A Pakistani convoy has reached Hudaidah safely which was earlier allowed to leave Sanaa, hours after it was stopped at check-post attempting to flee the conflict in Yemen, Express News reported on Sunday.
The convoy, consisting of 15 buses, had left Sanaa for Hudaidah.
According to unofficial estimates, 600 Pakistanis are stranded in the besieged Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Pakistan’s foreign ministry officials say around 2,145 Pakistanis are currently living in Yemen.
Earlier, a Pakistan International Airlines spokesperson said an aircraft will depart to Yemen on Sunday to evacuate stranded Pakistanis in the war-torn country.
“The first flight of PIA will depart to Yemen tomorrow to bring back Pakistanis,” a PIA spokesperson said, according to Radio Pakistan.
A convoy of 12 buses would transport 500 people to the western port city of Hudaidah.
Earlier in the day, on the directions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a comprehensive plan was devised for the evacuation of Pakistanis stranded in Yemen.
Pakistan International Airlines has arranged two airplanes which are ready for departure as soon as they receive clearance from aviation authorities and the Embassy of Pakistan in Sanaa.
As state system is collapsing in the war-torn country, most airports are no more functional, because of which some families would also be safely taken, in the form of convoys, to Yemen’s neighbouring countries and airlifted to Pakistan from there.
The premier further directed all concerned departments to take all possible measures for ensuring safety of each and every member of the Pakistani community living in Yemen.
The Prime Minister is himself monitoring the situation and has asked to be kept updated on an hourly basis.
Earlier, the Foreign Office said every effort is being made for the safe evacuation of Pakistanis from Yemen, as the second day of Saudi-led airstrikes in the area continues.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasneen Aslam said Pakistan accelerated its efforts to get together all the stranded Pakistanis at one place for their safe evacuation.
“We are also in contact with all neighbouring countries of Yemen for evacuation of Pakistanis there without visa by any safe means,” she added.
Taking to social networking site Twitter, Aslam said evacuation of Pakistani citizens is a priority but airports in Yemen are closed and the ground routes are not safe.
However, all possibilities are being reviewed in order to ensure safe exit of Pakistanis.
“We are in contact with them for possible joint movement of people in convoys under security.”
Aslam further said, Pakistan is in contact with the neighboring countries of Yemen for evacuation of Pakistanis there without visa by any ‘safe means’.
Further, the prime minister’s top aide Sartaj Aziz said, “Withdrawal of Pakistanis from Yemen will begin in next 24 hours.”
Aziz further said, there are around 3,000 Pakistanis currently in Yemen.
An account officer at a Pakistani school in Sanaa, Waheed Rehman speaking to Express News said, “People have started gathering at the school.”
“The Pakistan embassy has started devising a plan for the evacuation,” he added.
Crisis Management Cell
A Crisis Management Cell (CMC) has been established in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate arrangements for evacuation. The foreign ministry has issued the following contact details:
On Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the immediate evacuation of stranded Pakistanis from Yemen.
The decision was taken following air strikes carried out by Saudi Arabia on Wednesday against Huthi rebels in Yemen.
The prime minister instructed the relevant authorities that steps should be taken on war footing for the safety and early return of Pakistanis stranded in Yemen.
Local media reported that among the Pakistanis in Yemen “half of them are in a state of uncertainty and fear”.
“We, Pakistanis, are very nervous. We have been surrounded by Houthi rebels. We appeal to our government to evacuate us, please,” Rehan Ali, a Pakistani national, told a news channel in Pakistan. Ali also complained that the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Sanaa has yet to start evacuating the stranded Pakistanis.
Pakistan has not made a decision on whether to commit military support to a Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told lawmakers on Friday, while pledging to defend the oil-rich kingdom against any threat to its sovereignty.
“We have made no decision to participate in this war. We didn’t make any promise. We have not promised any military support to the Saudi-led coalition against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen,” he said while speaking in the National Assembly.
Ready and awaiting clearance: PM’s aviation adviser
The premier’s aviation adviser Shujaat Azeem said on Saturday authorities are desperately trying to devise a plan for the safe evacuation of Pakistanis stranded in Yemen.
The government has designated at least two aircraft for this purpose but diplomats are still sorting out a way to take out expatriates from the war-torn city of Sanaa.
“Our Foreign Office is on it,” he said. “But problem is that planes can land in Hudaidah, which is a three to four hour drive away from Sanaa. This part needs to be figured out.”
The aircraft will take off as soon as authorities give the go ahead, he added.
The aviation adviser further said the security of planes and passengers is another issue. It is very unlikely that fighter jets could assist the passenger aircraft in this case.
However, Azeem expressed hope that security forces in Yemen would ensure evacuation remains safe. “Security is a paramount concern,” he upheld.
PIA performed a similar operation to rescue Pakistanis who were caught up in civil strife in Libya last year.
The airline then had used its Boeing 747s and Airbus 310s to evacuate around 3000 expats in three separate sorties, officials said.
But the operation is not as simple as it appears. Diplomats have to convince all sides to allow neutral country’s people a safe passage.
“Since government machinery isn’t working in Yemen, maybe our embassy will seek help from United Nations on this matter,” said an official who was involved in the Libyan evacuation plan.
The aircraft have to land, board all the passengers and fly out within a given time period, he said. “That’s why its important we have all passengers ready on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz contacted the Pakistan Embassy in Yemen and directed the ambassador to take all measures possible to ensure safety and security of each member of the Pakistani community till their evacuation from the war-torn country.
‘About 1,000 Pakistanis willing to return’
Foreign Office Spokesperson Aizaz Chaudhary has said that over 3,000 Pakistanis are living in Yemen, and at present, about 1,000 of them were willing to return to Pakistan.
“We have sent a message that all Pakistanis living in different cities and districts can reach Hudaidah to be safely evacuated,” he said while addressing a press briefing in Islamabad on Saturday night.
Chaudhary informed that Defence Minister Khawaja Asif spoke to his Saudi counterpart, asking for an exemption from the no-fly zone in the war-torn country such that the planes carrying Pakistanis could reach home safely.