KARACHI: Several Muslims have a select list of people to pray for during the holy month of Ramadan.
It usually features family, friends, relatives, or those going through difficult times.
For Ismail Khan, however, that list has always included Saudi Arabia.
“I offer special prayers for Saudi Arabia because I have an emotional attachment to the country where our holiest sites are located. Also, my life and the better life of my children depends on a prosperous Kingdom,” Khan told Arab News over the phone from his village in Mardan in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
With the money earned as an expatriate worker in the Kingdom, Khan said he was able to build a house back home, the work for which is “nearing completion.”
Nowadays, however, his immediate concern and the content for his prayers is for the coronavirus to be completely obliterated from his “second home.”
As of Tuesday, the virus had killed 320 people and infected 57,345 others across the Kingdom.
“I wish that coronavirus vanishes from Pakistan, my country and Saudi Arabia, my second home. I know that the virus has destroyed the global economy. I pray it does not do the same for the Kingdom,” Khan, who works as a private contractor, said.
According to data shared by Pakistan’s central bank last week, Saudi Arabia continues to remain one of its primary sources of remittances, despite the global economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Overseas Pakistanis’ remittances amounted to nearly $18.78 billion between July 2019 and April 2020; 5.5 percent more than those recorded in the previous fiscal year, with $4.4 billion sent from Saudi Arabia alone.
Contrary to the predictions of most economists who said that the cash inflow would decline after several expatriate workers were either furloughed or repatriated due to the pandemic, $451.4 million has been remitted thus far — 5.4 percent more than last year and only 0.2 percent less than those recorded in March 2020, the State Bank of Pakistan data showed.
Additionally, the total remittances received in April amounted to $1.79 billion, 5.5 percent less than the amount recorded in the previous month.
However, the SBP data isn’t enough to allay the fears of several Pakistanis who worry that the outbreak’s impact on businesses could invariably affect their relatives working in Saudi Arabia.
Noor Islam from Charsada in KP province – whose son, Naseer Khan, has been unable to return to Riyadh for work due to the lockdown – is one such example.
“I am told that the situation is normalizing very quickly and after Eid, he will be working again. I pray to God that this virus may go away from everywhere, especially Saudi Arabia, where my son works,” Islam told Arab News.
In Dir, a town in Upper Dir District of the KP province, a majority of residents are either employed in the Kingdom or have relatives working there. The fallout from the coronavirus outbreak is thus a cause for concern for several.
“Dir, compared to two decades ago, has completely transformed now due to remittances from Saudia Arabia,” Faridullah Khan, an educationist who runs a private school and college in Timergara, headquarters of the Lower Dir District, said, adding that if the situation worsened, “it will affect us, as well as the parents who wouldn’t be able to pay fees.”
Ismail Khan, however, is optimistic that things will take a turn for the better.
“In Saudi Arabia, there is good leadership that has taken timely decisions to control the spread of the virus. I am in contact with colleagues, and they say work will resume soon,” he said.
“For now, all we can do is to pray. We pray for a prosperous Saudi Arabia.”