ISLAMABAD - Special Assistant to the Prime Min­ister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari has given an indication that the gov­ernment would add more flights in its repatriation schedule next week to repatriate maximum number of the stranded Pakistanis from Saudi Arabia.

Addressing to the Pakistani com­munity in Saudi Arabia through a teleconference yesterday, the SAPM said currently, Pakistan was operating two flights a week to repatriate its nationals from the kingdom which might be in­creased in the next phase.

“I am putting my all out efforts to raise this number from three to five in the coming week,” he said, assuring the overseas Pakistanis that the government had decided to repatriate its citizens on regular basis amid the coronavirus pan­demic.

Zulfikar Bukhari said earlier, the country had a capacity to repatri­ate 2,000 people per week which had been increased to 6,000 in the current phase. The number might be enhanced to 8,000 in coming days after getting the desired re­sults, he added.

He said the government had the responsibility to airlift a huge number of stranded Pakistanis from across the globe. The prefer­ence was being given to those peo­ple who qualified the definition of ‘stranded citizens’, he added.

He said there were around 15,500 Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia who intended to return home im­mediately. It included 6,000 laid off workers, 3,500 were those who on paid or unpaid leaves and rest of them belonged to other categories.

The SAPM said the government had asked all the Pakistani embas­sies and consulate generals abroad to give top priority to sick people during the repatriation process. The arrangements were also being made to ensure transportation of dead bodies to Pakistan.

He urged all the overseas Paki­stanis to avoid unnecessary trav­el to the country and gave chance to those compatriots who had ex­pire visas or lost jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis. To a query, he said Saudi Arabia had issued a de­cree to bar its companies from fir­ing the employees. “Thanks to the Saudi government which is treat­ing our people better than other countries,” he remarked.