Egypt protests: No rescue mission for Pakistanis ‘for now’

Two flights scheduled to fly to Cairo today cancelled after Foreign Office denies clearance.

Salman Siddiqui February 04, 2011


Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) reversed its decision to send two special flights to Cairo to evacuate Pakistani nationals stranded in strife-torn Egypt on Thursday, hours after making the announcement.

Spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar told The Express Tribune that two aircraft of the national carrier – the Boeing-747 that can lift 460 passengers and the Airbus-310 with 205 seat capacity – had been scheduled to leave for Cairo in accordance with the directions of the government of Pakistan.

“However, we were told to postpone the mission,” he said, adding that whenever the government requests the airline again, the flights would be sent.

A senior airline official, on condition of anonymity, said that the decision was reversed when the Pakistani mission in Cairo informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it hadn’t completed preparations on its end to evacuate the trapped Pakistani nationals in the country.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Cairo Seema Naqvi confirmed to The Express Tribune that no special flights would be landing in Egypt to evacuate Pakistanis “for the time being.”

She said the reason why the flights were postponed was “a question of timing” and not lack of preparations on its end. “The flights were expected to arrive late in the night today and another tomorrow afternoon, both of which would have been during curfew hours,” she said, adding that these days in Cairo, curfew hours were being changed randomly and it would be very difficult for Pakistanis wishing to leave the city to reach the airport.

She said any flight which would have landed on Friday would have been pointless since a massive demonstration against President Mubarak was expected and any movement through the city would be highly dangerous.

The ambassador, whose residence is close to Tahrir Square where the violent protests are taking place, says about 150 Pakistani families are in Egypt. “Many who wished to leave have left already, but there are more who are still here,” she said, adding that most of the Pakistanis who live in Cairo live in the suburbs far away from the chaos and there were no reports of anyone suffering any harm as yet.

“Thank God today the internet is back on and Pakistani nationals are now able to reach us,” she said.

She said the Egyptian authorities were cooperating in facilitating any requests from Pakistan to repatriate its citizens. Naqvi’s current assessment was that it was still quite livable in Cairo for the moment since a crisis over food and other basic necessities had not begun. But she said she would be watching closely how the situation unfolds tomorrow and if worse comes to worse immediate evacuation would be planned accordingly.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2011.


Tasneem Agha | 10 years ago | Reply @Revolution What Govt.? there is none in Pakistan.Even if there is so called Govt. there is no governance. It is matter of time only. Will get there soon.
bvindh | 10 years ago | Reply @Bilal Javed, " i dont know why u indians come to pakistani news sites" --I agree. You really dont know.
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