ISLAMABAD: Recruitment of retired military personnel by the armed forces’ welfare bodies for serving in Arab hotspots such as Bahrain is not official government policy, explains Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Tasneem Aslam.
“Those who have been going to Bahrain to work in the armed forces have done so on their own initiative,” she adds.
“The government of Pakistan does not have an agreement to send a workforce to Bahrain. We do however have an agreement with Malaysia for sending workers there and negotiations are going on with Italy for a similar arrangement,” she said.
Aslam was responding to questions about a recent ad posted on its website by Bahria Foundation, an armed forces welfare body.
The organisation, which is headed by the Chief of the Naval Staff, ran the ad asking for people to apply if they were interested in working in Bahrain.
In the past, the Fauji Foundation, which is run by the defence secretary, has also recruited people for Bahrain.
On Sunday, the advertisement on the Bahria Foundation website caused much confusion as the ad did not explain all the pre-requisites.
As many as 800 aspirants reached Bahria Foundation in E-8, only to be notified that the vacancies in Bahrain were for former servicemen only and that civilians could not apply.
Abdul Qudoos from Sialkot was one of those left disappointed.
“If the jobs were not for civilians, they should have mentioned it in the advertisement in the first place,” he said.
This however is not the first time retired security officials are being hired to work in Bahrain.
A Pakistani resident, Shahid Sultan, who served in Bahrain for four years where he worked in an air-conditioning plant and the construction industry, said that his uncle had worked with security forces of Bahrain.
“Just after the revolution in Egypt in 2011, the political temperatures in Bahrain also began to rise as a section of society wanted more political rights. What added to the problem was the fact that the opposition in the country is comprised of the majority Shia population while the government is backed by Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“In order to deal with the restless opposition, the government began hiring a large number of former Pakistani soldiers.
“They were preferred as they had served in Bahrain in the past also – but to train military personnel and so on.”
Saeed claims that he has not heard of “Indian or Bangladeshi soldiers” being recruited for these training jobs, adding that this is probably why the Gulf state looked towards Pakistan when it needed more personnel to control the protests held by the Bahraini opposition.”
“Former soldiers who have been working under the defence department of Bahrain get 430 Dinars a month which is around Rs120,000. They have to work just 10 days in a month. Those who serve in the police department have to work around 22 days in a month,” he added.
He also claimed that “a number of Pakistanis have died while working for the police department in Bahrain but the salary is so attractive that there is never shortage of Pakistanis for the jobs available,” he said.
According to him, there were some private recruiting agencies which come from Bahrain time to time and recruited directly.
However he explained that these agencies were very expensive and charged high fees from the aspirants.
Bahrain is a small Gulf state that is linked to Saudi Arabia with a bridge.
An analyst for the Arab Media, Ali Mehr, told Dawn that it was an open secret that a large number of Pakistanis had been hired by the security forces of Bahrain and that many had died while trying to quell the protests. He added that one was killed just last week during a blast in a town (Daih).
“Initially Bahrain used to recruit Baloch people but now it has been recruiting former soldiers from all over Pakistan,” he said.
“The opposition in Bahrain has condemned the inclusion of Pakistanis in the security forces of Bahrain,” he said.
An official of the Foreign Office, who did not want to be identified, said that it was expected that a senior government official from Bahrain will visit Pakistan in the next few days.
“It is expected that defence and security agreements might be signed,” he said.
FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam explained that the Pakistani who was killed last week was working in a community welfare department in Bahrain.