Pakistan on Sunday finally acknowledged that the United Arab Emirates imposed “temporary restrictions” on visas due to outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, days after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi visited the Gulf state to take up the issue with the UAE authorities.
The UAE government had banned visas for Pakistan along with 12 mostly Muslim countries since November 18. The UAE, till now, had not given any reason for the restrictions, triggering speculations that the move might be more of a political nature than any other issue.
Pakistan was reluctant to confirm the ban as foreign office and government ministers gave conflicting statements. The foreign office had said the ban was only on visit visas but recruitment agencies said restrictions covered work visas too.
Against this backdrop, Foreign Minister Qureshi visited UAE this week and met its prime minister as well as foreign minister. The statement issued by the foreign office and official handout released by the UAE had made no mention of visa ban. This raised question whether the issue was taken up by Qureshi at all.
The foreign office, however, now issued a statement informing FM Qureshi in his meetings with the Emirati leadership inter alia raised the issues pertaining to visa restrictions on Pakistan nationals as well as the welfare of Pakistani diaspora in the UAE.
Appreciating the contributions made by the Pakistani diaspora in the UAE, FM Qureshi was assured that the visa restrictions were temporary in nature and were imposed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, the statement added.
Interestingly, India was not in the list of countries which have been facing visa restrictions despite the fact that it has one of the highest number of Covid cases.
People associated with the manpower export say that due to ban Pakistan is losing 800 to 1,000 jobs daily. The UAE hosts around 1.5 million Pakistani workers, who are the key source of sending foreign remittance back to the country.
FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri also referred to the statement made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, reaffirming the UAE’s appreciation of the 1.5 million strong Pakistani community and their active contribution to the growth and prosperity of the country.
Noting the interconnectivity of the peoples of the two friendly countries, the statement stresses the “temporary nature of the recent restrictions imposed on the issuance of visas due to the outbreak of the Coivd-19 pandemic”, the spokesperson added.