Pakistani Umrah pilgrims will be compensated, says Saudi envoy

Umrah pilgrims go through passport control upon their arrival at Jeddah airport on September 17, 2018. (AFP)
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Updated 29 February 2020

Pakistani Umrah pilgrims will be compensated, says Saudi envoy

  • Ambassador Al-Malki says pilgrims will be able to travel to the Kingdom on the same visa or get a new one
  • PIA spokesperson says passengers can get full refund or get their seats readjusted

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki said on Friday that all Pakistani Umrah pilgrims affected by the temporary travel ban to the Kingdom due to the threat of coronavirus would be compensated.

“Pakistani Umrah pilgrims who had to travel to Saudi Arabia during the dates of suspension will be compensated in the best possible way,” Al-Malki told Arab News on Friday. “They will be able to travel on the same visa or will be issued a fresh one free of charge.”

Saudi Arabia on Thursday placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims in an attempt to ensure public safety and prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also supported the Kingdom’s decision to protect its citizens from the epidemic.

“All those passengers who have Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tickets will be able to get full refund from the PIA offices or their travel agents,” the national carrier’s spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan told Arab News on the phone from Karachi, adding it was up to the passengers if they wanted to avail the refund option or get their seats readjusted after the ban.

Meanwhile, Saudi airlines also announced full refund of tickets through a circular which is available with Arab News.

“The Pakistani mission in Saudi Arabia is in touch with the Saudi authorities on this issue and will take all possible measures to facilitate Pakistani pilgrims,” spokesperson of the Pakistani embassy in Saudi Arabia Arshad Munir told Arab News on the phone from Jeddah.

Faizan Akhtar, a member of Pakistan’s Umrah Travel Agents’ Association told Arab News from Rawalpindi that the situation would become clear in the next few days, but all the passengers would get refunds or manage to travel on the same Umrah package after the ban.

“There was a previous incident of flight suspension during the Pak-India standoff last year which disturbed Umrah pilgrims. They were compensated by the Saudi authorities who extended their visas without extra charges and airlines adjusted their seats accordingly. We haven’t received any official communication on this so far, but the situation will become clear in the next few days,” Akhtar said.


Urdu comic book 'Little Master' to help Pakistani children fight COVID-19 misinformation

Updated 19 September 2020

Urdu comic book 'Little Master' to help Pakistani children fight COVID-19 misinformation

  • The book tells the story of a young boy from Karachi's Lyari, who is learning about the virus to help others
  • 'Little Master' is illustrated by Umair Najeeb Khan, the creator of Pakistan’s first superhero comic book series 'Paak-Legion'

RAWALPINDI: "Little Master," an Urdu-language comic book, is going to be released on Monday to guide Pakistani children how to stay safe amid the coronavirus pandemic and cope with COVID-19 misinformation.
Published by Mehrdar Art & Production (MAP), the book tells the story of Ahmed, a young boy from Karachi's Lyari area, who is trying to learn about the coronavirus to help keep others safe, regardless of their community background.
"Comics are a great way to tell a story positively and are really useful in countering misinformation,” Muhammad Faheem, documentary filmmaker and MAP founder, told Arab News on Saturday.

The cover of "Little Master," an Urdu-language comic book to help Pakistani children cope with COVID-19 misinformation. (Photo courtesy of Muhammad Faheem via AN)

The efforts have been funded by MAP itself and through government and private support. To illustrate "Little Master," Faheem asked for help Umair Najeeb Khan, the creator of Pakistan’s first superhero comic book series "Paak-Legion."
Thousands of copies of "Little Master" will be distributed at schools in underprivileged areas such as Lyari, where misinformation has led to blame games and community tensions that affected virus response. Some narratives even questioned the very existence of the virus and necessity to follow any precautions against it.

Umair Najeeb Khan is working on an illustration for the "Little Master" comic book in Islamabad on Sept. 19, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Umair Najeeb Khan via AN)

In May, Faheem rolled out "Hum Sab Saath, Corona ki Kilaaf" ("All of Us Together Against the Coronavirus"), a campaign through posters, social media and talks by community leaders to address the situation.
"It got to the point where relief efforts in these areas were being compromised because people were questioning who deserved help," Faheem said. "We needed to address not only the severity of what was going on but educate the citizens of these areas on what was real information to help combat the fake news and rising bigotry."
The comic book is a follow up to these efforts.
"When kids read our comics, we hope they will learn more about the pandemic and how it is a collective effort that we all have to join together, regardless of our backgrounds."