Pakistan, Qatar Ratify Landmark Labour Mobility Agreement

Former special assistant to the prime minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources says Qatar has introduced groundbreaking labour reforms

Pakistan, Qatar Ratify Landmark Labour Mobility Agreement
Caption: Jawad Sohrab Malik (Right) and Ashraf Siddiqui in Islamabad

Pakistan's cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, has recently ratified a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Pakistan and Qatar to enhance collaboration in labour mobility.

An official with knowledge of the developments but who was not authorised to speak to the media disclosed that Qatar had proposed the draft MOU aimed at exchanging expertise in labour relations, labour inspections, occupational safety, and health. The ratified draft was submitted to Qatar after the Pakistan embassy in Doha received the approved document from Pakistan.

During a recent interaction in Islamabad, Jawad Sohrab Malik, the Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development to former interim prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, praised the traditional hospitality of the Qatari people. He said he was inspired by witnessing the comprehensive transformation spanning infrastructure, economic progress, peace and security, cleanliness, and harmonious co-existence among the extensive expatriate worker community.  

Malik said that during his official visit to Qatar in January 2024, he had fruitful and positive meetings with Dr Ali bin Samikh AlMarri, Qatar's Minister for Labour, other government officials and the top management of some leading companies in Qatar's private sector. 

He stressed the importance of ratifying and implementing the MOUs signed between the two countries, especially those relating to the labour sector. He said that over 45 various MOUs and agreements have been signed between Qatar and Pakistan.

Malik, who admired the groundbreaking labour reforms introduced by Qatar, said that they set a benchmark among the GCC states.  

He added that those reforms encompass various measures such as the implementation of non-discriminatory minimum wages, elimination of exit-re-entry permits, regulations ensuring safe working conditions during extreme heat, establishment of a Labour Disputes Settlement Committee, creation of Workforce Support and Insurance Fund; the introduction of Qatar Visa Centers (QVC) in major labour-supplying countries including Pakistan; the incorporation of worker representatives in Joint Committees within large organisations; among other initiatives.

Malik expressed his gratitude to Qatar's leadership for the care they have extended to Pakistani expatriate workers and for their deep concern about resolving worker issues, if any.

During his meetings with some Pakistani workers in Qatar, Malik said he was informed about the quality and modernisation of medical facilities available for the common person in Qatar's government hospitals.

Additionally, Malik added, Qatar's facilitation of visa-on-arrival for businessmen, tourists from over 80 countries, including Pakistan, and foreign investors is commendable and deserving of recognition.

Malik, an Islamabad-based businessman, said that Pakistan is one of the major contributors to the global workforce, fulfilling the demands of burgeoning economies worldwide. Over 10 million Pakistanis are employed abroad, spanning various skill levels, and a significant portion serve in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

Malik added that annual remittances from overseas Pakistanis are around $30 billion and are the primary source of foreign exchange for the cash-strapped country. This contribution by overseas Pakistanis significantly bolsters the national economy.

Replying to a question about addressing the diverse array of issues faced by overseas Pakistanis, he said that Pakistan has deployed labour attaches in eight countries. Notably, two labour attaches in Qatar, and their teams are dedicated to aiding Pakistani passport holders in resolving employment-related grievances and addressing other concerns promptly and effectively.

In his closing remarks, the former special assistant advised Pakistanis interested in working abroad to ensure they possess adequate technical skills to secure respectable employment with better wages.