Even before the normalization of the UAE and Israel relations was announced on August 14, 2020, there was a rider. The deal, as it turns out, required Pakistan to accept Israel and a direct threat to it was put across through an article published in an Israeli newspaper Hareetz on August 11, 2020, titled ‘Pakistan’s Rejection of Israel Threatens Pakistani Lives’.
Pakistan did not relent, and the result was the UAE gifting Israel an embassy on Pakistan’s Independence Day. For Israel, as it gets clearer every day, Arab states are a joyride. The only stumbling block is nuclear-armed Pakistan.
The noose, therefore, had to be tightened around Pakistan, with the UAE starting by announcing a visa ban on Pakistanis on November 24, 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UAE’s response has been so harsh that Pakistan was found grappling with it, as the announcement got public through the media and the UAE did not even communicate it through official channels.
No wonder, the shocks have started to be felt across Islamabad as The Express Tribune reported on November 25, 2020 that about 3000 Pakistanis have been stripped of their job visas by the UAE.
It has come to light that since the ban had come into effect on November 18, 2020, a recruitment agency in Rawalpindi alone has lost 3,000 jobs, and guess who has been benefitted from this? India! This is a report from just one city from Pakistan and, obviously, the same can be expected from its other cities too, and very soon. Thus, it can be easily understood that for Pakistan which is already reeling under extreme economic conditions, the UAE move, which is nothing short of snatching the very bread from the mouths of Pakistani citizens, is a humongous loss for the country.
The report highlights how Pakistan has been further cornered by the UAE initiative as initially, it was reported that the suspension was only limited to tourist visas, but the authorities have now confirmed that work and employment visas have also been banned till further notice.
A letter issued by the Dubai Airport Free zone says: “As per the latest circular released by the Immigration Department Entry Permit Applications (for individuals outside the country), applications for new employment visa and new visit visa (long, short and tourist), will be suspended until further notice.”
All the 13 nations which have been debarred from entry into the UAE are Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, and other Muslim countries, and what is common among these nations is that none of them have accepted Israel.
Turkey has an Israeli embassy, but the UAE right now is staunchly against Turkey and has aligned with Greece. It has also supplied F-16 fighters to Greece against Turkey in the Mediterranean sea, in support of France. This alliance was counterbalanced with Russia announcing its military drills with Turkey on both sides of Cyprus – the focal point of the conflict.
Pakistanis, on the other hand, have been struggling to come to terms with this unexpected move with its Foreign Office still feigning some relaxation as its statement last week had suggested that the ban was only on visit visas and believed to be linked to the second wave of Covid-19. But, an Al Jazeera on November 25, 2020, said that an “unnamed official had claimed the move was linked to security concerns”, although those security concerns were not elaborated.
Sources in Islamabad said Pakistan was not formally intimated about the suspension. The authorities have been trying to reach out to UAE authorities to ascertain the reason. Here the real footprints of Israel can be easily deciphered as Pakistan had long been supplying its manpower to the UAE, and this is a new charge, and if the signal is to be comprehended, then very soon similar notifications are likely to be displayed from all the Gulf-22 states!
The alibi of Corona-virus is, therefore, a hogwash, as visas are allowed from India, which has around 44,000 cases per day and Israel is suffering with the highest per capita Coronavirus infections in the world, as reported by the Times of Israel on September 4, 2020.
Surely, as Pakistan senator Anwer Baig has maintained that the suspension of work or employment visa ban is “Pakistan specific”, he also dished out data, informing that the UAE is home to tens of thousands of Pakistani workers. These workers have been employed in different sectors and send foreign remittances, considered key to the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
In 2016, Pakistan sent 3,26,000 workers to the UAE, 2,90,000 in 2016, 2,75,000 in 2017, 2,08,000 in 2018, 2,11,000 in 2019 and even during the Covid-19 outbreak until October, 51,000 Pakistanis went to the Gulf country for employment, who send close to $4 billion remittances back to Pakistan.
India is extremely happy as it is turning out to be the ultimate replacement of Pakistan, which has been facing the wrath of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), since August 6, 2020, when its foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced to ‘distance’ from the KSA. Also, the country is now to return the remaining two of the $3 billion loan back to the KSA, according to a report in Business Standard on November 7, 2020.
The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India. He is a media analyst and writes on international politics.