Sunday, 30 September 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri And Adel Al-Malki
THE 175,000 Pakistanis who are expected to arrive in the Kingdom for Haj this season will be well taken care of, said Pakistan Consul General Zaigham Uddin Azam.
"We are there every step of the way from the moment they arrive in the Haj terminal, to helping them book accommodations according to their budget in Makkah and Madinah," he said.
Azam said Pakistani pilgrims need special attention since many of them are between the ages of 70 and 80. "(And) there are very few rich people in Pakistan, so it is likely that those who perform Umrah took a long time to save up for it," he said.
To further aid their citizens year round, a new building to house the Pakistan Consulate in Jeddah is being constructed.
The new building will have a portion with dining and sports facilities, another portion to house small clinics, a third portion holding marriages, a fourth with an exhibition hall, among others.
"Our aim is to be able to serve up to 1,000 people in 30 minutes," he said.
When asked about the Pakistanis who were arrested by the Saudi police during the celebration of Pakistan Day last month, Azam said their citizens should have respected Saudi law.
"What they did is something not approved by anyone - not even their parents. The police have already freed eight people out of 28 arrested, and I think the sentence of one month incarceration has already been completed," said Azam.
Also, he said, the economy of Pakistan remains stable despite the ongoing political situation there that Azam describes as not uncommon for a democratic society.
"Sometimes the opposition has the upper hand, sometimes it's the government," he said. "It's a see-saw."
Fortunately, he said, legislation has been put in place to protect outside and domestic investors in Pakistan.
The Consul General added that the government has been in constant dialogue with opposition parties whose demands are considered and accommodated "if these are suitable to the government."
Does he expect Benazir Bhutto to be the next Prime Minister?
"The law says that a Prime Minister can only be elected for two terms and Benazir Bhutto wants to be Prime Minister for a third time," he said.
"For that to happen, the constitution has to be amended with a two-thirds majority."