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ISLAMABAD: The management of the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) admitted before a Senate Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development that the labour in the mining sector, especially in Balochistan, could not be registered due to various reasons.

The Committee on Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development met on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Senator Manzoor Ahmed Kakar here at the Parliament House on Wednesday.

The matter was referred to the committee at the request of Senator Baharmand Khan Tangi. The senator inquired regarding the funds/ grants proviso by the EOBI to the mine workers after completing 30 years of service. He said that as per the rules of the EOBI, the grant is not given until the requirements are completely fulfilled, but amazingly the hinge in the completion is deliberately created by EOBI.

He further alleged that the mine workers are not legally registered and also not given proper training and the reply submitted by the EOBI is unsatisfactory, and he inquired about the number of cards issued and also inquired about its verification.

The EOBI chairperson said that 165 mines and 7,883 workers are registered, admitting that majority of mines are facing issues of law and order. He said that the mining sector is running informally and also we do not have the authority to verify the license.

He also said a significant amount of workers are in a state of transition and are unable to register them due to non-provision of documentation. However, on inquiring about data, he apprised the committee that there are a total of 25,000 pensioners in the area registered with the EOBI so far.

Senator Tangi, unsatisfied with the reply of the chairperson EOBI, said that it implies that the EOBI is running away from its responsibilities.

He said that the EOBI fails to get employees registered and also does not provide requisite training.

The chairperson EOBI argued that training is not the mandate of the EOBI and requested the provincial government to submit complete data through the provincial labour department.

The member committee endorsed the viewpoint of Senator Tangi on the negligence of the EOBI in obtaining the data and issuing cards.

The ministry replied that since the activation of the Chamalanh Coal Mines Project, it is mainly supervised by the Pakistan Army. Initially it was supervised by the Headquarters 41 Division, but later it was handed over to Headquarters 29 Brigade, Zhob, Balochistan. It was also briefed that more than 50 per cent mine workers are Afghan nationals in Balochistan and the EOBI Act is not applicable on workers without CNIC.

Tangi said that the EOBI holds the responsibility to have a record. The committee chair sought the record from the EOBI on the total number of mines along with the number of employees working in totality and the number of workers registered.

He also sought data on the amount recovered by the EOBI so far through the contributions received. The committee also summoned the labour department to give a detailed briefing on the same.

The committee also inquired about the services provided to overseas Pakistanis for foreign remittances.

Senator Rana Mahmoodul Hassan during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development lamented that 50,000 engineers and IT professionals in the country are unemployed and urged the ministry to develop a mechanism in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other related ministries to send the Pakistani engineers as skilled workers to Japan, China, and other countries considering the prevailing dire economic crisis. He said that highly-skilled qualified professionals are desperate for jobs and as of now are even willing to work for Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 salary per month.

Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, while endorsing the viewpoint of Senator Rana Hassan said that the level of desperation among the public is such that they are willing to give millions of rupees in lieu of employment visa because of severe inflation and recession in the country.

The committee sought a detailed briefing for clarification on the SOPs of overseas employment. The secretary ministry apprised the committee that through a new arrangement they are now more focused on the educated sector including IT professionals, engineers, and paramedical staff. “It would abruptly increase the foreign remittances,” the secretary said.

Senator Hassan raised serious questions on the inability of Pakistan to send engineers to Japan, irrespective of the fact that Japan needed 0.3 million workers. “We were not even able to send 100 workers,” Senator Shahadat Awan added further inquiring about the reasons behind such negligence. The committee sought a list of the number of skilled workers sent to Japan and also details on the educational qualifications of each.

The committee also inquired about the clauses of the MoU signed with Saudi Arabia. “We have to see where we are lacking in the MoU between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” Senator Shahadat Awan said.

The officials apprised that in 2019, a bilateral agreement was signed according to which a skill verification programme was set up by Saudi Arabia government in Pakistan known as the Takamol having 18 centres with its headquarters in Islamabad. The program is led under the supervision of NAVTTC and comes under the Ministry of Education. The official of the overseas Pakistan foundation apprised the committee that 2.8 million workers at present are employed in Saudi Arabia.

On inquiring about the criteria and system through which Korean skilled immigrations are conducted, it was apprised that Pakistan is among 19 countries which are members of the Korean Employment Permit System through this system skilled workers are sent on the basis of merit and country-wise quota allocation. He apprised that this year Korea allocated 1,100 skilled workers from Pakistan. He further told that overseas foundation also furnish training on culture and specified skills to the selected immigrant.

While discussing the issues faced by the ministry on skilled immigrants, the secretary Overseas Ministry contended that one of the issues is the inability to determine the migrant intentions whether he will become an immigrant or remain a skilled worker which leads to issues of human trafficking and legal procedures. The secretary of the ministry further said that language is one of the issues while clearing immigrations to countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. He said that the committee should give directions to the NAVTTC to conduct language training courses.

He also said that through NAVTTC we are also planning to establish regional centres for language training and test centres. The committee sought appearance of NAVTTC to brief on the matter in the next meeting.

The committee also raised issues of illegal occupation of properties owned by overseas immigrants. The ministry replied that it is working with relevant agencies although it is also recommended that separate courts on the issue should be constituted. He said that the issue of illegal occupation of the land of overseas Pakistanis is already under consideration and different forums are being constituted to redress the matter. He also urged the courts to extend cooperation in this regard.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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