Students return home with harrowing tales of survival

Contrary to government claims, students say they paid Rs90,000 to Rs92,000 for travel expenses

Our Correspondent May 20, 2024



Pakistani students returning from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Sunday shared nightmarish accounts of mob attacks, threats, and injuries—both psychological and physical—  lamenting that they felt left out in the cold by indifferent authorities.

Visibly shaken and some sporting bandages, the students arriving at the airport shared their harrowing experiences upon their bittersweet arrival.

The students described hiding in dark rooms for hours on end to evade detection, with little to no support from the Pakistani embassy. It was only through the university administration’s intervention that evacuation flights were eventually arranged.

Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, parents of the returning students revealed that the government provided no financial assistance for the tickets, leaving them to foot the bill for their children's safe return.

Students narrated horrific instances of severe torture at the hands of local mobs, with numerous foreign students suffering injuries amidst the ongoing unrest. The turmoil was sparked by a viral video showing a dispute over dues between locals and some foreigners, believed to be Arabs, which escalated into attacks on student hostels and residences."We sat for hours with the lights off, fearing for our lives," one student shared, visibly emotional and still bearing the scars of his ordeal. "The embassy was unreachable, and it was only through the university's efforts that we managed to get a flight out."

Contrary to government claims, these students asserted they paid between Rs90,000 to Rs92,000 for travel expenses. Many reported being attacked by locals even on their way to the airport.

While grateful for their children's safe return, parents expressed frustration and concern over the government's handling of the situation. "We can't keep sending our children abroad if they aren't safe," one parent said. "The prime minister must ensure these students can continue their education in Pakistan."

The violence has also affected medical students from Pakistan, including those from the Vehari district. Students Zainul Abideen, Dr Bilal, and another female student described over the phone to The Express Tribune how they were confined to their homes and hostels with no food, facing the constant threat of expulsion.

"Local residents are committing horrific acts of violence against foreign students, and neither the police nor university management are helping us," they reported. "We are struggling to survive and are deeply depressed."

Meanwhile, parents are calling on the Pakistani government to take immediate action to protect their children.

"Emergency flights should bring our children back, and steps must be taken to ensure their education continues without disruption," they demanded.At the Allama Iqbal Airport, students and parents alike demanded that the government follow through on its promises and take effective measures. "Our passports are with the university administration. We came to Pakistan through the green channel," said students arriving on the special flight at the airport.

Reunited with their parents, the students recounted their ordeal. They reported receiving no assistance from the Pakistani embassy, forcing them to hide in washrooms for five to eight hours to stay safe.

The students reiterated that the government should fulfil its promises. They revealed that they had paid for their own flights to return home, while many students' passports remain with their university administrations in Kyrgyzstan.


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