ISLAMABAD: (APP) Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs was informed Thursday that two Pakistan Missions would be set up in Madinah Munawarah and Dammam to facilitate Pakistanis residing in Saudi Arabia.
"Rs 120 million commitment has been made with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to open up two new Pakistan Missions in Madinah Munawarah and Dammam, for which the necessary process is underway," representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs apprised the body.
The committee meeting, chaired by Nuzhat Sadiq, observed that more and more Pakistani missions should be established for further improving the country's soft image and promoting public diplomacy abroad.
Chairperson Nuzhat Sadiq asked about the progress made for release of 601 Pakistanis, languishing in jails of Muscat, under different charges.
The Foreign Office representatives replied that efforts were on for their release and all possible legal and diplomatic assistance was being provided to them.
She directed to submit a final compliance report in this regard after resolving the issue.
The committee also reviewed the budget allocated to the Ministry and its utilization for the current fiscal year.
The body was informed that Rs 1.8 billion were allocated to eight spending units of the ministry, out of which around Rs 86 million had so far been utilized and around Rs 96 million were yet to be utilized. "We have used almost 50 per cent of the allocated budget so far," the officials said.
For foreign missions, they said, Rs 12 billion were earmarked, out of which Rs 4.5 billion had so far been spent and the rest was yet to be utilized.
Whereas, Rs 2.286 billion were allocated for other expenses and the Ministry used around Rs 694 million so far, they added.
Answering a question, the officials said a state guest, having dedicated villas and conference hall, would be constructed at the 37 acres of land in the federal capital for which Rs 500 millions had been allocated by the Ministry of Finance but it did not release yet.
They said the Capital Development Authority (CDA), being executing agency of the project, was in the process of hiring consultant.
On a query of Senator Farhatullah Babar, the officials said Rs 80 million commitment was made by the Finance Ministry for improving the cyber security system, but the release was still awaited.
The committee members in one voice asked for early release of the amount, saying that the breach of cyber security was not only the emerging threat but 'existing' in the contemporary era.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed suggested that Rs 80 million was an insufficient amount for the cyber security and it should be at least Rs 100 million.
He said it should be for both cyber and physical security, especially at Pakistani missions abroad.
Replying to a question, the body was informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was making efforts to increase its staff strength and, accordingly, a summary had been sent to the Prime Minister for approval.
On a query of the chairperson, the officials said the ministry was making consistent efforts to find clue of pilgrim Abdul Ghafoor, who went missing during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
They said Saudi authorities were extending full support for that purpose.
Answering another question, the committee was apprised that Pakistani missions abroad were providing all possible assistance to those Pakistanis who face problems in getting back their passports from their 'Kafeels' in emergency cases like deaths of near and dear ones at home.
"A single-page passport is issued to such an applicant by Pakistan missions without any charges," the officials said.
Among others, the meeting was attended by Senators Daud Khan Achakzai, Haji Momin Khan Afridi, Col. (R) Syed Tahir Husain Mashhadi, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Ayesha Raza Farooq, Karim Ahmed Khawaja and Farhatullah Babar, Additional Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Director General (Headquarters and Finance) and other senior officials.