PRA has also requested that prime minister may also announce a package for journalist community, which has been affected due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the prime minister may launch a data collection application for working journalists while proper legislation may also be made for protection of jobs of the working journalists.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefed the functional committee on measures being taken to facilitate the return of stranded Pakistanis and foreigners.

He said that around 46,743 stranded Pakistanis have registered themselves with Pakistani missions abroad out of which 2,054 are Tableeghis who are mostly in Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Uganda and Chad.

He said that 5,629 overseas Pakistanis have been repatriated while 428 inmates have also been brought home from jails abroad. “We need to devise a national strategy to deal with the issue of laid off Pakistanis abroad. We are repatriating people in a regulated manner. Our foreign missions are being directed to facilitate the return of overseas Pakistanis,” he added.

He said that during Ramazan, Sehri and Iftar for stranded Pakistanis would be a major challenge which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is trying to facilitate.

Meanwhile, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said that SOPs should be followed by the returning Tableeghis and pilgrims.

Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that over 7,313 overseas Pakistanis have been repatriated through 17 flights. He said another 20 flights would bring home another 3,370 stranded overseas Pakistanis soon. PIA has given major contribution in this regard, he added.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari said that Pakistan was in talks with the UAE government and all possible measures are being taken to facilitate the stranded Pakistanis. He said that Pakistan has also requested the UAE authorities to arrange payment for repatriation of labourers and their dues.

“We are also negotiating with the Qatari government and trying to negotiate for payment of dues of the Pakistani workers,” he added. He said that Pakistan has also asked Qatar Airways to transport stranded overseas Pakistanis from USA for which three flights would be allowed every week.

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