‘We are not safe’: Swat students in Kyrgyzstan urge govt to arrange their return

April 19, 2020

Around 400 students from Swat, who are stranded in Kyrgyzstan, are facing a shortage of food and necessary supplies due to strict restrictions on movement, DawnNewsTV reported on Sunday.

Like most countries around the world, Kyrgyzstan has imposed a lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. So far, Kyrgyzstan has recorded 554 cases and five deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to John Hopkins University.

Mohammad Ammar, one of the students stranded in Kyrgyzstan, said that they have been not been able to leave their apartments for the past one month, even to buy necessary supplies. Despite having all valid documents, police demand bribes and do not let students go out.

Dr Salman, who hails from Mingora, shared an incident of his friend, who was suffering from abdominal pain.

“He stayed in his apartment, crippled by pain, for two days. After two days, when we went to a medical store to get his medicines, we were slapped with a fine of 6,000 Kyrgyzstani Som (Rs12,154.85),” Salman said.

The embassy is not much help either, the students claim. According to the students, when they contacted the Pakistani embassy to tell them of the challenges they are facing, the staff told them to “bribe the police while shopping so that you (students) don’t face problems”.

Another student said that they have written letters to federal minister Murad Saeed, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan but in vain.

“Whenever we try to contact them, we receive an ‘Ok’,” Waqar, a student from Swat’s tehsil Matta, said.

Another student lamented that even if they do ask their parents for money, there is no way they can receive it because they are caught by the police whenever they leave the apartment.

“If we ever [go out], police threaten to send us to a quarantine centre or deport us if we don’t bribe them,” Dr Asim, a student, said.

“We don’t even know the local language so we have to ask someone to intervene.”

Another student, Arbaz Khan, said that they were “not safe” as their food supplies have run out.

“We are from a middle-class family,” Khan, who hails from Bisham, Shangla, said. “We talk to our parents every day but we cannot let them know [as they will get worried]. We tell them all is well.”

The Pakistani students complained that their Indian counterparts were in much better condition as their embassy was looking after them.

The students said that they were concerned about how they would observe the holy month of Ramazan and urged the government to arrange special flights so they can return home.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui, when reached for a comment on the situation, said: “We are aware of the situation of our students in Kyrgyzstan. The embassy in Bishkek is in touch with them [and is] providing food and essential supplies to them directly.”

Moreover, the government has said that it is making efforts to bring back Pakistanis stranded in other countries but currently has limited capacity to do so.

Prime minister’s aide Moeed Yusuf recently said that apart from arranging special flights, the government had to ensure that sufficient quarantine facilities were available for all citizens. At the same time, he had assured that the government was trying to put a system in place to make sure citizens can return as soon as possible.

Last week, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan had said that 4,000 people will be brought back to Pakistan by April 19.


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