Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday highlighted the difficulties being faced by Pakistani citizens concerning visas for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a meeting with Emirati State Minister Reem Al Hashimi.
According to a statement released by the Foreign Office (FO), Qureshi underscored the need to address the issue at the earliest during the meeting held on the sidelines of the 47th Session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in Niamey, Niger.
Last week the FO had confirmed that the UAE had suspended issuance of visas to Pakistani nationals among others, saying that the measure appeared to be because of the coronavirus pandemic but that it was seeking further clarity from Emirati authorities.
During today's meeting with Hashimi, Qureshi also highlighted the close fraternal ties as well as people-to-people contacts between the two countries and stressed Pakistan's commitment to forge closer cooperation with UAE in diverse fields, the FO statement said.
"During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on bilateral cooperation, the Covid-19 situation, Pakistan’s participation in the expo, and other matters of mutual interest."
Appreciating Qureshi’s statement at the CFM, the Emirati minister lauded Pakistan’s initiative to propose an OIC resolution on combatting Islamophobia.
The two sides also exchanged views on OIC matters and stressed the importance of further strengthening the organisation as a united and pivotal platform for the Muslim ummah, the statement said.
It was also agreed to enhance mutual exchanges to carry forward the process of growing bilateral cooperation, it concluded.
UAE suspends visas
Last week the FO had confirmed that the UAE had temporarily suspended the issuance of visit visas to a dozen countries, including Pakistan, until further notice.
At the time, the FO had said the decision by the UAE authorities was "believed to be related to the second wave of Covid-19" but added that it had reached out to UAE to seek further clarity. The FO had, however, made clear that the suspension did not apply to those already holding valid visas.
Days later a report revealed the UAE had temporarily suspended the visas over security concerns. A source privy to the matter did not say what those concerns were but said the visa ban was expected to last for a short period.
Following that report, the FO denied there were security concerns that led to such a measure but this time said changes in UAE's visa policy had not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bukhari on Thursday denied reports of the UAE suspending work visas to Pakistanis, saying that there was "no ban on export of Pakistani workforce".
Bukhari said that "contrary to media reports", UAE Minister for Human Resources and Emiratisation Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli had "categorically stated that there is no ban on export of Pakistani workforce".
Furthermore, the UAE was giving priority to those workers, who were registered on the Virtual Labour Market Database and had been laid off due to the economic slump caused by Covid-19, Bukhari said.
The premier's aide added that there has been an 11 per cent increase Pakistani knowledge workers in the UAE. The Arab state was also encouraging applications for the 10-year golden visa, Bukhari said.