Nabi Jan Orakzai

PESHAWAR: The Coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly affected the global population but its impacts on the Pakistani citizens living outside the country are multipronged. The prolonged lockdowns and travel restrictions not only affected their jobs and business, they are also forced to live in a sort of isolation and away from their families.

Many of these overseas Pakistan were hoping to return to their homes with the relaxation in the lockdowns and travel restrictions but the stringent moves by the governments of their residence’s countries put them in hapless situation.

Shahidur Rahman, who hails from the Kurram tribal district, spoke to TNN from Duabi. He said he had been there for the last two years and couldn’t return to home to the pandemic. “Initially, I was not granted leave and then the coronavirus pandemic broke out. I have never been away from home for too long. I wish I could return to Pakistan and meet my family members, friends and relatives as I have been dearly missing them. But alas! I couldn’t go home fearing there may be hurdles in my return to Dubai,” a dejected Shahid explained.

Elaborating his apprehensions, Shahid added that since he is the only breadwinner for his family, he could not take risk to lose his job as he might face problems in resuming his duties. “The company where I work doesn’t guarantee job security. The administration says those availing leave may need a fresh approver from the government upon their arrival. The fear of losing job is hampering my ambitions to meet my nears and dears in Pakistan,” he revealed.

Apart from these stranded Pakistanis, there are many others who had returned to Pakistan but are now unable to go back due to the fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Raees Khan, hailing from the Sadda area of district Kurram, returned from Qatar in February before the breakout of the corona pandemic on a three-month vacation but he is unable to return due to the overpriced air tickets and other preconditions.

“As the coronavirus spread in March, a lockdown was imposed and the flight operation was suspended due to which I couldn’t return in time. Now the flights are restored, but the tickets are so high that people like me cannot afford to buy. Besides, one has to undertake the corona test and reserve hotel booking for the mandatory quarantine on his own expenses. To ensure all these arrangements, it may require a sum of Rs300,000 which is beyond my affordability,” Khan informed.

Raees Khan is not the only overseas Pakistani who has been facing difficulties in returning to his place of job. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani emigrants are unable to go back to their respective destinations despite resumption of the flight operations and relaxation in the lockdowns. Many such emigrants also held a protest demonstration in Peshawar to press the government take steps to address their reservations.

A ticket retailer Shaheen Gul told TNN that the recent hike in airfares is allegedly triggered by black marketeers in the aviation industry. “Soon after the flight operation resumed, some of the officials of different airline companies including the flag-bearer Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) withheld the tickets, resultantly, the demand grew up, which triggered a sharp hike in the fares. The officials started black marketeering in lust of earning more money,” Gul alleges and adds, “the passengers have no option but to pay the extra amount as they were desperate to return to their jobs”.

Pakistan is one of the largest labor sending countries. According to a United National Economic and Social Council report, more than eight million Pakistani emigrants live and work abroad making up the world’s 6th largest disapora. Out of these, around five million Pakistanis live in the Middle East. Pakistani emigrants in different parts of the world particularly in the Gulf countries annually contribute billions of dollars in remittances to their country, 60-65 per cent of the remittances are from the Gulf States.

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