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Pakistani Riyadh Envoy Suspended Over Expat Laborers Complaints

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah in 2019.

Pakistan has suspended its ambassador to Saudi Arabia following complaints by Pakistani laborers working in the kingdom.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said on April 29 that Ambassador Raja Ali Ijaz has already returned to Pakistan and that six embassy and consular staffers were also being recalled pending an investigation into their work.

The government “attaches high importance to the welfare of overseas Pakistanis,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told a press briefing in Islamabad, calling them “our greatest asset.”

According to official figures, there are around 2.6 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia whose remittances are a huge boost to Pakistan's economy.

Officials said multiple expat laborers in the Persian Gulf kingdom had complained in recent months of mistreatment from embassy staffers.

Speaking to RFE/RL on April 30, Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia accused embassy staff of extorting money in return for services, among other things.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan told a meeting in Islamabad he had set up a special committee to investigate the matter.

“The Embassy [staff] has not taken enough care of Pakistanis…and action will be taken against those held responsible,” Khan said.

His office said the committee will submit a report within 15 days.

Ambassador Ijaz was replaced at his post in Riyadh by retired Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar.