Pakistan welcomes reduction in Saudi visa fees

In this file photo people are standing in queues at the new Islamabad International Airport (IIA).(APP)
Updated 17 February 2019

Pakistan welcomes reduction in Saudi visa fees

  • 'Crown Prince MBS has generously lowered the fee,' FO spokesperson says
  • The new visa fees came into effect from February 15

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan foreign office has hailed a new reduction in Saudi visit visa fees as a generous move by the crown prince in a tweet by the Foreign Office spokesperson on Sunday, just ahead of the Saudi royal’s arrival in the capital today.“On Prime Minister IK's initiative, suggesting reduction in Saudi Visa Fee for Pakistani Workers, Crown Prince MBS has generously lowered the fee,” spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal wrote on Twitter.

The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Islamabad announced in a statement on Friday that non-pilgrimage visit visa fees for single entry would be lowered from SR2,000 ($533) to SR338 ($90) while the fee for multiple entry visas would be reduced from SR3,000 ($800) to SR675 ($180).

According to the statement, the new fee structure will came into effect from February 15. 

Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, Senator Faisal Javed also welcomed the move on Twitter.

“Great News: Saudi Embassy announces to reduce Visa Fee for Pakistanis as one of the world's most beautiful Capital is ready to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman,” he wrote in a tweet on Saturday.

During his stay, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are expected to sign off on a number of investment agreements worth over $10 billion, and MoU’s in diverse sectors.

In December last year, Pakistan slashed its own visa fees for Saudi nationals, reducing the cost of single entry visas to SR270 ($72), and multiple entry fees to SR540 ($144).

With an estimated 2.7 million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia, the reduction in visa fees is likely to benefit hundreds of thousands of Pakistani workers and laborers to bring their family members in on visit visas, and to promote trade and investment between the two countries.

Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

Updated 21 January 2020

Alice Wells discusses Afghan peace process with Islamabad

  • Islamabad reaffirms commitment to the Afghan peace process, says FO
  • Wells is in Islamabad since Sunday on a four-day visit

ISLAMABAD: The chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, Alice G. Wells, on Tuesday discussed the ongoing Afghan reconciliation process with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood in Islamabad, ahead of an expected US-Taliban peace agreement.

The principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs at the US State Department has been in Pakistan since Sunday on a four-day visit to discuss a host of issues of bilateral interest, including the Afghan peace process.

US-Taliban talks have been ongoing in the Qatari capital, Doha, where they are moving toward a peace deal. 

Pakistan has been involved in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table with the US to restore peace in the region.

“The two sides (Pakistan and the US) ... discussed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement after the hours-long meeting between Wells and Mahmood.

During the meeting, the statement said Pakistan, has “reaffirmed its resolve to continue to support the peace process and pursue positive development of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.”

This is the second time in recent months the US and Taliban have appeared close to announcing a peace deal. 

In September, President Donald Trump abruptly called off the talks in response to a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Monday in a Twitter post that a three-member team representing the Taliban – Mullah Baradar Akhund, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai and Amir Khan Muttaqqi – met with US special envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Scott Miller, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Experts have termed the recent negotiations between the US and Taliban decisive and are expecting them to reach an agreement by the end of this month.

“Taliban have already agreed on a violence reduction in Afghanistan that was one of the key demands of the US. So, it means both sides are close to a significant peace pact,” Rahimullah Yousafzai, an expert on Afghanistan and Taliban affairs, told Arab News.

He said that Pakistan has played a crucial role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table by using its influence over the militants. “Alice Wells may discuss the pros and cons of the proposed peace agreement with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership during her meetings,” he said.