Govt inches closer to evacuate all stranded citizens

ISLAMABAD, Jul 28 (APP):The government has accomplished almost 99 per cent of repatriation process by bringing over 300,000 citizens to the country under the world’s largest evacuation operation, launched after the global travel came to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now a limited number of reportedly some 3,500 citizens remains to be brought back in nothing flat as normal flight operation has been resumed to the country. At the onset of pandemic, the repatriation of citizens from the host countries was not an easy jog but the present government rose to the challenge and took a lead in reuniting the overseas Pakistanis with their loved ones amid the pandemic.

The repatriation of a whooping number of stranded Pakistanis in such a short span of time validates Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vows for well-being of the Pakistani diaspora, which always stands firm in bad breaks of the country.

  “This all happened due to improved coordination among all the stakeholders, in-time mobilization of human and financial resources, active participation of affluent overseas Pakistani community in relief activities abroad, effective diplomatic efforts and above all the political will,” said a senior officer of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (OP&HRD) on Tuesday.

According to the reports, he said the government had brought back above 200,000 stranded nationals under the special flight operation that ended on June 20 after the resumption of normal flight operation. “At least 553 flights were operated under the special flight operation which was carried out between April 1 and June 20,” he added. Similarly, around 100,000 had been brought to the country via 532 flights under the normal flight operations.

He said 4,329 citizens were repatriated via land borders of Afghanistan, India and Iran.The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries remained a main focus for the government where Pakistani resided in high concentration, a document shared by the officer revealed.

Some 154,856 were evacuated from the United Arab Emirates, followed by Saudi Arabia from where 63,595 (Including 480 Umra Zaireens and 195 Detainees) brought back to the country. Similarly, 17,062 were repatriated form Qatar, 7,122 form the United Kingdom, 11,792 Oman, 4,714 (Including 331 Detainees, 80 Tablighis) from Malaysia, over 4, 000 from Afghanistan (via land and air routes), 1702 the United States of America, 924 Iran (via land route) and 418 from India (via land route).

Multiple countries such as Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Canada, China, Congo, Egypt, Germany, Iraq, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, Norway ,South Africa, Somalia Sri Lanka, Sudan Turkey, Thailand, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan were also among others from where a number of stranded nationals were airlifted by the government. The repatriated nationals also included Tablighis (2,018), prisoners/ detainees (1,745) and Zaireen (1,326), said the document. The officer said the government did not limit its focus to the repatriation operation only as it had also taken extensive measures to provide food, accommodation and free air tickets to the destitute Pakistanis, stuck in foreign countries due to massive lay off, caused due to socioeconomic impact of the pandemic on private sector.

A reintegration programme for jobless Pakistani expatriates was also in making as the OP&HRD ministry has chalked out a complete plan for their re-employment. Highlighting the relief activities of the Pakistani missions and consulate generals abroad, he said the Community Welfare Attaches and officers of Ministry of Foreign Affairs had distributed around 36,000 ration bags, worth 20 million, among the overseas Pakistanis. They also provided free air tickets, stretcher facility, dead body transportation, medical treatment and accommodations to the needy Pakistanis.

He said so far bodies of 973 Pakistanis, who had died abroad due to various ailments, had brought to the country since the beginning of the pandemic. The officer said the government transferred cooked meal amounting to Rs20 million to those students, who was stuck in Wuhan, China.

Rs10 million were spent on subsidy given to those Pakistani students who had returned from Wuhan, China, he added. He said the OP&HRD ministry had set up a portal to register Pakistani workers, who had lost their overseas jobs in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.So far more than 50,000 Pakistani workers had registered themselves with the Overseas Employment Corporation’s (OEC) portal in search of job opportunities, training in modern skills and financial assistance.

The officer said the ministry had also been developing partnership with public and private sectors to facilitate the jobless Pakistani workers in skill development and getting job opportunities.

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