Coronavirus Pandemic

Pakistan travel restrictions: Saudi to facilitate stranded expats, says FM

Staff Report/Islamabad
Filed on July 27, 2021


Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived today on an official trip to Pakistan.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday agreed to strengthen their relationship particularly in the economic domain including cooperation in trade, investment and technology.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in a joint presser held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, vowed to continue extending support to each other on issues of regional and international importance.

Prince Farhan, who arrived in Islamabad Tuesday morning, earlier led the delegation-level talks with Qureshi that encompassed a diverse gamut of matters.

The Saudi foreign minister said, “We hope to build on the momentum of strong bonds based on our brotherhood, as the two countries have always stood by each other in difficult times.”

He termed the delegation-level talks as “very, very fruitful discussions” held on bilateral matters with all areas of broader spectrum came under discussion, with special focus on economic ties.

The Saudi foreign minister said his government would encourage the businessmen from both sides to explore opportunities of investment in areas of technology.

Travel restrictions

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also discussed how to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions, which have stranded around 400,000 Pakistani workers back home, foreign ministers of the two countries told reporters.

Qureshi told a joint news conference in Islamabad that around 400,000 of over two million Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia had been stranded at home due to travel restrictions.

"They are facing challenges, you know the travel restrictions and you know the issues of vaccination," he said.

Saudi Arabia, which bars direct travel from Pakistan, has only approved the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, so anyone arriving without one of those shots is required to quarantine at a cost many Pakistani workers say they cannot afford.

Most Pakistanis have received a Chinese vaccine, although Al Saud said his government had given Covid-19 shots to 1.7 million Pakistani workers.

The Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia contributes $7 billion, or a quarter of the country's total annual remittances.

"We talked about the challenges that Covid-19 has imposed on all of us. It has imposed challenges, travel restrictions, all of these we are working on," Al Saud said.

Pakistan has lately started allowing people under 40 who have to travel for jobs abroad to obtain the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines, of which the country has limited supply obtained through the COVAX system.

Peace in Afghanistan, Middle East

The two ministers also discussed the security situation in Afghanistan and emphasised the esponsibility of the international community to ensure peace.

"Pakistan seeks a united, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan. Our deliberations also focused on security in Middle East, necessity for peace and condemnation of violence by terrorist groups," Qureshi said.

(with inputs from APP, Reuters)

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