Whenever we speak of expatriate Pakistani’s its always in the form of a feeder capacityÂ Â for the homeland. Whether it is Â the oodles of dollars they send back home or the fact that they represent us so well and we gain in international stature or because we need them for donations to save lives in some tragedy somewhere in our country. Do we however realize that these are people who need us to represent and fight for them once in a while too?
Im writing this today because I was recently onÂ pilgrimageÂ to Saudi arabia and although I had a very spiritual experience on my umrah, I met lot’s of pakistani’s who are stuck in a bad situation there. Â Usually to work in a place like saudi arabia one has to obtain an “Iqama” which is a work visa which is processed on the recommendation of a “Kafeel” or theÂ providerÂ of employment in saudi arabia. Who is in 7 out of 10 cases a saudi citizen who has no real work opportunity but is renting out these Iqamas for as much as 8-12,000 riyals a year per person. Each “Kafeel” gives out about 50 or so Iqamas a year and allegedly collects on them and ( you get the picture) enjoys their fruits while sitting at home as the people who come on these “Iqamas” first pay off the leeches back home who have helped them secure the documents forÂ exorbitantÂ amounts of money, and then at the end of each year use whatever they have saved to renew their “Iqama” with the “Kafeel”
Recently the Saudi government woke up to the fact that the “Kafeels” areÂ havingÂ a heyday while the poorÂ labourersÂ are basically serving the furnace of the saudi workforce for a pittance of what they could earn if notÂ burdenedÂ with such volatile and (at the whim of these kafeels) “Iqama” renewal charges. Please note I am not speaking of government charges here on “Iqamas” which have pretty much remained the same for a long period of time but the “renewal fees” imposed by “Kafeels”. So in their sagacity the authorities decided to make a new rule barring anyone from serving in any other capacity or workplace other then the one they got their “Iqama” through.Â Great newÂ piece of legislation it would have been as well “if” there was such a process as an actual workplace provided by the original “Kafeel”
So to cut a long story short, there was much hue and cry made by our respective pakistani leadershipÂ (pun intended) through proper channels inÂ FebruaryÂ 2013 which resulted in a three month grace period allowed to people without a place of work at their “Kafeels” to find another “Kafeel” who had an actual workplace and get transferred to, or they would face “kharuj” i.e deportation.
Now my question, and perhaps the incoming government can ask our saudiÂ brethrenÂ this is: Why were these “Iqamas” issued in the first place through the relevant authorities without verifying what the “Kafeels” workplace actually had to offer? Once that has been established we can perhaps ask why are theÂ labourersÂ being made to suffer for a system as self contradictory as this.
My next question would be then to our government and as to what they are planning to do about this, because if we do not do anything thousands of Pakistani’s may be on their way home soon from Saudi Arabia. Among them will be people who have spent 10-15 years of their lives there working like bonded labor to feed their families a little better back home. These are also the same dollars we keep gleefully pointing to as our great foreign stream of remittance which upon the return of these people should see a dwindling fate pretty soon.
So how about we forget about whether a dual national can hold office and speak of pakistani nationals, who will be robbed of a fair opportunity to work for a living in countries like Saudi Arabia soon if we stand silent?
( Much of the information used to write this has been provided by mechanical engineers from Pakistan now serving as taxi drivers in KSA for the lack of a better work opportunity, due to being forced to abandon jobs which made them work like slaves but paid once in three months)
Some background data on this issue can be obtained from the links given below