Prime minister directs missions to attract investment to the country, ensure all issues facing overseas Pakistanis are resolved speedily
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday lashed out at the behavior of Pakistan’s ambassadors in missions abroad, warning them that reports of them behaving with indifference toward expatriates was “unforgivable.”
Nationally televised, Khan’s address to envoys posted across the world was delivered by video-link. In it, he read out complaints from overseas Pakistanis, especially those based in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., and directed the embassies to resolve all issues and work to help the people who were providing Pakistan with much-needed revenue through remittances.
Claiming that Pakistan risked bankruptcy if overseas Pakistanis had not propped up its economy through remittances, he regretted that he had not paid sufficient attention to the issue earlier because he had been preoccupied with “domestic issues.”
Referring to his time in England as an overseas Pakistani, Khan lamented that embassy staff tended to treat educated, well-off expatriates respectfully, but offered only indifference to the labor class. “I remember some ambassadors used to have a really bad attitude with the labor community, like masters would deal the [subjects] in colonial days,” he said.
“We cannot continue like this. The way our embassies are running, this could work in an old colonial system but not in today’s Pakistan. Embassies’ foremost work is to service the diaspora and then they should work to bring investment into the country that is going through very bad financial conditions right now,” he said, claiming that Indian embassies were far more proactive in attracting investment as compared to Pakistani missions.
Noting that expatriates tended to visit embassies for any one of 17 services, the prime minister regretted that feedback from overseas Pakistanis had revealed “unnecessary delays and complications” for availing routine services; a failure to stick to deadlines and indifference from staff, “especially in embassies of U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia.” Acknowledging that the highest remittances were received from these two states, Khan said it was understandable if they were under greater pressure, but that required them to seek additional support from Islamabad, not let down Pakistani citizens.
Reading out complaints, Khan said embassies appeared to lack top-level supervision to resolve public grievances, adding this was part of the reason he had recalled the previous ambassador to Saudi Arabia. “Complaints resolution approach of the embassies is mostly firefighting and lacks a passion to solve these issues; no policy-level decisions or permanent resolution approach is adopted to the issues frequently highlighted; no formal communication channels are kept at hand to keep the Pakistani diaspora updated about the embassies’ working hours. services,” he said. “No proactive steps have been taken to regularly check the conduct and attitude of the staff,” he added.
He said the government had decided to specifically monitor issues overseen by ambassadors, adding that a special officer should be appointed to monitor feedback and complaints received on the Citizens Portal. People who perform would be rewarded while those who don’t would be penalized, he said. Similarly, he directed all embassies to treat laborers with extra care to ease their problems, and announced the formation of a special legal cell to look after the welfare of Pakistanis imprisoned in jails abroad. The government was ready to funds this initiate and pay fines for people jailed over small crimes, he added. The prime minister also said that evaluations would be conducted to see which embassies were working to bring more investment into the country.
Khan’s address came a few days after the government suspended the outgoing ambassador to Saudi Arabia and recalled six diplomats posted at the embassy in Riyadh on allegations of improper treatment of expatriates living in the Gulf kingdom. An inquiry was also ordered against the envoy and the recalled diplomats, with the prime minister vowing to publicize its results within a week.