Pakistan’s free remittance initiative to help boost payments from Middle East

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s free foreign remittance service for overseas nationals will help boost payments from Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates where a chunk of the country’s diaspora lives and works in different sectors, Pakistan Post officials said.
“The basic purpose of this scheme is to abolish the business of hundi and hawala [illegal transfer mechanisms] and increase foreign remittances and foreign exchange reserves through legal channels,” Arif Mahmood, Assistant (Money Remittance) at the Pakistan Post told Arab News in an interview this week.

The initiative has recently been extended to more than 240 post offices in all major cities of the country from 35 from where people can receive foreign remittances without the hassle and any charges. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government launched the pilot project in June this year with an aim to expand the facility to 12,000 post offices across the country.
“Saudi Arabia and the UAE are our main focus for secure and legal foreign remittances as a majority of our countrymen live and work there,” Mahmood said.
The country has the sixth largest diaspora population in the world, with approximately 7.6 million Pakistanis living abroad.
Pakistan received $21.8 billion in remittances in 2018, or almost 7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Islamabad received $5 billion from Saudi Arabia alone. This was followed by the UAE with $4.35 billion while remittances from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, stood at $.2.1 billion in the last fiscal year.
“We are committed to carrying remittances of overseas Pakistanis to their hometowns in villages and cities through a legal network of Pakistan Post,” he said.
Mahmood continued that more than 40 remittance companies were operating in the country, but Pakistan Post would beat them due to the presence of its large network of post offices even in far-flung areas.
“This will be hundred percent secure payment through biometric system,” he informed, adding that Pakistan Post had made around 125 transactions so far since June, and this would “increase exponentially in the coming months” with the start of the service in all post offices.
The official said that the system would be fully functional by the end of this month and then Pakistan Post would start marketing the initiative abroad. “The overseas workers are our asset, and we want them to contribute to the national economy by sending their funds through legal channels only,” he added.