300 Pakistani doctors return to Saudi after getting stuck in their country

This file photo taken on March 15, 2020 shows a view outside the emergency entrance of a hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2020

300 Pakistani doctors return to Saudi after getting stuck in their country

  • The medical professionals had taken leave from work before the COVID-19 outbreak and were visiting relatives in Pakistan
  • The remaining 200 doctors are scheduled to fly back to the Kingdom next week, says Pakistan’s envoy in Riyadh

ISLAMABAD: More than 300 Pakistani doctors, employed by Saudi hospitals, flew back to the Kingdom last week after getting stuck in their country for months due to the suspension of international flight operations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Raja Ali Ejaz told Arab News on Friday.
The medical professionals had taken leave before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and were visiting relatives in Pakistan.
“Over 300 Pakistani medics and their families returned to Saudi Arabia last week,” the envoy informed. “The remaining 200 are scheduled to return during the second week of July.”
Ejaz said the embassy had raised the issue of Pakistani doctors with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in April 2020, soliciting permission for their return so they could help the Kingdom in its battle against the contagion.
“Pakistani doctors are working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic and constitute the backbone of the Kingdom’s COVID-19 response,” Dr. Asad Ullah Roomi, president of the Pakistan Doctors’ Group in Riyadh, told Arab News.
He added that the return of the Pakistani medical professionals would help Saudi Arabia deal with the new coronavirus.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Pakistan Embassy that made it possible for these doctors to return to the Kingdom and resume their duties,” he added.
Dr. Imran Chaudhry, resident physician at the Convalescence Hospital & PT Center, Al-Baha, was stuck in Lahore and recently returned to the Kingdom to rejoin his work.
He thanked the Saudi government for facilitating the return of the doctors, saying their presence in the country was vital to help COVID-19 patients.
“We wanted to rejoin our duty to serve the people in need, and the Saudi government turned it into a smooth process. The Kingdom even provided free tickets to those who could not make travel arrangements for their families,” he told Arab News.
“We had to wait for a long time, but we are back in Saudi Arabia now. At the moment, we have quarantined ourselves, but we will resume our work in the next few days,” Chaudhary said.


Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

Updated 20 min 39 sec ago

Afghanistan says Pakistan scholarship scheme will have 'positive' impact on bilateral ties

  • Over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship which offers grants to 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD students this year
  • Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan urges Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering

PESHAWAR: Mohammed Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan’s special envoy for Pakistan, on Monday lauded a Pakistani scholarship for Afghan nationals, saying it would have a ‘positive impact’ on the bilateral relationship and on the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

According to Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 16,000 Afghan students have applied for the Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships in Pakistan, which offers 800 undergraduate, 150 Masters and 50 PhD grants.

The programme was launched in 2009, and 5,000 Afghans have so far benefited from it, gaining degrees in various fields including medicine and engineering. At least 100 seats are reserved for female students as part of the scholarship each year.

“The 800 scholarship this year that Pakistan has offered to Afghanistan is very important; it will have a very positive impact on bilateral relationships,” Daudzai told Arab News on Monday. “It will have a great impact on the life of people of Afghanistan because ... a significant number of these scholarships are in medicine and engineering which is very important for us.”

He added: “The Pakistani scholarship for Afghans is cheapest and most feasible because of the two countries' proximity. Afghan students can travel to their home country easily without involving huge expenses.” 

He also urged the Pakistan government to increase the number of scholarships in medicine and engineering.

“We noticed that a significant number of the youths that participated in this year's scholarship are Afghan girls, which is important,” Daudzai said. “It’s indicative of the trust that families in Afghanistan have to send their daughters to Pakistan."

Afghan students attend a pre-orientation session at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 24, 2020 for the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship program for academic year 2020-21. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Embassy Kabul)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the fully-funded Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarship Programme for Afghan Nationals was a “valuable” contribution to develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector.

“Pakistan has already contributed in the neighboring country’s development. And this (scholarship) programme will help develop Afghanistan’s human resource sector,” Chaudhri added.

Last week at the pre-orientation programme organized in honor of Afghan students at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said more than 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistan were now serving Afghanistan’s public and private sectors.

Farzana Sharifi, an Afghan female student at COMSATS University Abbottabad, told Arab News that many Afghan students were keen to study at Pakistani educational institutions because of the quality of the universities and low costs.

However, she said Pakistani institutions needed to start orientation classes to prepare Afghans better to speak and understand Urdu and English.

“Special orientation classes need to be arranged for newcomers so they become familiar with the language of the medium of the particular university,” Sharifi said. “In addition, our students should be given special incentives while crossing the border or traveling in Pakistan.”

Ahmad Milad Azizi, a networking officer at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Kabul who graduated with bachelors degree in computer science from a Pakistani university in 2015, said the scholarship programme for Afghan students was also a great opportunity for Afghans to learn about Pakistani culture.

“Islamabad needs to explore measures to ease students’ travel from and to Pakistan,” he added. “I suggest the government of Pakistan increase the number of scholarships because our country direly needs qualified manpower and professionals.”