More than 500 Pakistani students return from Bishkek

Students say they reached Lahore on their own and govt did not extend any support in this regard

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Web Desk
This still of the affected Pakistani students being received by Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi in Lahore is taken from a video posted on a social media platform on May 19, 2024. —X/@Incognito_qfs
  • Ata Tarar receives students coming from Kyrgyzstan.
  • Number of students arriving in Pakistan reaches 475.
  • Information minister says students are traumatised. 

LAHORE: As many as 540 Pakistani students, who were stranded in Bishkek amid mob attacks, arrived in the country after a special flight carrying the third batch landed in Lahore on late Sunday night. 

Information Minister Ataullah Tarar and a raft of students’ relatives were present at the Allama Iqbal International Airport to receive the 170 students coming from Kyrgyzstan. 

Around 130 students landed in the country in a special plane on Saturday night and 175 others on Sunday.

Addressing media persons at the airport, Tarar said the students were traumatised, so he comforted them.

“On the order of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, we have made arrangements to escort the students to their houses. Arrangements have been made for four students belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well,” he said.

The minister said the government was continuously in contact with the Kyrgyz government, adding that they would talk to improve security of the students studying there. 

Students' lives 'at risk'

Talking to Geo News, a student Mohammad Noor Wazir on Sunday said situation in Bishkek was not under control and his and other students’ lives were at risk. 

“I should be provided safe passage from hostel to the airport,” he demanded from the authorities.

Another student, Danish Khattak, said the place was not even 1% safe as they could not step out of their room. “Neither the university management nor ambassador came to our assistance. We appeal the government of Pakistan to help us,” he said.

Meanwhile, talking to media persons at the airport, students said they reached Lahore on their own and the government did not extend any support in this regard.

Govt 'helping' students, 'situation under control'

On the other hand, the information minister, while speaking during a presser on Sunday, claimed the government was helping the students who wanted to come back.

Whereas, Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar Ishaq Dar said fake news was being spread on social media about casualties. He said his Kyrgyz counterpart said their opposition was running campaigns against international students as they opposed the Kyrgyz government's policy.

Dar said that he was going to Bishkek, however, the Kyrgyz FM told him not to come as he assured that the situation was under control. Not a single student had been killed, he added.

The minister said that about 11,000 students were in Bishkek while 6,000 others were in different cities.

Emergency helpline numbers

A day earlier, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also activated its Crisis Management Unit on the instruction and issued emergency helpline numbers for Pakistani students.

Pakistani nationals in the Kyrgyz Republic and their families may contact the unit at 051-9203108 and 051-9203094.

The CMU may also be contacted via email at: [email protected].

The Pakistani embassy in Bishkek provided the following contact numbers for students to get in touch regarding any emergency situation:

+996555554476, +996507567667, +996550730550 and +996501140874

In a statement on her X handle, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zehra Baloch said the Pakistan embassy has opened emergency helplines and is responding to queries of students and their families.

What happened in Bishkek?

Mohammad Abdullah, a Pakistani medical student in Bishkek, told Geo News that the dispute began over the harassment of Egyptian students by those from Kyrgyztan. The riots, however, broke out after Egyptian students confronted them, he added.

Abdullah mentioned that the Kyrgyz students then began attacking foreign students, including Pakistani students, across Bishkek.

Students have also complained about non-cooperation of Pakistan embassy in the midst of the violence unfolding in the capital city.

According to local media in Kyrgyzstan, a fight between local and foreign students broke out in a hostel in the capital city on May 13. At least three foreigners, involved in the dispute, were taken into custody.

On the evening of May 17, the local media reported, locals protested in Bishkek, demanding action against the foreigners involved in the dispute.

The chief of Bishkek's Interior Affairs Directorate requested to end the protest, while the detained foreigners also apologised later. The Kyrgyz media reported that the protesters refused to disperse, instead more people gathered at the spot after which the authorities detained several of them for violating public order.

As per local media, the protesters dispersed after negotiations with the head of federal police.