Stranded workers start returning from Saudi Arabia


KARACHI: Pakistani workers sacked by some construction companies in Saudi Arabia continue to return home, with a group of 10 workers reaching here on Saturday.

The number of labourers coming back is low but it is part of an ongoing process of workers returning home after not receiving their dues.

It all began about eight months ago when one after the other groups such as the Saad Trading and Contracting Companies, the Saudi Oger Limited and the Bin Laden Group declared bankruptcy after reportedly facing a “financial crunch”.

For about 12,000 Pakistanis working in different capacities for the companies operating from Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Ta’if, the domino effect was sudden and unexpected.

The labourers have been living under lamentable conditions in 19 camps set up by the companies in the four cities for the past few months. Most of them, according to officials and workers who have returned home, are still there to claim the money owed to them by the companies.

According to Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria, at present there are around 2.6 million Pakistani nationals working in Saudi Arabia.

Some of the sacked workers belong to Karachi’s Rajput Colony in Liaquatabad’s Gharibabad area. About 400 labourers from the colony are working as marble setters and marble carvers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman. The colony is unique in a way as almost everyone in the area has a family history of working as marble setters and marble carvers.

Mohammad Rafi, 26, is one of them. He belongs to the fourth generation of marble setters and jointly lives with his parents, siblings and their extended family. “I’m among the lucky ones in my family to have worked in Makkah’s Grand Mosque as a marble carver and a marble setter,” he said while talking to Dawn.

According to historian and writer Gul Hassan Kalmati, the Urdu-speaking residents of Rajput Colony earlier lived with people belonging to Marwari and Salawat communities in Ranchhore Line before partition. The Marwaris and Salawats, originating from Kutch in the Indian state of Gujarat, were involved in construction of buildings and had perfected the art of brick masonry.

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