It took a year for the President to notice and when he did it was already too late.
Dost Swalay – one of the 700 Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia for over a year in a visa fraud – died on Sunday after falling from a roof during work.
Parents of the 24-year-old, unaware of what happened to their son, still await Swalay’s return to Swat. The relatives aware of Swalay’s death, on the other hand, cannot gather courage to break the news to the family.
“How can I inform Swalay’s aged parents of his death? I’m not even sure if we’ll be able to bring his body back to Pakistan,” Swalay’s cousin Gul Rehman told The Express Tribune.
He added that the relatives of the deceased were working to get his passport, which is still in custody of the Turkish Company MAAPA, so that they could shift his body back to Swalay’s hometown.
He fears that like Swalay’s visa case his body too will be shifted to a cold storage in Al-Haasa, Riyadh.
Rehman said that some 90% of the people stranded in Saudi Arabia wanted to transfer their visas to other companies. He added that according to the Saudi law the visas issued were valid. It was the company that committed the fraud and the labourers can get their visas transferred to other companies and legally work for them.
However, the rest of the Pakistanis, not so hopeful about other working prospects in the kingdom, just demand a safe exit to Pakistan.
A worker of the same company on condition of anonymity said that he along with many of his friends wanted the company to give them their passports back so that they can transfer their visas to other companies and can have a valid iqama (resident permit).
Meanwhile, the recent notice taken by the President has not gone all in vain.
The same employee informed that after President Zardari took notice of the scam after a story was published on Monday in The Express Tribune, the Pakistani Embassy in Riyadh has seriously looked into the matter. He added that the manager had assured the workers that the issue will be resolved within a month.
The 700 Pakistanis arrived in Saudi Arabia towards the end of 2011 and since then have not been allowed to work or travel outside the Kingdom.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2013.