IT appears that the Pakistani workforce in the UAE, along with labour from some other, mostly Muslim, countries, has become an unfortunate casualty of the Middle East’s changing geopolitics. While the actual reasons for halting employment and visit visas by the UAE are not clear at the moment, the move coincides with the advent of diplomatic relations between the Emirates and Israel, with the pressure on other Muslim states to similarly engage with Tel Aviv.

In a recent interview, Prime Minister Imran Khan indicated that Pakistan had also come under such pressure. Speculation has been rife on other counts as well, including security and Covid-19 concerns. In an attempt to end these conjectures, the Foreign Office has said that the matter was not linked to security. In addition, SAPM Zulfikar Bukhari has gone so far as to assert that the UAE authorities said there was “no ban on the export of Pakistani workforce”.

This is at variance with the position of the UAE which has confirmed that the non-issuance of visas “till further notice” applies to employment for and visits by Pakistanis under 65 years of age. Already some reports have suggested that, since the ban came into effect on Nov 18, one recruitment agency in Rawalpindi has lost 3,000 jobs that have now been diverted to India.

The truth is that there will continue to be a great deal of insecurity and speculation unless the UAE and subsequently Pakistan make clear, officially, the actual reasons behind the move. The approach of the UAE has been disappointing and discriminatory. That a country which is home to 1.2m Pakistanis — making up a huge bulk of its population — is arbitrarily taking such a harsh position on the entry of Pakistani citizens is deeply troubling and can have serious implications for long-term ties.

Not only must this approach be challenged by the Foreign Office, it should also be taken up by the prime minister at the highest level, as it spells doom for thousands of Pakistanis working in the UAE. In its annual report, the State Bank of Pakistan warned that forced repatriation of Pakistanis who work abroad could create grave problems for the economy, as there are no jobs that can absorb them in the workforce here. In a post-Covid economy, this would spell disaster. The seriousness of this situation should not be lost on the government, which must address the issue immediately.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2020

Opinion

Israeli flashpoint
Updated 12 May 2021

Israeli flashpoint

There are persistent reports from the US suggesting that the mood over unquestioning backing for Israel is shifting.
Blaming envoys for the mess
Updated 12 May 2021

Blaming envoys for the mess

The prime minister appeared to be using his container approach in the realm of foreign policy.
No entry, no Eid
12 May 2021

No entry, no Eid

On this Eid, amid this mess, many chairs at muted celebratory meals will remain empty.
Election night confusion
Updated 11 May 2021

Election night confusion

Poll manipulation in Pakistan occurs in the run-up to elections and on election day itself.

Editorial

PM’s Saudi visit
Updated 12 May 2021

PM’s Saudi visit

It is very important that Pakistan take no step, or agree to any demand, that can have an adverse effect on national sovereignty.
12 May 2021

A new intifada?

THE situation in the occupied territories over the past few days has been incendiary, with tensions boiling over as...
Updated 12 May 2021

SOP violations

ON Monday, Sindh Police officials were given a well-deserved slap on the wrist by a judicial magistrate in Karachi...
11 May 2021

Kabul massacre

AFGHANISTAN is a land that has seen plenty of massacres during decades of unrest. However, despite this almost...
Divisive move
Updated 11 May 2021

Divisive move

The whole point of these reforms is to ensure that all major political stakeholders are on board, and that there is a consensus.
11 May 2021

Bank loan concerns

THE combined gross non-performing loan portfolio of the country’s banks and DFIs increased marginally by 2.6pc or...