P.M. Khan terms overseas Pakistanis country’s ‘greatest asset,’ and reiterates vow to resolve their concerns
Pakistan on Thursday recalled Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Raja Ali Ejaz, as well as six members of the embassy staff, over complaints of a lack of facilitation for the expatriate community.
In a statement, the Foreign Office said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered an inquiry into the complaints against Ejaz, adding that Lt. Gen. (retd.) Bilal Akbar would serve as Pakistan’s new envoy to Saudi Arabia.
“The Government of Pakistan attaches high importance to the welfare of overseas Pakistanis. Overseas Pakistanis are our greatest asset. Their role in national development is indispensable,” read the statement. “There is zero tolerance, whatsoever, for any lapse in public service delivery,” it said, stressing that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi personally monitored all diplomatic missions and the services being provided to their respective Pakistani populations. “Pakistan’s missions, all across the world, have standing instructions to extend maximum facilitation to the Pakistani community in their respective jurisdictions,” it added.
A second statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the action had been taken on complaints of diaspora in Saudi Arabia. It said that a Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission had been tasked to probe the matter and submit a report within 15 days. The committee would investigate allegations of inefficiency in providing services to overseas Pakistanis; accusations of extortion and unjustified delays in service delivery; the effectiveness of existing, if any, complaint resolution mechanisms; and whether SOPs currently in place help or hinder in removing impediments to service delivery.
The committee would also fix responsibility for the public complaints and provide recommendations to improve the provision of services to overseas Pakistanis and expatriate workers based in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the launch of new Roshan Digital initiatives for expatriates and termed overseas Pakistanis the country’s “greatest asset.” Announcing that he had ordered a probe into complaints against Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he lamented that people who were playing such a vital role in the revitalization of the country’s economy were being mistreated abroad.
“It is the duty of foreign missions to extend best possible services to Pakistanis, particularly those belonging to the labor and working classes,” he said, noting that these people worked in tough conditions and scrimped and saved to send the maximum amount of money back to their families in Pakistan. “These workers deserve our utmost respect and the government will not spare anyone misbehaving with them,” he added.
Claiming that overseas Pakistanis’ remittances had kept the national economy afloat, Khan inaugurated the Roshan Apni Car and Roshan Samaji Khidmat initiatives. Under the Apni Car scheme, Roshan Digital Account holders would be able to avail car financing at mark-up rates starting from 7 percent with priority delivery. Both conventional and Islamic modes of financing would be available. The Samaji Khidmat scheme, meanwhile, aims to ease the process of expatriates wishing to donate to charities in Pakistan.
In his speech, Khan praised “record growth” in remittances in the past year, noting they had passed the $1 billion mark. “Until we achieve a required volume of exports, remittances by overseas Pakistanis is the only way to keep our economy moving,” he claimed, adding that this was merely the tip of the iceberg and the government had yet to fully tap the potential of overseas Pakistanis.
The prime minister praised Pakistan’s banking sector for supporting his government’s initiatives, and blamed previous governments for not escaping the boom-and-bust cycle that he blamed for rampant inflation.
According to SBP Governor Reza Baqir, over 120,000 Roshan Digital Accounts have been opened from 170 countries since the government launched the initiative last year.