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Sunday, November 26, 2023

COVID-19: Will Pakistan extend visas of all foreign nationals?

Pakistan has extended visas of all foreign nationals in order to facilitate them in the times of COVID-19. But the question is, will stranded Pakistanis in several countries be given the same facility by the host states?

Pakistan has extended visas of all foreign nationals in the country until the 30th of June, its interior ministry said Wednesday. The decision was made keeping the coronavirus situation in view, according to the statement. The ministry hoped that these foreign nationals would not have to face any difficulties.

The decision has been taken in the view of facilitating the foreign nationals residing in Pakistan due to several reasons. “Visas extended due to the prevailing situation,” said the ministry.

It is worth recalling that recently the Interior Ministry has announced the manual extension of expired passports and Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) as the concerned institutions have halted operations due to coronavirus pandemic.

The government in Pakistan is dealing with COVID-19 challenge in a calculated way. “We have to fight against Corona as well as the economic crisis,” said Asad Umer, a senior leader of the ruling party and a federal minister.

Read More: Coronavirus infections in the US reach 1 million: J Hopkins University

The interior ministry released a notification regarding the extension for the validity of Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) and Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) till the 30th of June.

Pakistan has more than 15, 000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 343 deaths from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University data. At least 3,425 patients have recovered.

Pakistan imposed varying levels of restrictions across the country late last month, with provincial governments dictating regulations on which businesses were allowed to remain open.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has termed Pakistan’s measures against COVID-19 outbreak as ‘timely and the ‘best national response. The Country Head of the WHO Dr.Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, while talking to media in Karachi during his visit to various hospitals and testing labs, said: “At a time when other countries were reporting cases, Pakistan was keeping the virus at bay, which is something quite praiseworthy.”

Repatriation of Pakistani prisoners

The ministry has also notified the procedure for the verification of Pakistani prisoners to be repatriated from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), through special flights. With regard to the UAE, nothing has been said regarding the extension of stranded Pakistanis’ visas.

According to the notification, the concerned authorities will verify the nationality and passports of prisoners to be deported to Pakistan. It added, “After due verification of nationality, CNIC and Passport, Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) will be issued to be deported to Pakistan.”

Moreover, the concerned mission will fill the application form of the individual for onward transmission to the Ministry of Interior through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately as per the procedure, but this is not about getting their visas extended.

Interior Ministry apprised the foreign ministry, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), NADRA and IMPASS regarding the procedures for the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners from the foreign country.

Read More: Countries worst-hit by travel & tourism shutdown

It is important to note that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning, Moeed Yusuf, has said that the government wanted to lift stranded Pakistanis across the world in a safe manner.

“Self-isolation for the Pakistanis coming back from other countries is mandatory”, Moeed Yusuf said while talking to a private TV channel. He said the government of Pakistan is trying to lift 6 to 7 thousand stranded Pakistanis every week, while strict monitoring of the operation is being conducted. But he did not comment if Pakistani nationals’ visas will be extended or not.