ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have hit $13 billion, the highest in the last three years, the country’s prime minister announced on Tuesday.

The country’s current account surplus rose further to $447 million in November, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter.

“Masha Allah [As Allah wishes] despite COVID-19 great news on economy – remarkable turnaround. Current account surplus again in Nov: $447 mn. For fiscal year so far, surplus is $1.6 bn as opposed to deficit of $1.7bn same period last yr,” Khan said.

Last week, Khan said the country’s remittances continued to grow as Pakistan received above $2 billion in November for a record 6th consecutive month.

According to the country’s central bank, the remittances rose to $2.34 billion, up 2.4% over the previous month and 28.4% against November 2019.

The country’s foreign remittances have grown despite many Pakistanis having left Saudi Arabia last year due to increased work permit fee and introduction of new taxes on foreigners in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, where 1.9 million Pakistanis reside, tops the list of countries from where the highest amount of remittances were sent to Pakistan — over $4.5 billion annually — followed by UAE with over $3.47 billion, according to Pakistan’s central bank.

Both the Arab countries jointly host over three million Pakistanis.

Khan’s government claimed last week that nearly one million workers were sent overseas in past two years for work.

Last month, the UAE stopped issuing new visas to citizens of 13 mostly Muslim countries including Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, and Iran.

Many believe it is part of UAE’s plan to put pressure on Islamabad to recognize Israel. However, on Monday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he had made it clear to the UAE during his recent visit to Dubai that Islamabad cannot recognize Israel until a “concrete and permanent settlement” of the Palestinian issue is found.

For his part, the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the decision to suspend the issuance of visas to Pakistani citizens was taken due to the pandemic and that the restrictions are “temporary.”

The UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco have recently established diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. Some other Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, are also weighing options to normalize relations.

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