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Pakistan sets up special complaint cell for expats

Gulf News

The Pakistan Government has set up a special complaint cell at the Prime Minister's Secretariat in Islamabad to address problems faced by overseas Pakistanis.

The cell which was established on instructions of Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who recently visited the UAE and other Gulf countries and listened to Pakistani expatriates' grievances.

The cell will take up complaints of Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRPs) if they face problems with any department back home, Pakistani missions abroad, settlement of dues abroad or even the cases regarding harassment of families and matters relating to admission of children to educational institutions.

The cell will also supervise the complaint cell at the Overseas Pakistani Foundation (OPF) to ensure that all matters concerning NRPs are addressed on a priority basis.

Habibur Rehman Khan, director of OPF, told Gulf News in Dubai that the government has rejuvenated the OPF.

"Now it is a completely different organisation, all set to serve NRPs and their families back home," he added.

He said the OPF is concentrating on people affected by the war in Iraq and providing help to those returning from Kuwait.

"So far, we have received around 4,000 Pakistanis who returned home on special flights and provided them assistance at the airport."

He said a Central Control Room has been set up to provide information and help of the war-affected people. Another Emergency Relief Centre has also been established at the Cabinet Division to facilitate them.

Brig (retd) Mohammed Ilyas is the head of this cell. Emergency Relief Centre numbers in Islamabad are: 0092-51-9207169, 92208100 (fax) 9221269.

He said the OPF has also succeeded in getting claims of $298 million from the United Nations Compensation Commission for the war-affected people who returned home from Kuwait and Iraq during the 1991 war. The money has been distributed among them.

Khan said the OPF will restructure its pension scheme programme introduced last year for NRPs and will launch a massive campaign to create awareness.

"The scheme is beneficial mainly for the low and middle income groups working abroad. The forms and information material about the pension scheme will be made available at Pakistani missions."

The OPF, he added, is also trying to reserve 40 seats in every professional college in the country for NRP students, meeting the community's long-standing demand.

He said special quotas will be provided to students in all colleges offering medical, engineering, IT, dental and pharmacy courses.

The OPF, which runs 22 schools and two colleges in Pakistan, gives admission to children of NRPs on a priority basis in addition to a 20 per cent concession on tuition fees.

As part of its five-year programme launched last year for the welfare of NRPs and their families back home, he said, the OPF will establish various technical schools, primary health centres, hostels, training institutes and nursing schools in various parts of the country.

"We are now concentrating on areas largely populated by NRPs and their families to provide them maximum facilities."

Khan said the OPF, following complaints of NRPs, had also taken up the issue regarding the non-availability of some incentives promised in the remittance scheme introduced in 2001.

Regarding the complaints about incomplete housing schemes in which NRPs had invested huge amounts, he said the majority of schemes are near completion and people who had invested would soon be able to take possession of their plots.

"There have been some delays, but NRPs' investment is very much there and also viable. No new housing scheme will be launched unless all the existing schemes are completed," he said.