THIS is with reference to the report ‘Envoy to S. Arabia suspended, six diplomats recalled’ (April 30). The government decision came after complaints surfaced regarding less-than-ideal treatment of Pakistani expatriates in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
This has prompted me to look back at my decade-long personal experience as well as of many other Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia.
Talk about mistreatment of the labour class by Pakistani mission in Saudi Arabia is just the tip of the iceberg. The role of our mission in KSA merely reflected inefficiency and misuse of power against its own citizens in various fields.
One example of this behaviour was the interference with Pakistani schools in KSA. A number of schools with millions of Saudi Riyals in funds have always attracted the attention of embassy officials.
While managing the English Section of one of the biggest Pakistani community schools, the Pakistan International School, Riyadh (PISR), and working closely with mission officials, I witnessed the happenings rather closely.
Taking advantage of being the entity for providing legal documents required by Pakistani community schools, some officials used it as a tool to control the school’s affairs, funds and resources. The benefits the embassy officials enjoyed at schools included favouritism, admission and free education of their children.
All Pakistani community schools in Saudi Arabia are exclusively run by the school management council (SMC) in line with the rules framed by the Saudi ministry of education. Community schools funded by the hard-earned money of Pakistani parents were always on the mercy of embassy officials.
I found the trend to be deep-rooted and was further worsened by the school administrations which always looked forward to and facilitated such intrusion to prolong their own tenure. They served the embassy officials rather than the school.
It later came to my knowledge that the legal SMC of PISR, located at Nasiriya, was also removed by embassy officials. Members of the SMC and parents have revealed to me massive irregularities in school’s affairs by embassy officials and the current ‘illegal’ council.
This warrants a look at other Pakistani schools in the peripheral regions of Saudi Arabia. It is sad to see that our community schools in the kingdom with millions of Saudi Riyals in funds, instead of being run by legal SMCs, are always on the mercy of employees, beneficiaries and embassy officials.
Dismissal of SMCs one way or the other by the school administration and some individuals of Pakistan embassy has become a common feature in the kingdom, so much so that one wonders if it is worth the time and effort to have an SMC at all.
We must break this vicious cycle of dissolving the parents’ council unfairly by school principals who enjoy support of individuals in Pakistan embassy.
The relevant quarters would do well to have the matter investigated and take action against those found guilty.
Dr Ishfaq A. Bukhari
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2021