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)
Short Url
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.


Political parties, army chief agree military ‘intervenes’ in politics but only at government’s request — opposition 

Updated 23 September 2020

Political parties, army chief agree military ‘intervenes’ in politics but only at government’s request — opposition 

  • Opposition politicians confirm discussing army’s ‘interference’ in politics with army chief at meeting last week
  • Army intervenes because “civilians provided the military this space, sought the army’s help,” PMLN’s Khawaja Asif says 

ISLAMABAD: Opposition politicians have said this week that they discussed the issue of the all-powerful military’s interference in Pakistani politics at a meeting with the army chief last week where General Qamar Javed Bajwa and all parliamentary parties agreed that the army had intervened in the past but only when requested by civilian governments. 
The September 16 meeting with Bajwa has generated much controversy in Pakistan and was attended by at least 15 opposition leaders, including Shehbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sherry Rehman from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, the Aawami National Party’s Amir Haider Hoti, and others. The head of Pakistan’s military-run ISI spy agency was also present at the meeting.
Pakistan’s powerful military has ruled the country for more than half of its history, and sets defence and security policy. It has in the past denied meddling in politics.
During the current army chief’s tenure, the military has been accused by opposition politicians of electoral manipulation, meddling in politics, suspension of civil liberties and muzzling the media. The military has denied all counts.
But at the meeting last week, Bajwa admitted that the army had meddled in politics, but only at the behest of civilian politicians and governments, at least three opposition politicians interviewed by Arab News said. 

The army's media wing did not respond to detailed queries from Arab News sent via email.
“The gist of the army chief’s entire conversation was that in Pakistan, historically … whenever the military interfered - he [the army chief] gave his point of view - it happened because civilians provided the military this space, and sought the army’s help against each other,” Khawaja Asif, a senior leader of the PMLN and a former defence minister, said in a TV interview. 
“There was consensus among all people [at the meeting] that politicians ceded territory [to the army], themselves invited the army,” he added.
Asif said the “consensus point of view” at the meeting, which the army chief agreed to and reiterated, was that in Pakistan’s history, “all components of the power structure have committed excesses, which includes politicians, establishment, the army, bureaucracy, courts, media.”
“This is a territorial dispute between different power centers and we should sit down under one roof and resolve it,” the former defence minister said, saying that the solution should be based on rule of law and the constitution. 
“The territorial boundaries, according to the constitution: it is important to determine them,” he said. 
Asif said the September 16 meeting was requested by the military to discuss the issue of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China. In recent weeks, government officials have said Pakistan plans to declare the region a fifth province, a proposal which has unnerved neighbouring India with which Pakistan has a territorial dispute over the Kashmir valley. 
Asif said it was PPP senator Sherry Rehman who raised the issue at the meeting that the prime minister should have been present at a huddle at which a “legal and constitutional” issue such as making Gilgit-Baltistan a new province was being discussed. 
“From here, the direction of the meeting, the discussion, changed, and went in the direction of why does the army have to interfere … basically politicians provide this space… the discussion went into this direction,” Asif said. “And the prime minister’s absence became a kind of testimony, that if the prime minister had been here, if prime minister had taken charge of things, then the army chief or the military would not have had to call parliamentary leaders to discuss this but the issue [of Gilgit-Baltistan] would have just been discussed in a committee room in parliament.”
Senator Sherry Rehman confirmed to Arab News that she had raised the issue of the prime minister’s absence at the meeting with the army chief. “Why was this meeting not convened at the PM House,” she said she had asked the meeting’s participants. 
PMLN politician Ahsan Iqbal also said the army chief had called the meeting because the prime minister refused to sit down with the opposition or discuss Gilgit-Baltistan in parliament. 
“The prime minister is continuously refusing to sit with the opposition,” he told Arab News. “How can the system work this way?”
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, minister for railways, quoted the army chief at the meeting as saying the army was bound to respond “positively” when an elected government requested them for help. 
Senior journalist and head of Hum News, Mohammad Malick, said politicians often “dragged” the military leadership into political issues. 
“Why do politicians go to the military instead of using forums like parliament, media and judiciary?” he asked. “When you will take an issue to a state institution, then the institution will definitely give its viewpoint and suggest a preferred course of action.”
He said parliamentarians should have the courage to take ‘big decisions’ instead of looking towards the military for support. 
“The military does intervene in many areas, but it doesn’t mean that it intervenes in each and every issue,” Malick said. “We can’t blame them for the sins they haven’t committed.”