Over 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia to benefit from new green card

Billboards showing portraits of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan displayed on a roadside ahead of the prince's arrival in Islamabad on Feb. 15, 2019. (AFP/File)
Updated 15 May 2019
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Over 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia to benefit from new green card

  • “Privileged Iqama” scheme first mentioned by Saudi Crown Prince Salman nearly three years ago
  • Once approved, new system will end the need for expatriates to have a local sponsor, or “kafeel”

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s green-lighting of a new residency scheme for expatriates is a game-changer for 2.7 million Pakistanis living in the Kingdom, business officials and experts said, and might finally give expatriates who can pay a required fee the right to live, work and own business and property in the Kingdom.
The new residency scheme, officially known as a “Privileged Iqama” and commonly referred to as the Saudi “green card,” was first mentioned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nearly three years ago. Those eligible will be able to choose between an annual renewable option or permanent residency, with indefinite leave to remain in exchange for a higher, one-off fee. Saudi government officials have told Arab News that the scheme now awaits cabinet approval. “This is a very positive and long-awaited step,” Sehr Kamran, President of the Center for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, told Arab News. “It will give confidence to the expatriate community, especially the investors, since many people had been losing their businesses to Kafeels (Saudi sponsors).”
Once approved, this new system will end the need for expatriates to have a local sponsor, or “kafeel.” For those who already bend the rules by constantly renewing limited visitor visas, there will no longer be “visa runs” every few months. It will also eliminate long queues at embassies.
Without a Kafeel, a foreigner cannot do business in Saudi Arabia, and a local sponsor has controlling share over businesses, often leading to disputes.
“The biggest benefit [of the new scheme] is that Pakistanis who have been living there are aware of their language, and they can invest in small and medium size businesses and employ other Pakistanis without relying on local partners,” Rizwan-ul-Haq, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia told Arab News.
“If mid-to-large scale businesses are assured of legal rights and a conducive environment, they would definitely move to Saudi Arabia. The educational and hospitality sector can boom,” he added.
Pakistan’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia stood at $1.871 billion in 2017-18 with exports amounting to $170 million and imports at $1.7 billion. Since 1971, Pakistanis have contributed toward building the Kingdom’s infrastructure. They remit nearly $6 billion from Saudi Arabia every year.
In order to be eligible for the new green card scheme, expatriates must meet several criteria including having a valid passport, clean criminal record, financial solvency, and authentic credit and health reports.
Farhan Ahmed, the CEO of an Islamabad-based travel and tourism company, said Riyadh’s decision was encouraging for Pakistan’s business community.
“This is a very positive and encouraging move. It gives hope to the business community to go and invest there without concerns over the protection of their investment,” Ahmed said, adding that he would definitely consider availing the opportunity “after proper consideration.”


PPP, PML-N to challenge ‘anti-people policies’ of government

Updated 16 June 2019
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PPP, PML-N to challenge ‘anti-people policies’ of government

  • Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto hold an important political meeting in Lahore
  • Analysts say their proposed campaign against government can put PTI in difficult situation

LAHORE: Leaders of Pakistan’s two largest opposition parties held a meeting here on Sunday to devise a joint strategy against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government and run a coordinated campaign against its “anti-people policies.”
The gathering was organized by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Sharif who invited Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to jointly review the country’s prevailing political situation.
Together the two young politicians agreed to revive the May 2006 Charter of Democracy, signed by their parents in London, to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Pakistan and challenge the incumbent administration.
“The two parties discussed the current situation of the country and decided to work together to get rid of the anti-people policies [of the PTI government]. In the first phase, a joint strategy will be evolved which will help the two factions work together in parliament. The leaders of the parties will also meet to formulate a strategy to work outside the parliament,” PPP Punjab Secretary General Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed, who was present at the meeting, told Arab News.
A senior PML-N politician thought the meeting would prove beneficial for Pakistan’s future politics since the two parties were operating under a young leadership.
“The two young leaders have become successful in convincing their parties regarding their approach and style of politics. Their parents may have a history of friendship and enmity, but these two have no bad blood between them. They share the same woes and want to work together to take the country forward,” Senator Pervaiz Rasheed, another participant of the meeting, said.
Maryam Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto also discussed the fresh wave of the arrests of opposition leaders and thought it was to terrify the opponents of the government.
The PPP chairman said in a media talk after the meeting that the opposition would not be deterred by such political pressure. He also pointed out that no single party could take the country out of the present political and economic situation, adding it would require a collaborative effort.
The two leaders decided they would not let the PTI government pass the national budget, saying it was making life difficult for the people of Pakistan. They also agreed to involve other parliamentary forces to achieve that objective.
The PPP chairman and PML-N vice president demanded the administration to withdraw corruption references filed against their family members and insisted the National Assembly speaker issue production orders of all jailed members of parliament.
While some of the government ministers ridiculed the meeting, independent analysts thought it could create problems for the PTI administration.
“The PTI has pushed the main leaders of the PPP and PML-N against the wall. The proposed joint movement of these opposition faction can put the ruling party in hot water,” Arif Nizami, a senior analyst, told Arab News.