JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan announced the signing of an agreement to implement the ‘Road to Makkah’ project aimed at simplifying the immigration procedures for the Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. The two countries also signed another agreement aimed at issuance of Pakistani passports for the members of the Burmese community residing in Saudi Arabia.
The visiting Saudi Deputy Minister of Interior Dr. Nasir bin Abdulaziz Al-Dawood and Pakistani Minister of Interior Rana Sanaullah signed the agreements in a ceremony held in the presence of Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad on Wednesday. Pakistani Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Senator Talha Mahmood, Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti, and Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi were also present, the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
Under the ‘Road to Makkah’ agreement, the Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims would be provided with immigration facilities at their embarkation point in Pakistan before their departure to Saudi Arabia to perform the pilgrimage. The service would be available at Islamabad International Airport where around 26,000 pilgrims would benefit from this facility in the first phase. The Saudi authorities assured that the facility would later be extended to Karachi and Lahore International Airports as well.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also signed the joint minutes of the meeting in which they discussed the issuance of Pakistani passports to the Burmese Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia. It is noteworthy that Pakistan had issued earlier passports to nearly 250,000 Burmese Muslims. The passports of the Burmese Muslims were not renewed after 2012 which created some difficulties for them in the Kingdom.
Under the new arrangement, the Burmese Muslims and their children would be issued passports to improve their legal status in Saudi Arabia. As per the discussion, a bilateral committee would be formed comprising the representatives of Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani Ministry of Interior to work out early issuance of the travel documents for the Burmese Muslims.
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