Pakistani students flee Kyrgyzstan after mob attacks

Published May 19, 2024
ISLAMABAD: Police stand alert at the gate of Kyrgyz Embassy during a protest against violent incidents in Bishkek, on Saturday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Police stand alert at the gate of Kyrgyz Embassy during a protest against violent incidents in Bishkek, on Saturday.—White Star

• Five Pakistanis injured as ‘local extremist elements’ target hostels, residences of foreign students
• 140 arrive in Lahore; more likely to return today
• Dar, Muqam to leave for Bishkek today as Islamabad demands ‘all possible’ safety measures

ISLAMABAD: After a mob attack left several int­er­national students, inc­luding Pakistanis, injured in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bish­kek, Pakistan on Sat­urday summoned Kyrgyz envoy Melis Moldaliev to the Foreign Office and demanded “all possible measures” for the protection of the students, with the embassy asking them to remain indoors till de-escalation of the situation.

On the other hand, as many as 140 Pakistani students, stuck in Bishkek, arrived in Lahore on Saturday night, according to an interior ministry’s spokesperson.

Interior Minister Moh­sin Naqvi received them at Allama Iqbal Internatio­nal Airport. More students are expected to arrive on Sunday (today).

According to reports reaching here through various sources, videos of a fight between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students on May 13 went viral on Friday, provoking an unruly group of protesters to attack hostels of medical universities where a large number of Pakis­tanis and students from other countries reside. Besides, private residences of foreign students also came under attack.

Unverified social media posts also reported the incidents of mob violence at the hostels housing foreign students in Bishkek, along with the footage and imagery, with many appealing to the relevant authorities to send immediate help. According to the Kyrgyz health ministry, four Pakistanis were provided first aid and discharged while one is under treatment for a jaw injury.

However, reports cited Kyrgyzstan authorities as saying that the situation was under control, but Pakistani students were advised to stay indoors until the situation became completely normal.

 The first batch of Pakistani students arrives at Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, from Bishkek on Saturday night.—Murtaza Ali / White Star
The first batch of Pakistani students arrives at Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, from Bishkek on Saturday night.—Murtaza Ali / White Star

Attack on hostels

Hasan Zaigham, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, posted a video update on X, formerly Twitter, regarding the situation in the Central Asian state. He said “local extremist elements” had attacked six hostels of international students and their private residences last night in Bishkek, injuring 14.

“In view of mob violence around student hostels in Bishkek, the embassy strongly advises all Pakistani students in Bishkek to stay indoors until the situation returns to normal. We are liaising with the local law enforcement authorities to ensure the safety of our student fraternity,” the ambassador said in a post on ‘X’.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch also reposted the envoy’s message and said the embassy was in contact with the Kyrgyz authorities as the safety of the students was of paramount importance for the ambassador and his team.

In a statement, FO said the government had been in contact with Kyrgyz authorities to ensure the safety and security of its nationals at risk in view of the riots.

“The Kyrgyz authorities have expressed regret at the incidents of violence against foreign nationals, including Pakistanis in Bishkek last night. They have also pledged to hold an inquiry and punish the perpetrators”, it said.

“The government of Pakistan takes the matter of the safety and security of its national around the world very seriously and will take all necessary measures to ensure their wellbeing. The deputy prime minister and foreign minister [Ishaq Dar] has directed the Foreign Office to monitor the situation round-the-clock and fully assist and facilitate Pakistani nationals.”

PM Shehbaz concerned

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while expressing concern over the violence in Bishkek, directed Ambassador Zaigham to provide all necessary support to the Pakistani students.

The PM asked him to visit the hostels of Pakistani students and meet them, said a PM Office’s statement.

The envoy informed the premier that the students were “safe” and those injured in the violence were being assisted by the Pakistani embassy. He also directed that immediate arrangements should be made for those injured Pakistani students who wanted to return to Pakistan.

The government would bear all the expenses in this regard, he said, adding that he was monitoring the situation himself.

“Deeply concerned over the situation of Pakistani students in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I have directed Pakistan’s ambassador to provide all necessary help and assistance,” the prime minister had tweeted.

Separately, the PM has also asked Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar to visit Bishkek along with Kashmir Affairs Minister Amir Muqam on a special flight.

They will depart for Bishkek in the morning to meet senior government officials and ensure medical facilities for the injured students. They will also review matters related to the repatriation of Pakistani students.

Zulqernain Tahir in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2024

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