Pakistanis returning from Bishkek to ‘surpass 4,000’

Dar announces formation of fact-finding body

Our Correspondent May 22, 2024
Dar addresses media on July 11, 2023. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB


Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, who also holds the portfolio of the foreign ministry, on Wednesday said  the number of Pakistani students who escaped Kyrgyzstan following the May 18 mob attacks had exceeded 3,000, and was expected to surpass 4,000 by midnight.

Addressing the media following his recent visit to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, Dar explained that he spoke with the officials in the Central Asian country about the recent mob attacks on international students, including Pakistanis.

On May 18, local mobs broke into foreign students’ housing in the Kyrgyz capital following a May 13 brawl between locals and Egyptian nationals.

The minister expressed his gratitude to his counterpart, Jeenbek Kulubaev, for arranging his immediate flight from Astana, where he attended a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), to Bishkek.

In the Kyrgyz capital, Dar visited the National Hospital and met with Shahzaib, a Pakistani textile worker who had suffered a jaw injury.

In his conversation with the minister, Shahzaib strongly desired to return to Pakistan for further treatment.

On Dar’s request, the Kyrgyz authorities agreed to facilitate his urgent return.

Dar said he had declined the offer to stay overnight in Bishkek because he needed to return to Islamabad and then travel to Tehran for the funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Dar was informed by his counterpart about the Kyrgyz president’s public statement that he would not tolerate any such incidents as foreign students and workers were valuable guests, who contributed to their economy.

The deputy PM added that he urged his Kyrgyz counterpart to take swift action against those responsible for the attacks on Pakistani students.

According to Dar, the intelligence agencies of the Central Asian country had apprehended some individuals responsible for the attacks.

Dar quoted the Kyrgyz president as saying that if a similar incident occurred in the future, he would not hesitate to hold anyone accountable and they would face consequences.

The deputy PM shared an update on the statistics about the repatriation efforts, saying that 3,233 students had returned so far.

Of these, 513 were flown back on Centre-arranged flights, while 290 returned on a special flight arranged by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.

Dar said by Wednesday night, the total number of repatriated students was expected to reach 4,036.

Two flights reached Lahore from Bishkek on Wednesday night.

Flight number KA-571 arrived at 8pm while flight number KA-6571 landed in Lahore at 10pm.

Around 350 students and other passengers returned on both the flights.

In the early hours of the day, a plane carrying Pakistani students from Bishkek landed at the Peshawar airport.

Almost 200 students  returned home on the special flight arranged by the K-P government, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority.

According to a spokesperson for the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national carrier’s four flights were scheduled for Wednesday and more planned in the coming days.

He added that the PIA flights were being operated as per the schedule prepared by the foreign ministry.
The spokesperson said the boarding cards were issued to the students on the flights as per the list provided by the Pakistani embassy.

Read Lessons from the Bishkek attack

He noted that before every flight, several thousand students gathered at the check-in counters at the airport.

“Repatriation of students is the top priority of the PIA, but adopting the prevailing method and maintaining good governance is also very important.”

He requested all the students to contact the Pakistani embassy for information about their flight schedule.

During the news conference, Deputy PM Dar announced the formation of a fact-finding committee to look into the factors leading to the attacks besides evaluating the Pakistani mission’s effectiveness in assisting students and their families during the crisis.

He said the committee would collaborate with the Pakistani mission as well as the Kyrgyz government, and was expected to report its findings within two weeks.

Dar also highlighted the situation of around 1,100 Pakistani workers in Kyrgyzstan who were reportedly in the country illegally.

He added that the Kyrgyz government was taking action against illegal workers and they could be deported.

Dar further said he had requested the Kyrgyz government to regularise the workers, emphasising their contribution to the economy and their law-abiding nature.

"I requested my Kyrgyz counterpart that those 1,100 workers … are law-abiding people and contributing to the economy. [So] instead of deporting [those workers], regularise them.”

The deputy PM expressed his appreciation to his Kyrgyz counterpart, who had pledged to "honour the request", assuring him that he would reach out to the relevant department to pursue the approval for the move.

Several Pakistani students have fled Kyrgyzstan since the May 18 mob riots, with many continuing to return home.
(With input from our correspondent in Lahore and our News Desk in Karachi)




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