Govt offers free travel facility for Pakistani students after Bishkek mob attacks

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Govt offers free travel facility for Pakistani students after Bishkek mob attacks

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the federal government will bear all travel expenses of stranded Pakistani students who wanted to return to the country as foreign pupils faced mob violence in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek.

At least five Pakistani students were injured in the violent attacks triggered by a brawl between locals and Egyptian nationals on May 13.

Pakistan’s embassy in Bishkek rebutted the reports of the death of Pakistani students in the attacks with envoy Hasan Zaigham confirming that the condition of Pakistani national, Shahzaib, who sustained injuries in a mob attack in Bishkek, was out of danger.

In a statement issued by the PM Office on Saturday, PM Shehbaz expressed serious concerns over the mob violence against foreign students in Bishkek, directing Federal Minister for Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan Affairs Amir Muqam to visit Kyrgyzstan to help the stranded Pakistani nationals.

As per the statement, the federal minister has been asked to travel to Bishkek and meet the Pakistani students to listen to their complaints.

The statement said the Muqam will leave for Bishkek today (Saturday), where he will meet the country’s officials.

The prime minister has also directed that all possible assistance be provided to the affected Pakistani students.

He also instructed that those who wish to return to Pakistan be facilitated to do so at government expense.

The premier has assured that the government will not leave the students alone in this difficult time and will maintain constant contact between the students and their parents through the embassy.

The PM’s statement came amid growing calls by the political parties and parents of the stranded students to evacuate the students to the country from Bishkek.

Islamabad also summoned and handed a note of protest to Kyrgyzstan’s top diplomat in the country in response to violence against Pakistani students in Bishkek.

Kyrgyz police said they had mobilised forces in the Central Asian nation’s capital on Friday to quell the violence, in which hundreds of Kyrgyz men attacked buildings housing foreign students, including Pakistanis.

“It was impressed on the Kyrgyz charge d’affaires that the Kyrgyz government should take all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani students and citizens,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement.

‘Situation totally opposite to authorities claims’
Musab Tariq, an 8th semester Pakistani student in Bishkek, told Geo.tv that the situation in the Kyrgyz capital was “totally opposite” to what is being told by the Pakistani authorities.

He said that he and some other students were staying in an apartment as mostly students there live in flats and some in hostels as well. He said seven to eight hostels and some apartments were attacked last night.

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“The situation right now is that we are sitting with lights off and pin-drop silence. We can’t even step out,” Tariq said, adding that the situation had been the same since last night.

He said that the Kyrgyz government hadn’t provided any security to the students, however, the university management was cooperating with them.

Tariq further stated that they were receiving messages from their friends that the mobs were gathering outside their apartments and trying to barge inside.

He said that they only wanted to be evacuated back to Pakistan at the earliest via special flights.

Other Pakistan students stranded in Bishkek expressed similar concerns regarding the situation.

However, Pakistani Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hassan Zaigham said that the situation in Bishkek was “apparently normal” and no incident of violence has been reported since 6pm.

He said that the Kyrgyz authorities have assured the embassy of Pakistani students’ safety.

“We are also requesting the Pakistani community here to help the students,” Zaigham said.

He further stated that the Kyrgyz government earns millions of dollars due to foreign students, while their real estate industry also depends on the foreign students.

Emergency helpline numbers
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has activated its Crisis Management Unit on the instruction and issued emergency helpline numbers for Pakistani students as Kyrgyz nationals subjected foreign students to violence in Bishkek.

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.

Pakistani students, speaking with Geo News, shared that the riots are continuing in Bishkek and foreign students are surrounded by locals.

“We have been told not to leave the hostels and residences,” students said, adding that they have not received any response from the Pakistani embassy.

The students mentioned that a large number of “mischievous” Kyrgyz youths were present at the Bishkek Manas International Airport.

“Foreign students going to the airport are also being attacked,” they said.