RAWALPINDI: Benazir Bhutto International Airport has witnessed many reunions, but few have been more poignant and emotional than the ones witnessed on Friday, when dozens of those who had been stranded in war-torn Yemen returned to their homeland.
Pakistanis trapped in Aden and Sanaa, where fighting is said to have broken out on the streets, were rescued by a Chinese warship and taken to Djibouti, from where they were airlifted to Islamabad on a special flight, PK-7004, that arrived at 2pm.
Aurangzaib, a retired employee of Pakistan Ordnance Factories at Wah, was waiting for his daughter, who had been a teacher at the Pakistan Embassy School in Aden when the fighting broke out.
“I last spoke to my daughter Fiza Zaib before she boarded the Chinese warship. We’d been worried sick about her since the fighting broke out,” he said, adding that despite being a heart patient, his wife had also come to the airport to receive their daughter.
Another schoolteacher – Samia Malik of Wah Cantt – who returned from Aden on Friday said that pitched gunbattles raged on in Aden until two days ago and a curfew had been imposed in the city. “The school I worked at was bombed into the ground and the situation was getting worse by the day,” she told Dawn on her arrival.
Mohammad Aslam, a blacksmith who settled in Sanaa for just over two years ago, said since the government of Pakistan announced support for Saudi Arabia, Pakistanis settled in Yemen had to face strong criticism from locals, who had been quite good to them in the past. The middle-aged Zubair Ahmed, who worked with a petroleum exploration company in Aden for five years, was also reunited with his family in Islamabad.
“Shops were being looted, markets ransacked and weapons caches were being plundered in Aden and there is no one to stop it,” he said, adding that remaining there would have been very, very dangerous.
Mudassir Sheikh, another oil company employee, said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have evacuated all Pakistanis from Yemen before announcing support for Saudi Arabia. “The Yemeni people had always been very nice to us. But after the prime minister’s statement, they were very disappointed and their attitude changed completely,” he said.
Atif Ali, a petroleum engineer who lived in Aden, also echoed these sentiments. “We had been trapped in our house for around a month and our children were terrified by the incessant sound of gunfire,” he said.
Most of those who returned from Yemen were waving Pakistani and Chinese flags as they walked out of the arrival lounge.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2015