Another 134 Pakistanis stranded in war-torn Yemen were brought back to the country on Saturday, taking the number of evacuated citizens to 812.
A Pakistan International Airlines aircraft had gone to Sanaa, the troubled Yemeni capital under the control of Houthi rebels, to bring back 174 stranded Pakistanis. Some families, however, opted to stay back citing different reasons. Two Canadians and two Sudanese were also evacuated to Pakistan.
States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch received the passengers at the Islamabad airport on behalf of the prime minister. He said the remaining Pakistanis would be evacuated in the next two days.
Three special flights, two naval evacuations and one land rescue mission through Oman have brought back the stranded Pakistanis, according to the foreign ministry. Another naval evacuation for around 50 Pakistanis is planned for tomorrow from the Yemeni port city of al Hudeida.
Deputy Ambassador to Yemen Hameed Nauman Qureshi, who was among the evacuated Pakistanis, said the situation in Yemen was grim. He said a list of all Pakistanis in Yemen was prepared and most of them have been evacuated. “The remaining people will be taken home within two or three days while some of them are not willing to return,” he added.
The decision to abruptly shut down the Pakistani Embassy in Yemen has come under severe criticism from the families of those still stuck in Sanaa. Pakistan’s Ambassador to Yemen Dr Irfan Yousuf Shamsi and the entire diplomatic staff had returned last Sunday in a special PIA flight, which brought back over 500 citizens.
Tears of joy
As the flight PK-706 touched down at the Benazir airport on Sunday, the families waiting in the lounge heaved a sigh of relief. The jubilant families were carrying Pakistani flags and warmly welcomed their loved ones amid tears and hugs as they emerged from the arrival tunnel.
The passengers thanked the government and all those who helped in their evacuation from the war-torn country, where a Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes against Houthi rebels last month.
“This is the most painful wait in my life,” cried 70-year-old Rehmanuddin Shinwari, who had come from Landi Kotal to receive his 35-year-old son Imran Khan Shinwari.
The evacuated people recounted terrible scenes from Yemen. Those whose passports have been taken by their employers are in distress and need immediate attention of authorities, they appealed.
“The situation there is critical. There is a severe shortage of water and food and our lives were in danger,” said Muhammad Noman, who hails from Jhelum.
Recalling the horrifying sounds of explosions from missiles fired by jets and canons fired by Houthi tanks, Khalida Rehan said: “I did not believe we will return alive and see our families again. It was like doomsday, as everyone was running for their own safety.”
Sajida, whose son was also among the evacuated people, said she had spent sleepless nights since the war begun in Yemen. “Each day was like a Day of Judgement for me. There was no news from anywhere about my son’s safety,” she said, as she felicitated everyone she came across at the airport.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2015.
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