Another 347 Pakistani students return home from Bishkek as evacuations underway

Five flights have evacuated over 810 students from Central Asian state so far

Asif Bashir Chaudhary
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Attaullah Tarar greets the students returning from Bishkek at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, on May 19, 2024. —X/PTVNewsOfficial

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistani students continue to return home in batches from Bishkek following mob attacks on foreign nationals, 347 more pupils reached Islamabad on Tuesday.

A group of about 167 students on board the first flight of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) arrived in the federal cabinet from the Kyrgyz capital in the morning. While, flight of a private airline brought a batch of 180 other students at 5:26am.

Over 800 students have been evacuated so far.

More than 300 Pakistanis Monday returned from Bishkek, landing in Islamabad and Lahore on separate flights.

Mob attacks erupted in Bishkek, targeting a number of Pakistani and other foreign students last Friday, which resulted in injuries to at least five Pakistani students.

As per Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, about 11,000 students were in Bishkek while 6,000 others were in different cities.

The situation in the Kyrgyz capital, according to the students stuck there, became out of control as they feared for their lives and demanded immediate evacuation, but the government downplayed the unrest in the Central Asian state.

Kyrgyz FM assures to facilitate repatriation of students 

On the sidelines of SCO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting in Astana, Dar met Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubaev on Monday.

The meeting focused on the recent developments in Bishkek and the welfare of Pakistani nationals there. Dar underlined that Pakistan’s main concern was the security and well-being of its nationals, especially the students who were primarily affected by the violent incidents.

He also requested the Kyrgyz foreign minister for holding to account those responsible for the attacks on Pakistani students.

FM Kulubaev assured the deputy prime minister about the safety and security of Pakistani nationals and full facilitation for safe repatriation of students who wished to return to Pakistan.

Students return 'on their own'

Earlier, over 350 Pakistani students landed in Lahore and Islamabad in separate flights, from Bishkek on Sunday night, with 180 passengers on board each plane.

The students had expressed concerns about their security and lack of support from the government while they were still stranded in Bishkek.

They said they reached Lahore on their own, contrary to the information minister, who claimed that the government was helping the students who wanted to come back.

The government said that arrangements like emergency helplines and Crisis Management Unit (CMU) had been set up. 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].

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

+996555554476, +996507567667, +996550730550 and +996501140874

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.