It seems that Pakistan’s labour force in the UAE, along with labour from some other, predominantly Muslim, countries, has been an unwelcome victim of the shifting geopolitics of the Middle East.
Although the exact reasons for the suspension of jobs and visa visits by the UAE are not clear at the moment, the change coincides with the advent of diplomatic relations between the Emirate and Israel, and the pressure on other Muslim states to communicate with Tel Aviv in the same way.
In a recent interview, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan was also under such pressure. Speculation has also been rampant in other ways, including defence and Covid-19 questions. In an effort to put an end to these conjectures, the Foreign Office claimed that the matter was not related to defence. In comparison, SAPM Zulfikar Bukhari went so far as to argue that the UAE authorities said there was no ban on the export of Pakistani labour.”
This is in contrast to the stance of the UAE, which has stated that the non-delivery of visas “until further notice” extends to jobs and visits by Pakistanis under 65 years of age. Some sources have already indicated that since the ban came into effect on 18 November, a recruiting firm in Rawalpindi has lost 3,000 workers that have now been diverted to India.
The reality is that there will continue to be a great deal of insecurity and speculation until the UAE and consequently Pakistan make clear, formally, the true reasons behind the move. The policy of the UAE was disappointing and racist.
The fact that a nation that is home to 1.2m Pakistanis—a overwhelming majority of its population—is unfairly taking such a stringent stand on the entry of Pakistani people is profoundly worrying and may have significant consequences for long-term relations.