Govt has only hollow statements for overseas Pakistanis, says Siraj

Updated 01 Jun 2020

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Jamaat-i-Islami workers stage a protest outside Peshawar Press Club on Sunday. — White Star
Jamaat-i-Islami workers stage a protest outside Peshawar Press Club on Sunday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq said here on Sunday that government had nothing but hollow statements to offer the overseas Pakistanis stranded abroad due to the global lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

“It (the government) hasn’t any practical solution for the suffering and misery of overseas Pakistanis trapped due to the lockdown in countries abroad,” he said while addressing JI protesters seeking facilitation and arrangements to bring overseas Pakistanis back home.

“While more than 10 million Pakistanis are in distress abroad, our ministers here are seized with petty matters like who to give credit for nuclear tests, or vacationing in Nathiagali hill resort to escape the heat in plains.”

Senator Sirajul Haq said that expatriate Pakistanis always proved the most patriotic and caring of all, annually contributing $20 billion in remittances to the national exchequer. “In times of crisis and disasters, they are the first to offer help to people and their country, be it the drive for debt-servicing,” he added.

He said that at a time when overseas Pakistani needed help the most due to the pandemic, the government abandoned them. He said that they should be assisted on emergency basis.

Threatens wider protests if govt fails to rescue expats

“Dead bodies of expatriate Pakistanis are lying in the labour settlements and communes, waiting to be brought home. The morgues abroad have no room for them and there are no arrangements for returning the dead to their families,” said Senator Haq.

Instead, he said, the government had resorted to “looting” those in need of help by charging 3,300 Saudi riyal for an air travel ticket that used to cost 7,00 riyal.

“It is shameful how we treat our people like they are orphans of the state. The government has taken no practical steps. It just plays deaf and dumb to the pleas of expatriate Pakistanis crying to be brought home to their families,” he said.

Despite the pandemic scare, similar protests were also held in JI strongholds of Dargai, Timargara, Maidan and Summerbagh in Lower Dir. A large number of people attended the Peshawar protest. Holding placards with demands from overseas Pakistanis inscribed on them, the protesters gathered outside Peshawar Press Club.

JI provincial chief Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, Atiqur Rehman, Hafiz Hashmat Khan, Siddiqur Rehman Paracha, Maulana Hanifullah and Qari Ahmad Saeed also addressed the protesters.

Senator Haq asked the government to establish dedicated desks in Pakistani embassies abroad to assist overseas Pakistanis. “These should be accessible to all. The government should ensure funeral and ambulance service, special flights and air tickets at discounted rates,” he added.

“Today’s protests are only token and we intend to hold wider protests if the government fails to come to the rescue of Pakistanis abroad. Overseas Pakistanis are the backbone of Pakistan and its economy. JI stands by them,” he said.

The JI chief said that if the government could not offer any relief than JI and its humanitarian arm Al-Khidmat Foundation would set quarantine and food supply centres in Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi and Islamabad.

“The Rs12 billion announced to help the pandemic-affected population of the country should be used to provide air tickets, food and medicine to expatriate Pakistanis,” said Senator Haq.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020