KARACHI: The decision by United Arab Emirates (UAE) temporarily suspending issuance of all kinds of visas to a dozen countries, including Pakistan, has created unrest among the business communities, labourers, and people related to tourism industries.
The decision by the UAE authority is “believed to be related to the second wave of COVID-19,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry said in a statement on Wednesday night. However, travel agents and business community believed that the reason behind it is something else, as the countries with most coronavirus infections, like India and USA, are not included in the list issued by the UAE.
Government officials, however, told people that the government is still waiting for official confirmation from the concerned UAE authorities in this regard.
Chairman Travel Agents Association of Pakistan (TAAP), Mohammad Tariq expressed his worries to The Correspondent: “Only UAE remained an open route for Pakistani business community and tourism industry, but now even that is closed.” It would be another setback for local travel agencies and businesses in Pakistan, he claimed.
However, Mr Tariq refused to comment on speculation that political interference from Israel or India might have a role to play, observing only that the decision will hurt Pakistan.
The TAAP chairman said due to coronavirus, that UAE government did not issue visas for Pakistanis till July 6, 2020 and now it hs suspended issuance of visas again for an indefinite period.
Pakistani pilgrims are avoiding visiting Saudi Arabia owing to its stringent Umrah policies. The people visiting Saudi Arabia for Umrah will have to be quarantined 3-5 days with their own expenses, the travel agents said.
Ex-Chairman of TAAP Yaha Polani said, “it could be a political decision of the UAE government as Pakistan is the country where coronavirus has not affected people like it did in India, America, Europe and other countries.”
He said that our Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi can play a positive role through his negotiation with the UAE authorities.
Chairman TAAP said we are still trying to get confirmation from the UAE authorities as the UAE visa section has not received the notification from the authority.
The development was also confirmed by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez, who said that written instructions had not been issued to the airline so far. He said that people holding Iqama, transit and work visas were still allowed entry in the UAE.
The sources in PIA said that it was not immediately clear how many categories of visas would be affected by the suspension. The UAE has various visa categories including business, tourist, transit, student etc.
In June, when cases in Pakistan were on the rise, UAE airline Emirates had announced temporary suspension of passenger services from Pakistan till July 3. The decision came after around 30 Pakistanis who arrived in Hong Kong onboard an Emirates flight tested positive for the virus. The airline resumed its flights on July 7.
In August, Kuwait’s aviation banned commercial flights to 31 countries, including Pakistan, regarded as ‘high risk’ due to the spread of the coronavirus.
The number of infections has been rising in Pakistan since late last month and authorities have declared that the country was witnessing the second wave of COVID-19.
Pakistan has recorded more than 2,000 daily cases of the novel coronavirus for the last ten days and officials have warned that the positivity rate of the disease has increased, especially in major cities including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Hyderabad etc.
According to media reports, the UAE government has also suspended the issuance of visit visas to Turkey, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Kenya and Afghanistan among others.
On last Sunday, the UAE said it would extend its “golden” visa system – which grants 10-year residency in the Gulf state – to certain professionals, specialized degree-holders and others.