KARACHI: While the Foreign Office is bent upon continuing its wait-and-see approach, the situation of thousands of Pakistanis stranded in Libya remains precarious.
Ahsan Mohiuddin, a Network Consulting Engineer in Tripoli, says the situation has become desperate over the last four days, with unannounced curfew hours and food supplies running short.
With a complete communication breakdown, Pakistani nationals are facing great difficulty in getting in touch with their families. Mohiuddin was able to speak to The Express Tribune via Skype after much hardship since authorities jammed all landlines and mobile phone communications.
Mohiuddin claimed that the Pakistani mission was doing nothing for its desperate citizens. In these days of emergency when every other foreign embassies are working round-the -clock to help their citizens evacuate, he says the Pakistani mission has continued to observe its weekly off days on Friday and Saturday.
“Every day many Pakistanis like me have been going to the embassy, but apart from taking down our names on a piece of paper, they tell us nothing about what they are doing to evacuate us,” says Mohiuddin, who was with his Pakistani friend Adnan while speaking to The Express Tribune.
On his last visit to the embassy, he recalled that he had been told that more than 3,000 Pakistanis had registered themselves for immediate evacuation. “But even then it was clear from the body language of officials that no plane was coming from Pakistan anytime soon,” he said.
PIA spokesperson Mashood Tajwar confirmed that no one from the Foreign Office has contacted the airline to send a special flight to Libya. Since PIA does not operate flights to Libya, Tajwar says preparations, which include over flight route permissions and refuelling facilities, would take at least a day in advance. There are around 20,000 Pakistanis in Libya, many of them living in Tripoli. There is a large community of Pakistani jewellers, oil and construction workers.
Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua told this publication that she was in constant touch with the Charge de Affairs Ali Javed who was keeping her updated on the situation. In a statement, the spokesperson said the foreign ministry was closely following developments in Libya and a special task force has been set up to provide assistance to Pakistani expatriates.
However, when Janjua was pressed whether a special flight would be sent, she said the situation was very volatile. “Planes have been unable to land in Tripoli and most countries are evacuating their citizens on ships,” she said.
Mohiuddin, who lives near the Tripoli airport, however rubbished Janjua’s claims. “Even India, which doesn’t enjoy good relations with Libya, has managed to send two special flights,” he said, adding that one of his Indian friends was leaving for home in another flight tonight.
Thousands like Mohiuddin are looking for alternative flights. “The problem with private airlines is that they say they’ll first evacuate passengers belonging to their country of origin,” he says, quipping that maybe once the Indians are through evacuating their citizens, maybe he’ll manage to get a seat on their plane.
Also, although the revolution came and went in Egypt, the special PIA flights supposedly planned for Cairo never took off. Janjua claimed that the Pakistani envoy in the end had asked not to send the flights.
In response to a question about reports circulated in the Arab media alleging involvement of Pakistan’s military in the current developments in Libya, Janjua said the claims were baseless. There are no military personnel stationed in Libya, she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ