A committee formed a day earlier to collect information on foreigners in Pakistan and Pakistanis stranded abroadheld its first meeting on Wednesday with senior representatives of the Tableeghi Jamaat.

The meeting was held at Parliament House and led by Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions Shehryar Khan Afridi to discuss matters related to the spread of the coronavirus through members of the Tableeghi Jamaat, which was represented online from Raiwind.

The committee was formed by the National Assembly speaker on Tuesday because there are a large number of Pakistanis abroad formissionarypurposes. It includes representatives from the national health services, interior, foreign affairs and aviation ministries.

The meeting noted that the Ministry of Interior has set up a camp in Raiwind to help around 1,500 foreigners invited to Pakistan by the Tableeghi Jamaat and help their return to their home countries. It was also informed that around 1,800 Pakistanis who are part of the organisation are stranded abroad.

Also on Wednesday, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser asked ulema and Shia religious leaders to submit details about Pakistani pilgrims stranded abroad to the committee so appropriate arrangements can be made to bring them back.

Mr Qaiser held a video meeting at Parliament House to discuss the repatriation of pilgrims. Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, Mr Afridi and the religious scholarKhanumTayyiba Bokhari, while Allama Shehanshah Hussain Naqvi joined online. Representatives from the national health services, interior, foreign affairs and aviation ministries were also present.

He asked a delegation of Ahle Tashee scholars to tell the committee about the issues facing pilgrims kept in quarantine facilities, the conditions of which he was informed about. He said pilgrims in Iran, Iraq and Syria would be repatriated safely.

Planning Minister Asad Umar told the National Coordination Committee on Covid-19, which met on Wednesday, that the government was working to bring back stranded Pakistanis but the government wants to ensure that “a system is in place to not import Covid-19 from abroad when they arrive”.

He said there are plans to use other airports for this purpose; so far, flights that have brought back stranded Pakistanis have only landed at Islamabad International Airport.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020