A MAN greets a student who returned from Kyrgyzstan at the Islamabad International Airport, on Sunday.—Dawn
A MAN greets a student who returned from Kyrgyzstan at the Islamabad International Airport, on Sunday.—Dawn

• FM Dar says situation in Bishkek under control, attacks result of a ‘misunderstanding’
• Students say all is not well, hundreds trapped

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: As over 350 Pakistani students landed in Lahore and Islamabad due to security concerns in Bishkek, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar — who put off his trip to Kyrgyzstan — downplayed the mob violence in the Central Asian state, saying the situation in Bishkek was normal and there was no need to panic.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the Pakistani envoy to ensure all possible arrangements for the return of “injured students” as well as those residing with their families despite the “return of normalcy” in Kyrgyzstan.

Two of the three expected special flights landed at the Islamabad and Lahore airports on Sunday night, with 180 students on board each plane. The third plane was also expected to land later in the night.

At the Islamabad airport, the students who arrived via the KA 4575 flight, which landed at 7:45pm, were welcomed by federal minister Musadik Malik; in Lahore, the students were greeted by Information Minister Attaullah Tarar as the KA 6571 flight reached the airport at 8:15pm. The families, present at the airport to receive their loved ones, were jubilant upon the safe return of the students.

The Civil Aviation Authority had set up an immigration desk and provided transport to the students on arrival. As per the instructions of the PM, the federal government will bear the expenses for these special flights.

Dar’s presser

In a press conference in the provincial capital, FM Dar blamed the rumours about the death of Pakistani students on social media and a “certain” political party. “No Pakistani student died in Bishkek mob violence,” he told a press conference here on Sunday.

According to Ishaq Dar, 16 foreign students, including “four or five” Pakistanis, were injured in the violence. The foreign minister said his Kyrgyz counterpart assured him that the situation was under control, which was also confirmed by the Pakistani embassy.

FM Dar said that the government would cover the expenses of Pakistani students wishing to return home as 540 students would take three flights to return on Sunday. He said as many as 11,000 Pakistani students were studying in Bishkek, and those returning would be fully facilitated.

He also urged the students to trust the Kyrgyz authorities and advised that those desiring to leave Kyrgyzstan should register with the embassy. He said that the Kyrgyz foreign minister had repeatedly assured that there was no need to panic and that those involved in the incidents were being arrested and penalised.

He quoted the Kyrgyz foreign minister as saying that the incident in Bishkek was due to a “misunderstanding”.

Earlier, the prime minister contacted Pakistan Ambassador Hassan Zaigham in Kyrgyzstan and directed him to make necessary arrangements for a special flight to Bishkek to bring back Pakistani students Sunday evening.

The PM emphasised that the return of injured students should be a top priority, as well as those whose families were residing with them in Kyrgyzstan. Pakistan’s envoy in Bishkek quoted the local authorities as saying that no new incident of violence took place in the last two days and all foreign students, including Pakistanis, were safe.

President concerned over violence

Meanwhile, the President’s House also contacted the ambassador in Kyrgyzstan expressing concern over the violent situation in the country.

It stressed the need to take immediate measures to protect Pakistani students in Bishkek besides providing a conducive environment for Pakistani students to continue their education.

The ambassador in Bishkek informed the Presidency that the security situation of the Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan was “improving”.

He said the embassy was in close contact with the Kyrgyz authorities and was taking measures to ensure the security of the students.

At Lahore airport, the returning students were welcomed by Information Minister Atta Tarar who said that the situation in Kyrgyzstan was under control. Like FM Dar, he also claimed that some people had indulged in propaganda over the incident.

Students say all’s not well

On the other hand, media reports quoted students that the embassy was not providing any help and that the situation in Bishkek was still bad. They said that the foreign students were attacked by Kyrgyz students and locals, adding that they were not even safe on the roads.

“Foreign students locked themselves in their hostel rooms but the Kyrgyz students broke in and tortured them,” they said, adding that hundreds of students were still trapped in their colleges and universities and the government should take measures to bring them back.

Balochistan students ‘ignored’

In Balochistan, Sajid Hussain, an educationist, visited the Quetta Press Club and claimed that the government had taken no steps to bring back at least 300 students from Balochistan stranded in Bishkek.

“Over 300 students from Balochistan are also studying in Kyrgyzstan but they have not been brought back,” Mr Hussain said, adding that his son and daughter were also studying at the Asian International Univer­sity in Kyrgyzstan along with five other students enrolled there.

“I am in contact with my children,” he said, adding that no steps had been taken for the return of Balochistan-based students.

He calimed that the federal government was repatriating students from other provinces, and that parents of students from Balochistan were being asked to pay Rs100,000 for each student.

He appealed to Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfaraz Bugti, Governor Jaffar Khan Mandokhail and Education Minister Rahila Durrani to take notice of the situation and make special arrangements for the province’s students.

Separately, the CM Bugti has reportedly established a special desk in this regard.

“To reach the students, the foreign ministry is in contact with the embassy of Kyrgyzstan,” the CM said, assuring “every possible assistance” for the students.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta, Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi and Amjad Mahmood in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2024



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