Pakistan refuses to airlift and evacuate its citizens from China

Pakistan has refused to airlift and evacuate its citizens from Wuhan despite several appeals from families of those based in the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak citing “larger interests” of the region and the world. The decision is said to have been prompted by a desire to stand by its all-weather friend China at a time of global health emergency.

Close partners of China in Southeast Asia and Eurasia have closed their land borders to prevent coronavirus from spreading. Pakistan has allowed some of its citizens from China to travel back home but not those from Wuhan.

Special assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on health, Dr Zafar Mirza, told the media in Islamabad 0n Monday that none of the passengers that arrived in the country from China were suspected to have coronavirus or needed to be kept under observation. The flight included members of a group of Pakistani students stranded in Ürümqi Xinjiang and via another flight from Qatar.

Mirza said that no citizen, whether Chinese or Pakistani, was allowed to leave China without spending a 14-day “disease-free period”.

Around 500 Pakistanis, mostly students, are believed to be staying in Wuhan. Several students have made fervent appeal to the Imran Khan government to airlift them. “I am a Pakistani, and my name is Nadeem Abaz. I am making this video from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where more than 500 Pakistanis are stuck. Four students in my university were detected with coronavirus and they are in a serious condition in hospitals. So, we had asked the Pakistani government and the embassy to help us or evacuate us from here because the situation getting worse day by day,” said an appeal on social media.

Sidestepping the crisis Prime Minister Khan left for Kuala Lumpur on Monday on a two-day official visit on the invitation of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, two months after skipping the Islamic summit under pressure from Saudi Arabia. The Malaysian PM has supported the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir and Citizenship Amendment Act, a stand that some experts have described as part of an attempt to emerge as a leader of the global Islamic community.

Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, thanked Pakistan for extending its unwavering support to his country. China has been appealing to countries against evacuation as it would dent its WHO ratings and image. It needed some deft diplomacy by India to evacuate its citizens, besides Maldivians and one Bangladeshi national, since last Friday.