Another 93 Pakistanis evacuated from Sudan arrive in Islamabad: FO

Published May 1, 2023
A photo collage showing a Radio Pakistan reporter interviewing Pakistanis evacuated from Sudan after they arrived at Islamabad International Airport on May 1. — Radio Pakistan
A photo collage showing a Radio Pakistan reporter interviewing Pakistanis evacuated from Sudan after they arrived at Islamabad International Airport on May 1. — Radio Pakistan
Smoke billows over residential buildings in Khartoum on April 30, 2023 as deadly clashes between rival generals’ forces have entered their third week. — AFP
Smoke billows over residential buildings in Khartoum on April 30, 2023 as deadly clashes between rival generals’ forces have entered their third week. — AFP

Another 93 Pakistani nationals evacuated from Sudan — where clashes and fighting have killed hundreds and left thousands stranded —arrived at the Islamabad International Airport on Monday morning, the Foreign Office (FO) said.

Following their arrival, state-run Radio Pakistan reported that “636 stranded Pakistanis have returned home via Jeddah on five special flights till date”.

It quoted the foreign office as saying that “all of the nearly 1,000 Pakistanis will be evacuated from Sudan in the next 24-48 hours”.

Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Sajjid Hussain Turi and Adviser to Prime Minister Amir Muqam received the Pakistani nationals at the airport, the news agency reported.

Radio Pakistan quoted Turi as saying that the total number of Pakistanis living in Sudan is around 1,200 — including the ones evacuated.

Meanwhile, Muqam said that the government would continue efforts to evacuate the rest of the stranded Pakistanis, adding that it was bearing all the expenses of their evacuation “from Sudan to their homes in Pakistan”.

In a tweet earlier today, the FO thanked the Saudi foreign ministry for facilitating the evacuation process: “We are grateful to the brotherly country of Saudi Arabia for their support and assistance to Pakistanis in distress in this difficult time.”

Late night on Sunday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a statement, saying that 36 Pakistanis had arrived in Jeddah via the Royal Saudi Air Force’s transport plane, and an unspecified number of Pakistanis had also arrived in a ship.

It stated, “The Kingdom worked to provide all the necessary needs for nationals of brotherly and friendly countries in preparation for facilitating their departure to their countries.”

The Saudi foreign ministry noted that it had evacuated a total of about 5,197 people — “184 Saudis and about 5,013 people belonging to 100 nationalities” — since the start of the evacuation process.

UN WFP lifts suspension of operations in Sudan

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ World Food Programme said on Monday it will immediately lift the suspension of its operations in Sudan that was put in place after the tragic deaths of its team member.

“WFP is rapidly resuming our programs to provide the life-saving assistance that many so desperately need right now,” WFP executive director Cindy McCain wrote on Twitter.

The WFP said on April 16 it had temporarily halted all operations in Sudan after three of its employees were killed in clashes between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) a day earlier.

UN sending envoy over ‘unprecedented’ war fallout

The top United Nations humanitarian official is heading to the Sudan region due to the “rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis” in the conflict-racked country, the UN chief said.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ announcement on Sunday came shortly after rival Sudanese forces announced the extension of a truce they have largely violated, as warplanes roared overhead and fighting continued in the capital Khartoum.

The fighting pits the forces of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against his ex-deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a heavily armed paramilitary group.

More than 500 people have been killed and tens of thousands of people have fled since battles erupted on April 15.

“The scale and speed of what is unfolding is unprecedented in Sudan. We are extremely concerned by the immediate as well as long-term impact on all people in Sudan, and the broader region,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Guterres, said in a statement.

He said the UN chief was “immediately” sending Martin Griffiths, his emergency relief coordinator, to the area “in light of the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Sudan”.

The latest widely breached ceasefire was scheduled to formally expire at midnight (10pm GMT), before the rival forces announced an extension of 72 hours, which the Sudanese army said came due to “US and Saudi mediation”.

Witnesses on Sunday evening reported continued clashes as well as fighter jets soaring above various parts of the capital and its twin city Omdurman, across the Nile River.

The civil aviation authority announced Sudan’s airspace would remain closed until May 13, with the exception of aid and evacuation flights.

“There has been very heavy fighting and loud gunfire,” a southern Khartoum resident told AFP earlier in the day.

Further complicating the battlefield, Central Reserve Police, a paramilitary unit, were being deployed across Khartoum to “protect citizens’ properties” from looting, the Sudanese police said, confirming an army statement.

Police said Central Reserve had arrested 316 “rebels”, a reference to the RSF, which did not confirm the information and had previously warned police against joining the fight.

Washington last year sanctioned the Central Reserve for “serious human rights abuses” related to its use of “excessive force” against pro-democracy protests after the October 2021 coup that brought Burhan and Daglo to power.

Daglo’s RSF is descended from the Janjaweed unleashed by former dictator Omar al-Bashir in Sudan’s western Darfur region, leading to war-crime charges against Bashir and others.

‘Situation cannot be sustained’

With projectiles crashing into residential buildings, supplies running short and daily life increasingly untenable for civilians, foreign nations have scrambled to evacuate their nationals by air, road and sea.

But millions of Sudanese are still trapped in the country, where aid workers are among the dead and the UN said humanitarian facilities have been looted, forcing a halt to all of its aid operations.

“We once again urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, allow safe passage for civilians fleeing areas of hostilities, respect humanitarian workers and assets, facilitate relief operations, and respect medical personnel, transport and facilities,” Dujarric said.

A first Red Cross plane brought eight tonnes of humanitarian aid from Jordan to Port Sudan, which is so far untouched by the fighting. The aid included surgical material and medical kits to stabilise 1,500 patients.

On Saturday the health ministry said the violence has wounded around 4,600 people and killed at least 528. Those figures are likely to be incomplete.

The UN World Food Programme has warned the unrest could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where 15 million people already needed aid to stave off famine.

Only 16 per cent of health facilities are functioning in Khartoum, according to the World Health Organization, with many shelled.

“The situation cannot be sustained” as medical supplies run short, warned Majzoub Saad Ibrahim, a doctor in Ad Damar, north of Khartoum.

An envoy of Burhan’s met on Sunday in Riyadh with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, who urged the restoration of calm in Sudan, his ministry said.

Egypt has called an Arab League meeting of its permanent delegates Monday to discuss the situation.

‘Losing a country’

 Sudanese refugees from the Tandelti area shelter under a tree in Koufroun, Chad, near Echbara, on April 30, 2023. — AFP
Sudanese refugees from the Tandelti area shelter under a tree in Koufroun, Chad, near Echbara, on April 30, 2023. — AFP

More than 75,000 people have been internally displaced in Sudan, the UN said, and almost 40,000 have crossed borders, mostly into Chad but also South Sudan and Ethiopia, aid workers said.

Around 6,000 people, most of them women, have fled to neighbouring Central African Republic over the last two weeks, the UN refugee agency told AFP.

More than 5,000 people have escaped to safety on Saudi Arabian ships across the Red Sea from Port Sudan, the kingdom said.

Among them was Badriah al-Sayed, her Omani husband and their son, who joined about 50 other evacuees who reached Jeddah on a Saudi warship Sunday.

Sayed told AFP she was grateful for their safety but could not shake the feeling she was “losing a country”.

Britain said it would operate an additional evacuation flight, from Port Sudan on Monday, after already airlifting more than 2,000 people out of the country from an airport near Khartoum.

Along with battles in the capital, fighting, looting and lawlessness in the long-troubled Darfur region have raised particular international concern. At least 96 people were reported killed in El Geneina, West Darfur, the UN said.

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