Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf on Saturday said around 15,000 overseas Pakistanis stranded, in almost 38 different countries, have been repatriated since March 21.
Addressing a press conference, he briefed on the issues of Pakistanis stranded abroad, policy criterion for repatriation, selection of locations, specific population and others.
Moeed said there were over 100,000 overseas Pakistanis who wanted to return to the country and the government's priority was to bring people on an emergency basis, especially labourers laid off from their services, zaireens or religious devotees, prisoners freed in different countries and Pakistanis with expired visas.
He added that special flights have reached all the regions of the world including from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, UAE, Oman and Indonesia.
"There are 88 countries where Pakistanis are stuck and wanted to come back whereas 90 per cent of the 100,000 overseas Pakistanis left abroad are mostly in gulf countries including 70,000 in UAE, over 15,000 in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and around 6,000 in Qatar."
He added that this was the main reason for the maximum number of flights operated to gulf countries.
The SAPM added that the overseas Pakistanis should register themselves with their respective embassies as it was decided by the relevant embassy to put the names of Pakistanis on priority to send them back to the country.
The SAPM mentioned that the Prime Minister was also insisting to bring back overseas Pakistanis and the main reason for the slow down in repatriation was the prevailing health crisis.
Dr Moeed said health advisers and experts are keeping in view the risk of the pandemic's spread had suggested testing every single individual as the coronavirus was transmitted to Pakistan from abroad.
The 48 hours quarantine period for passengers was notified under the standard protocol and after that period the test will be conducted. "If an individual's test comes negative then he or she has to go under self-isolation at home for 14 days whereas the test report after two days does not mean that one is free to go back home," he added.
He informed that international airports were shut down due to the contagion and the government had to negotiate with the countries to open specific airports to get the passengers back which was also the reason for slow repatriation of overseas Pakistanis.
Dr Moeed mentioned that during the past week there was a surge in positive COVID-19 cases in passengers reaching through international flights and consequently the number of passengers being repatriated was reduced.
He said there were countries where PIA did not have access. The US recently allowed PIA to conduct direct flights.
"Five to seven private airlines have been allowed to carry out operations to bring back overseas Pakistanis. People who are not able to afford the expenses are also being assisted by the government."
As per the prime minister's directions, provinces would be consulted to increase the number of passengers to 12,000 and it would take weeks to bring back the 100,000 stranded Pakistanis, he added.
He went on to mention that www.covid.gov.pk was the only reliable source of information to confirm flight schedule and people should abstain from buying tickets from different airlines and travel agents.
They should confirm the flight schedule from this website, he added.
Moreover, he said no Pakistani was barred from going abroad as airlines were not operating whereas people could go abroad on Qatar Airways and PIA.
He highlighted that the premier had directed the embassies to provide all possible assistance to overseas Pakistanis whereas in case of any difficulty people could submit there queries on the PM's Citizen Portal.
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