Seeking refuge in Pakistan

Published: June 19, 2010
Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan. PHOTO: REUTERS

DERA GHAZI KHAN: Six families have reached DG Khan from war-torn Kyrgyzstan.

Aziza Bibi, Dr Wasim Changwani’s wife, came to Pakistan with her husband from Kyrgyzstan and has said that she is happy that she has come to her husband’s country. Aziza Bibi said that she and her husband had not faced any difficulties during their travel from Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and then to Dera Ghazi Khan. “I am happy to be with my husband wherever he is. If he chooses to stay on in Pakistan, I would like to make our home here,” she said. Dr Wasim Changwani had been living in Kyrgyzstan for the past 13 years and has three children. He left for Kyrgyzstan in 1997 and later on completed his MBBS degree and specialisation there. “After I got married and found a job, I settled there,” he said.

His younger son Saeed Akbar Khan (6) is still in a refugee camp in Uzbekistan. He demanded that the Pakistan government ensure the safe return of his son as soon as possible. His two other children Usman (2) and Waheed (4) have travelled to Pakistan with him. At the airport, the couple received a warm welcome from their families and is now trying to settle in DG Khan.

Dr Wasim’s brother, Tariq Khan, said that they were happy that Wasim and his family had returned home. He said that the killing of Ali Raza had saddened them all and they shared his family’s grief.

The people returning from Kyrgyzstan face a major problem with regards to their travel documents. “Most of the families coming from Kyrgyzstan do not have proper documentation, some don’t have any documents and the visa’s they have been issued were only for three days, they will expire on June 19,” said Tariq Khan.

The three-day visas given to the families of Pakistanis who have a Kyrgyz nationality by the FIA will mean that most of the families will be declared illegal immigrants by June 19th. “I was told to contact the Dera Ghazi Khan Passport office to extend my wife and sons’ visas, and to apply for immigration but the office has directed me to the Islamabad high office,” said Dr Changwani. “This means that within a day my family will be illegal immigrants and this might cause problems for us,” he said.

A medical student, Adnan Abbas, who also returned from Kyrgyzstan told The Express Tribune the violence in Kyrgyzstan had forced him to disrupt his studies. He asked that the Punjab government allow a migration system along the lines of that in Sindh so that he could be settled in the area. Abbas asked that he be given admission in a medical college in Pakistan and exempted from taking the PMDC test. “The PMDC test is a requirement here, but I was already enrolled as a medical student in Kyrgyzstan. The schooling system there is different from the one here; I will just waste more time if I have to take this test,” he said.

Several students who have returned from Kyrgyzstan said that the government should help them complete their documents through a one-window system.

Wahid Buksh said that the government should ensure that if they were to go to Islamabad for their documents that they would not be sent to the Kyrgyzstan embassy as well. “The immigration status is a major problem, since DG Khan doesn’t allow foreigners because of sensitive Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission operations in the area,” said Shabir Baloch, a student.

The families expressed the hope that the government will help them in sorting out the immigration status while thanking the Pakistan government and the Foreign Office for rescuing them.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2010.

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