By Shah Faisal Kakar
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy warm and friendly relations. The two countries have developed strong ties in various fields. Pakistan has an Embassy in Riyadh and a Consulate General in Jeddah. Pakistan Embassy was initially established in Jeddah, then moved to Riyadh and started functioning in a rented building. The new chancery building in Riyadh was inaugurated on Nov. 5, 1992.
Saudi Arabia hosts around 2.6 million expatriate Pakistan community, which acts as strong bridge of friendship between the two countries. This community is making valuable contributions in the economic development of Saudi Arabia. They also help in the economic progress of Pakistan. They sent $5.6 billion worth remittances (one third of total remittances) to Pakistan during financial year 2014-2015 which constitutes 30 percent of total remittances to Pakistan. A large number of professionals, including doctors, engineers and auditors from Pakistan have earned good name for themselves and their country due to their professionalism and hard work in Saudi Arabia.
Expatriate Pakistanis reside all over Saudi Arabia. To provide them consular services at their door steps, Embassy and Consulate General of Pakistan dispatch consular teams on weekends to various cities and far flung areas. The places they frequently visit are Dammam, Al-Khobar, Dhahran, Hafr Al-Batin, Wadi Dawasser, Arar, Tabuk, Sakaka, Al-Qurayat, Al-Qaseem, Hofuf, Jubail, etc. They provide consular services such as issuance of passports, attestation of documents, grant of visas and issuing of national identity cards.
The consular sections of the Embassy and Consulate General cater to the demand and need of consular visitors. Every day over 1,500 persons visit consular section in Riyadh and a similar number in Jeddah for various consular services such as MRPs, manual passports, attestation of documents, issuance of visa for Pakistan and processing of NICOP. Recently the Embassy has expanded the MRP set up and doubled its processing capacity up to 1,200 (which was 600 previously) applications for MRP per day. This expansion has provided great relief to the passport seekers who come from far flung areas.
On the community welfare side, the Embassy ensures to have regular interaction with local authorities for extending various services to the community including measures to settle matters between Pakistan’s workers and their sponsors, assist in pursuing cases in courts, coordination with authorities to ensure they are paid their dues. In the Embassy, a Facilitation Center has been set up which caters to the needs of those who have any issue related to the labor court, dead body, repatriation to the home land or any other issue. This Facilitation Center emerged to be very useful during the recent labor crisis.
Besides daily services to the community, a weekly Open House is held in the Embassy once a week where the Ambassador listens to complaints of community members and redress their problems.
Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia has not only contributed in the economic development of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan but has also earned a great name in the local society. In this regard, names of Shaukat Amin, Farman Ali Khan and recently Muhammad Yehya will be remembered in golden words. In April 2016, a Pakistani national Shaukat Amin was honored by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif for saving a Saudi citizen from drowning in a flood in Asir.
Likewise, in November 2009, when torrential rains in Jeddah swept away anything and everything that came their way; Farman Ali Khan, a Pakistani national from Swat rescued 14 lives until, in his attempt to rescue the 15th person, he lost his own life.
In March 2017, Muhammad Yehya Mansoor rescued a Saudi family from burning in a car accident. He rushed to help the family and saved those who were inside the car. In recognition of his heroic act, Eastern Province Governor Prince Saud Bin Naif praised his courage and honored him.