ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office claimed 81 Pakistanis have been moved out of Ukraine by the end of the second day of evacuations on Saturday. The 81 evacuees included 21 family members of the embassy staff.
Previously, 35 students had been transferred to Poland by Friday night.
Meanwhile, another 510 Pakistani nationals in Ukraine are on their way to the borders with Poland, Hungary and Romania from where they would be shifted out.
The FO and the country’s mission in Ukraine highlighted their efforts for evacuation of the stranded Pakistanis and uploaded on social media recorded clips of the evacuees appreciating them.
“Please let all the people know about the work the embassy is doing despite all the difficulties… Given all these challenges you will appreciate that we have been able to remain in touch with all these students, we have been able to evacuate them, and a bulk of them are already gone and the remaining are also being evacuated,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to Ukraine retired Maj Gen Noel Israel Khokhar said in a recorded audio clip shared with journalists by the FO.
However, some messages posted on social media criticised the embassy. In one such video, a young woman can be seen saying: “It turns out that the embassy has scammed us. They got a video message from us to maintain their good reputation, and put us on a bus, which dropped us 30-40km from the border. It’s evening here and the border will be closing shortly.”
Another tweet read: “Students left Kharkiv city on their own with no help from the Pakistan embassy.”
The FO, while giving a breakdown of the Pakistanis that were being transported to the border, claimed 79 people had reached the Romanian and Polish borders. Another group of seven was at the border with Hungary. A large group of 307 people was en route to the border with Poland, while three people were headed towards the Romanian border, according to the update till the filing of this report.
Around 104 students from Kharkiv city were travelling to Lviv on a train, while a group of 20 was being moved from Kyiv to Lviv on a bus.
Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, meanwhile, met with Ukraine’s ambassador in Islamabad.
“The foreign secretary shared Pakistan’s perspective on the situation, emphasising the importance of de-escalation, dialogue and diplomacy for a diplomatic solution. He also discussed the safety and security of Pakistanis in Ukraine and the evacuation arrangements,” according to a statement by the FO.
The foreign secretary also met with the ambassadors of Poland and Romania, and the charge d’affaires of Hungary. He thanked Ukraine’s neighbouring countries for their help in evacuation of Pakistanis and requested closer cooperation and coordination for smooth completion of the operation.
AP adds: The families of hundreds of Pakistani students stuck in Ukraine following the Russian invasion are urging their government to help bring them home.
At a media briefing late on Friday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the Pakistani embassy had been temporarily moved from Kyiv to Ternopil on the border with Poland, to facilitate evacuations.
As per media reports, some 1,500 Pakistanis, including 500 students, have been stuck in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on Thursday.
Syed Waqar Abbas, a software engineering student in Kharkiv National University, is among the students waiting for consular help. His family in Karachi on Saturday said they remained worried about his safety.
“My son is in Kharkiv, which is being bombarded. He lives close to the border and that area is very dangerous,” said Shabana Bano Abbas, his mother. She told the Associated Press that her son had no resources to help him get out.
“He has just informed us that a station close to his area has been bombarded -- how will my son get out of that place?” she said, demanding the government help stranded children return.
Abbas’s sister Rubab blamed the Pakistani authorities for being unresponsive. He has been trying to contact the Pakistan embassy for two days but it has not responded to him yet, she alleged.
The Pakistani embassy in Ukraine said in a tweet that it was helping stranded Pakistanis to evacuate, advising them to reach Ternopil so they could be transported to Poland. The national flag carrier, PIA, said it was ready to airlift citizens home from Poland.
Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2022