Expats donate over Rs100m for COVID-19 Relief Fund: Zulfi

By Adnan Rafique

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari has said that over Rs 100 million has been donated to the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 Relief Fund by the Pakistani expatriates in response to the website launched by his ministry. ‘Over 646,580 dollars (Rs 100 million) has been donated by the overseas Pakistanis so far,’ said Zulfikar Bukhari, while addressing the Virtual Town Hall Meeting arranged by the Pakistani-Americanis to discuss the issues faced by them across the United States (US) amid the coronavirus crisis.
The special session, which was held the other day, was attended by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed Khan, Consular General Aysha Ali, Pakistani businessmen, first responders, survivors of the coronavirus and representatives of the US-based Pakistani organizations. The special assistant said the PM’s corona relief fund had received over Rs 2 billion so far, out of which 70 per cent contribution was made by the locals. ‘The fund gets an unprecedented response from the locals,’ he added.
Highlighting the government’s steps for the facilitation of Pakistanis stranded abroad, he said some 2,000 Pakistani nationals had been airlifted from different countries to the motherland, whose number would be increased to 6,000 per week April 20.
Zulfkiar Bukhari said the government had almost finalized a fresh repatriation plan for the stranded Pakistanis under which some 17 special flights would be operated for the United Arab Emirates to bring back those Pakistanis who were stuck in transit or had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the government was also negotiating with the Qatar Airways to repatriate Pakistanis from the US as presently the Pakistan International Airline had not been operating any direct flight to New York due to various reasons.
To a query, he said the overseas ministry was working out a plan for bringing the dead bodies of expats to Pakistan from other countries. The bodies from Saudi Arabia and the US would be airlifted soon, he added. Zulfikar Bukhari said the plan for repatriation of the stranded Pakistanis in America would be shared with Pakistani Embassy in the US soon so that it could inform them timely.
Ambassador Asad Majeed on the occasion said the Pakistani consulates had collected the details of all those Pakistanis who were stuck in the US after the closure of international flights by Pakistan. ‘We are in constant contact with the stranded Pakistanis to facilitate them in the prevailing situation.’
Consul General Aysha Ali said food, accommodation and medical facilities were being provided to all those stranded Pakistani who had contacted the consulates. Meanwhile, the Pakistani-Americans also highlighted the efforts which they made for their fellow nationals and other communities in the US. They said concentrated efforts were being made to ensure safety of their country-mates.