Violence in Bishkek

Violence in Bishkek

May 19, 2024


Bishkek is a theatre of violence and vandalism as foreign students are in the eye of the storm. Reports of Pakistani students being attacked and maimed are worrisome, and hints at unrest on a broader scale in the Central Asian state. Kyrgyzstan is home to more than 12,000 Pakistani students, mostly pursuing their doctorate in medicine, and a large number of them are based in the capital, Bishkek. Though social media is the only source of dissemination from the battle-zones of hostels and universities, there are also some independent reports that Pakistani students are in rough waters with a few casualties too.

The brawl incidentally was between Egyptian students and the locals, and had been brewing on the campuses for a week or so. It flared up on Friday night as summary assaults were carried out on all the foreign students. The roughing has led to injuries and mass scale turbulence, and the local students had the audacity to live-stream it too. Apart from Egyptians who are on the receiving end, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian students are on the edges, desperate for succour and evacuation.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office, after setting up necessary liaison with authorities in Bishkek, have called upon the students to remain indoors till the volatility subsides. But media postings from the students indicate a state of exigency, and they are in need of immediate security. Same is the case with other foreign students, as the situation is fluid and there is no real-time information on what is going on. Video clips emanating from the restive campuses are full of brutality, and it seems the locals are on a warpath. Apparently, it is a free-for-all as a case of mistaken identity.

The least that is desired is to rescue the students, and also ensure that future prospects of completing their degree programmes are not compromised. Pakistani students struggle to make ends meet, and manage to get admission after digging deep into their pockets. The Kyrgyzstan government must assure that this chaos is addressed on a war-footing basis, and none are on the brink.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2024.

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