PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday summoned the relevant officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with records to inform it about Pakistani students stranded in China’s Wuhan city, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the government’s failure to bring them back.

A bench consisting of Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Mohammad Naeem Anwar also ordered the ministries of foreign affairs and national health services to produce reports about steps taken for the homecoming of the stranded students.

It fixed Feb 18 for the next hearing into a petition filed by a Pakistani student enrolled in Wuhan, Ayaz Sikandar Khan, who returned in Jan and moved the court on behalf of 83 other Pakistani students of the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, who are confined to a hostel in Wuhan city.

The petitioner requested the court to direct the government for ensuring the early return of all Wust students.

Senior advocate Muzamil Khan appeared for the petitioner and contended that the Pakistani students stranded in Wuhan city had been passing through miserable conditions and were not permitted to move out of the hostel, where they had been kept.

Summons official of foreign affairs ministry with records on 18th

Muzamil Khan pointed out that while 23 countries had evacuated their citizens from China, Pakistan had decided not to bring its citizens back from there.

Deputy attorney general Ahmad Saleem Khan accepted the notice on behalf of the federal government, including the ministries of foreign affairs and interior.

The bench directed him to ensure the presence of the relevant officer of the ministry of foreign affairs on the next hearing along with the relevant records to inform it about the plight of students and why the government had not been evacuating them from Wuhan.

Muzamil Khan contended that the petitioner was a student of MBBS third year at the WUST and had fallen ill on Jan 14.

He added that after the petitioner contacted his family, a return ticket was sent to him for Jan 15, which was later delayed to Jan 21, and the petitioner returned on Jan 22.

The lawyer said 83 fellow students of the petitioner, belonging to different parts of the country, were confined to the hostel of the WUST and the petitioner was in constant contact with them through social media.

He contended that for the last one week, the stranded students had been confronting the shortage of food and drinking water and they had been making requests through social media as well as private TV channels for early homecoming.

The lawyer said those students had requested the Foreign Office in Islamabad and Pakistani embassy in China in that respect, but to no avail.

He claimed that when none of the stranded students had been affected with the novel coronavirus, then there was no rationale for keeping them stranded in Wuhan city instead of making arrangements for their immediate return.

During the hearing, the bench observed that it was regrettable that the government had left its citizen helpless and didn’t take any steps for their return from the virus-hit Chinese city.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020