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  the Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia through a teleconference, 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 that 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 laid off workers also involved those who had been expelled by the Saudi  Arabiancompanies even before the coronavirus pandemic, he explained.

As per the official data, he said: “Only 3,066 workers are those who have been terminated by Saudi Arabian companies in the wake of coronavirus.”

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  bodies to Pakistan, he stated.

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 that Saudi Arabia had issued a decree to bar its companies from firing the employees.

“Thanks to the Saudi Arabian government which is treating our people better than other countries,” he remarked.

He said Pakistan was being appreciated worldwide for its efforts to repatriate the citizens from across the globe.

Zulfkiar Bukhari also eulogized the Pakistani community for taking care of their country mates in Saudi Arabia.

The virtual town hall meeting was arranged by the OP HRD ministry to apprise the expatriates in Saudi Arabia about the decisions taken by the government to provide relief to the Pakistani Diaspora.

The meeting was attended by more than 50 people including officials of Pakistan’s Embassy and Consulate General in Saudi Arabia who are living there.