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Pakistan demands more work visas from Saudi Arabia

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The concluding session of the 11th Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) was held in Islamabad from January 16-17th and co-chaired by Saudi Commerce Minister Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Minister for Commerce Pervaiz Malik has requested his Saudi counterpart to increase the quota for Pakistani workers in the construction and services sector in the Kingdom.

Talking about the Saudi government’s ‘Vision 2030’, which is expected to create thousands of new jobs in the construction and services sector, Malik emphasized on the point that Pakistani workers should also be accommodated.  “We suggest that the Saudi government may establish a training centre in Pakistan for the training of Pakistani manpower as per requirements of Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Including the deportees from KP, the minister put the total of deported foreigners to 40,149; FIA returned about 4,614 while 3,168 were sent back from Sindh and 1,777 from Punjab.

During the meeting, the two countries agreed on a number of measures to enhance bilateral trade and cooperation, saying their existing $2.5-billion bilateral trade volume was far below the true potential. The two sides also discussed a preferential trade agreement (PTA), but no consensus was made by the conclusion of the meeting. When asked, the Saudi minister said the proposed PTA was still under review.

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Malik said, “Currently, bilateral trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is around $2.5 billion. Given the proximity and deep-rooted friendly relations between the two countries, the existing volume is far below the true potential, which needs to be enhanced by taking concrete measures”. “The measures may include mutual trade fairs and exhibitions, trade diversification to non-traditional areas, B2B meetings and reactivation of Pak-Saudi Business Council,” he added.

The minister said 2.6 million Pakistani workers were playing an important role in Saudi Arabia’s economy. “We hope that this is being duly recognized by the Saudi leadership and expect that Pakistani expatriates will be treated equally,” the minister added.

In total about 52,144 such illegal immigrants were arrested of which the highest number was from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) 37,386 and same was the figure from the province for number of foreigners deported during this time, 29,745.

The Saudi minister said, “We need, and are keen, to identify and explore opportunities in Pakistan. The political will and intention is there. Through dialogue we will overcome obstacles.” The Saudi delegation comprised of 34 officials from 20 government entities as well as the private sector. The two sides also agreed to expedite negotiations to finalize a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries’ central banks.

The commission decided to reactivate Pak-Saudi Business Council by the first quarter followed by first meeting of the council. Both sides accorded approval to holding exhibitions of new products in each other’s country. The first single-country exhibition of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia will be held in the second half of 2018.

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They also decided to sign a bilateral draft agreement for the transfer of convicted prisoners. However, when questioned about the number of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails, the minister said the matter was out of his jurisdiction. Both sides also agreed to share information and expertise in the fields of security, counter-terrorism, organized crime and money laundering. Pakistan invited Saudi oil and gas companies to set up refineries in the country.

Minister of State for Interior and Narcotics Control Balighur Rehman stated that there was no record or data available for illegal immigrants but shared figures about such persons arrested in provinces and the capital.

To a question about deferred oil payments, Malik said the matter was not discussed in the meeting. “Saudi Arabia has always been very supportive to Pakistan. We discussed the economic side of trade. Deferred oil payments were not discussed.” In a counter rhetoric, since 2012, law enforcement agencies in the country under Foreigners Act, 1946 arrested about 52,144 foreigners and about 40,149 others were deported.

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In response to different questions in the Senate Question Hour in April last year, legislators were informed that as many as 61 Pakistanis were also extradited from three Gulf States. In 2017 alone 120 Pakistanis were deported under the pretext of expired documents.

During the meeting, the two countries agreed on a number of measures to enhance bilateral trade and cooperation, saying their existing $2.5-billion bilateral trade volume was far below the true potential.

To a question about number of illegal immigrants in the country since 2012, Minister of State for Interior and Narcotics Control Balighur Rehman stated that there was no record or data available for illegal immigrants but shared figures about such persons arrested in provinces and the capital. In total about 52,144 such illegal immigrants were arrested of which the highest number was from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) 37,386 and same was the figure from the province for number of foreigners deported during this time, 29,745.

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Including the deportees from KP, the minister put the total of deported foreigners to 40,149; FIA returned about 4,614 while 3,168 were sent back from Sindh and 1,777 from Punjab. Similarly, 765 such immigrants were from Azad Jammu Kashmir and from Gilgit-Baltistan.


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