ISLAMABAD: Over 40 Pakistanis have been stranded in north-western China as landslides blocked the main highway linking the two neighbouring countries.
The Foreign Office said on Saturday the stranded families were safe while efforts were under way to bring them back.
“Our embassy in Beijing and the Chinese government are constantly in touch with our people who are stranded there,” Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria told The Express Tribune on Saturday, adding that the stranded people were “safe and sound and are currently staying at a hotel in Tashkurgan.”
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He added that Islamabad had received word on Friday that between 40 and 45 Pakistanis were stranded in Tashkurgan, a town situated between Xinjiang’s administrative centre of Kashgar and the Khujerab border crossing.
The families were supposed to fly back to Pakistan via a Rayyan Air flight, but bad weather meant planes were not an option. Attempts to travel by land also proved futile as landslides caused by torrential rains blocked their path south towards the Khujerab border crossing or north towards Kashgar, isolating them in Tashkurgan.
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Zakria said the Foreign Office has requested the Chinese government for assistance and were exploring different means to bring them back despite the poor means of communication. But, he said, the Chinese government has warned of difficulties in pursuing the land route due to landslides.
He added that at least two officials from the Pakistan embassy were travelling to Tashkurgan for the repatriation of the stranded Pakistanis. “The only flight available from Beijing to Kashgar, which does not fly daily, is six hours long and then there is a further drive of up to seven hours to Tashkurgan,” he added.
Sarfraz Bacha, one of the stranded Pakistanis, told a private television that their visas were about to expire but they were stuck in the area. He added that most of the stranded families hail from different areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa while one belongs to Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2016.