(MENAFN - Arab News) Pakistani Ambassador Muhammad Naeem Khan said Islamabad's recent decision to extend the validity of machine-readable passports from five to 10 years has done a world of good to the large expatriate community in the Kingdom.
Speaking at the 46th annual prize distribution at the Pakistan International School in Alkhobar at the weekend, Naeem Khan said his government acted in large part on the input from his mission in Riyadh.
"We are now issuing biometric passports with 10-year validity at the embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah," he said. "That has eased
the situation considerably."
He said the embassy was working on the idea of establishing mobile units that would help transmit data of passport-seeking Pakistani nationals in the Eastern Province to Riyadh. "That will help us issue machine-readable passports in record time," he said.
All biometric passports for the Eastern Province-based Pakistanis are currently issued in Riyadh, and every Pakistani has to travel to Riyadh to complete their documentation, including the mandatory fingerprints.
The ambassador said his mission was engaged in scouting new land for shifting the community school from the densely populated and highly congested area in Alkhobar.
"The school has expanded beyond expectations, and we need to shift it to a better location and preferably in a place of our own," said Naeem Khan. "If we have our own land then we will be able to save a lot in annual rent."
The community school, which has been in existence for 46 years, has a student strength that exceeds 4,500.
"We have requested the Saudi government to provide a piece of land and we are simultaneously looking at the possibility of purchasing a good piece of land in a suitable location," he said. "In fact, we do have a piece of land but we are looking at another place which we think will be ideally suited to meet the growing needs of our school in Alkhobar."
The ambassador highlighted the good role of the principal in the school's excellent academic record.
"Principal Choudhry Niaz Ahmad deserves appreciation for running the school efficiently," he said. "There is a great team spirit between the students and the teachers which is clear to me during my visits to the school and the feedback I receive from the community."
Naeem Khan said the Pakistan Embassy has attached utmost importance to the community schools.
"Our schools are where the destiny of Pakistan community is crafted, where minds and morals of children are developed," he said. "Whatever institutional behavior they learn here they will apply to all the institutions that they participate in, and, therefore, it is extremely important that our schoolchildren learn the virtues of discipline, punctuality, hard work and organization in our schools."
According to the ambassador, his mission has been promoting the interests of community schools with the Saudi authorities at the highest level.
"During the recent meetings our foreign minister had with the Saudi leadership, I personally made sure that the needs of our schools in the Kingdom received attention," said Naeem Khan. "I want to assure you, parents, teachers and all members of the community, that we are completely aware of the problems faced by our schools in the Kingdom and we will spare no effort in resolving these issues."
In a decision that was met with a loud applause from the teaching community, Naeem Khan announced improvement in the salaries of the school staff.
"In my first interaction with the schoolteachers and staff, I had mentioned that if you put in your best efforts, I would ensure that these would be appropriately acknowledged and rewarded," he said. "You are entitled to 4 percent annual increment on your initial basic salary; I have now decided that the annual 4 percent increment would henceforth be based not on your initial basic pay but on your current basic pay."
Earlier, the ambassador presented trophies and prizes to high achievers in various grades. The services of outstanding teachers were also acknowledged.
Prominent among those who were present at the occasion were officials from the Ministry of Education, Embassy's Link Officer Mueen Anwar, Jubail School Principal Khawar Hussain, Vice Principal Pervez Akhtar, Pakistan Forum President Bashir Bhatti, Muhammad Waheed Aslam of KFUPM, former school board chairmen Choudhry Mohammad Siddique and Mohammad Farhat Choudhry and community elder Shahzad Siddiqui.