As the governments of Syria and Jordan attempt to appease protestors demanding reforms, embassy officials say there is no serious threat to the Pakistani communities in these countries.
In Syria, over 30 people were killed during clashes in Daraa and Latakia last week. According to Al Jazeera English, demonstrators said 150 people were killed. Protests have reportedly taken place in the capital Damascus and in Hama (where the late President Hafezal Assad’s regime killed thousands to quell a revolt), Homs and Aleppo.
In the Jordanian capital of Amman, one person was killed and over a 100 injured when pro-reforms and anti-reforms groups clashed near the interior ministry last week.
However, there have been no moves by countries to evacuate their citizens from Syria or Jordan, which are also key tourist destinations.
At least 8,000 to 10,000 Pakistanis live in Jordan, who migrated to the country in the 1960s and 1970s. They mostly work in the agricultural sector in the north-west of the country.
Syria, where a number of Pakistanis travel to every year for religious pilgrimage, is also home to hundreds of Pakistanis. According to an official at the Pakistani embassy in Damascus, 600 to 700 Pakistanis live in Syria. He said most Pakistanis, including families, businessmen and students, live in the capital but there is a minimal presence in cities such as Homs and Latakia.
“There are no reports of Pakistanis being affected by the protests, and we have not received any requests for repatriation,” he said.
According to Irfanullah Khan Mohmand, the third secretary and head of chancery at the Pakistani embassy in Amman, there is no serious threat to Pakistanis living in Jordan. “We have been monitoring the situation since (the events in) Tunisia and Egypt,” he said. “The embassy is also starting a fresh process of registration, and we have contacted Pakistanis in the country to submit their information and pictures and asked them to keep in touch with the embassy. The protests in Amman are scattered and only a small number of people have been involved. It has had no serious repercussions and life is continuing as normal.”
Pakistanis living in Libya and Bahrain criticised the embassies for not protecting them from the violence that ensued after protests.
Embassy officials told The Express Tribune that the Syrian and Jordanian governments have not issued any advisory messages to expatriates as yet.
Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said the FO was in touch with the embassies. When asked if the embassies were equipped to evacuate citizens if the situation so demanded, Janjua said the FO was “absolutely assured” about the embassies but did not foresee evacuation as a possibility. “We have over three million people in the region, who are settled there,” she said. “We should not even be talking of evacuation right now.”
Jordanians and Syrians are generally very welcoming to Pakistanis, courtesy the long-standing relationship between the governments and in Jordan’s case, familial ties.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2011.