KARACHI: A PIA aircraft safely brought to Karachi on Sunday night 502 Pakistanis and a senior diplomat from the war-torn Yemeni city of Hodeida. The Boeing 747 Jumbo also carried a pet cat owned by a female passenger, a source in the national flag-carrier said.
Cries, sighs and jubilation ran on the anxious faces of dozens of families waiting for hours outside the international arrival lounge of the Jinnah Terminal when they saw the status about the much-awaited plane blaring as ‘Landed’.
Every family had a story to tell, but they had a uniformly happy climax when they saw passengers coming out of the arrival lounge one by one.
However, the families were annoyed at a raucous group of PML-N workers whose sloganeering and occupation of all gates denied them the ultimate happiness by getting the first sight of their beloved ones coming out.
“Why are they politicising such a purely humanitarian matter?” asked Khurram who was hugged by his minor daughter waiting for his mother-in-law coming from Yemeni capital Sanaa.
“Their aggressive attitude shows they want to get our votes for saving our loved ones,” he said bitterly.
Katherine, 55, was waiting for her 28-year-old daughter Nida Andleeb, 28, and son Sunil, 27, who worked as nurses in a hospital in Sanaa.
“We have talked to them all the time till they boarded the plane. We even heard the sound of explosions as loudly as it was happening right here,” she said.
Imran Victor, husband of Andleeb and himself a male nurse in Sanaa till six months earlier, said he returned to Karachi because of some domestic problems, but now he was hugely worried about his wife and brother-in-law because of Saudi strikes on Yemen.
He said that reaching Hodeida from Sanaa was possible through a difficult five-hour mountainous track and the journey was even difficult when the security situation was so fragile.
“But, they made it,” he smiled.
Nafeesa, a resident of Korangi, said her husband Abdul Aleem was a boiler operator at an oil installation in Yemen and the security conditions in the Arab country had worried her a great deal.
The airport was full of television cameras and journalists that virtually outnumbered security officials and even the families.
The families were also not happy by the forced tactic of employees of the PIA’s Air League, an affiliate of the ruling PML-N, as they had been asked to hold large banners inscribed with slogans thanking the prime minister and the PIA administration for getting their relatives back home.
PIA officials said 150 of the 502 passengers belonged to Karachi and other cities of Sindh. The rest would be taken by another plane to Lahore and then Islamabad.
A PIA spokesman said another aircraft was ready to leave for Yemen to bring back more stranded Pakistanis.
The officials said they got confirmation of 100 more Pakistanis reaching Hodeida from Sanaa. Another flight will be on its way on Monday morning to lift the rest of Pakistanis from the southern Yemeni city.
The officials said the aircraft had been available since Saturday but could not take off for Yemen for want of permission from the Foreign Office in Islamabad. Besides, they said, around 200 Pakistanis were stranded in Aden city where airport was not accessible, but the city’s port was free.
They said a Pakistan Navy frigate left Karachi on Sunday morning for the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden to take part in the evacuation operation.
A navy statement said the ship would be readily available in the Gulf of Aden to respond to any situation according to the national requirements.
It said the naval forces, because of their inherent attributes of rapid mobilisation, reach and their endurance coupled with sealift capability “are extremely useful in the humanitarian assistance/evacuation operations”.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2015