ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on Sunday said that a large number of Pakistanis were residing in the Gulf countries where a lot of them were being sent back under the situation arising from COVID-19.
“The biggest number of stranded Pakistanis is in the UAE and it is regrettable that they are being overcharged for air tickets. Irrespective of who is responsible for this, we are answerable on this issue,” Qureshi said while addressing a session of Pakistani community via video link held at the Town Hall in Dubai.
He urged the expat community to identify elements making undue profit at this time of crisis in the form of inflated air fares.
The session was attended by foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood, special secretary foreign Moazzam Ali Khan and other senior officials of the ministry, according to a press release issued by the foreign office.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE Ghulam Dastagir Khan and other officials of the embassy were also in attendance.
Qureshi said that UAE hosts 1.6 million Pakistanis and it was a difficult task to live up to all of their expectations.
He lauded the efforts of Pakistani mission in the Gulf state for providing free air tickets to as much as 196 Pakistanis. He also acknowledged Pakistan embassy for distributing food packets in Dubai, a step, he said, was highly appreciated.
The minister further said that Pakistan embassy in UAE was facilitating on priority those whose visas had expired.
While noting that Pakistan’s exports had dwindled due to coronavirus, Qureshi said that “overseas Pakistanis are sending remittances back home after toiling hard in foreign countries and bolstering the country’s economy.”
“Overseas Pakistanis have always helped Pakistan in difficult times. It is our responsibility to heed their valid demands,” he added.
Ambassador Dastagir briefed the foreign minister about the Pakistani community with regard to coronavirus pandemic and said that the community members in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were being taken good care of.
He said that different steps had been taken to curb virus spread in the UAE, including imposition of lockdown, in addition to providing the best health care facilities.
Addressing the community, Qureshi said that over 209 countries in the world had been affected by the coronavirus, and stressed that “we need to change our mindset and attitude.” He urged overseas Pakistani to employ the latest technology and stay updated through social media.
The minister paid tribute to the invaluable services rendered by Pakistani doctors and health care workers across the globe, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in the United States, United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.
Qureshi also assured the community members to take up the issue of reopening the community center with his UAE counterpart owing to the current, “unusual situation” arising from the global pandemic.