February 25th, 2022
By Hamid Riaz
As the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine accelerates many from among the three thousand Pakistani students enrolled in different Ukrainian educational institutions have made impassioned appeals to the Pakistani authorities to help evacuate them to safety.
Images of scores of Pakistani students huddled up at train stations are already doing rounds on social media with the Twitterati demanding immediate action from the Pakistani authorities, which they claim have abandoned their citizens abroad, once again.
“Right now I am talking to you from a basement I am hiding in. Russia is carrying out heavy aerial and ground bombardment of the city I live in. I cannot even imagine stepping out of my shelter,” says Wajid, a Pakistani citizen currently enrolled in a medical university in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
“The government has made some hollow announcements but they have not done anything substantial for us so far. Officials of the foreign affairs department and our (the Pakistani) embassy in Ukraine have asked us to somehow make it to the border with Poland so that we may be evacuated from there. How are we supposed to reach that border? There are some three hundred students in Kharkiv alone (that I know of) who are in urgent need of evacuation. The government’s plan seems non-serious and un-actionable,” continues Wajid.
“Some forty to fifty of our colleagues have somehow managed to reach the only functioning train station. They were told that a train will arrive at the station and take them to safety. I am in contact with them and it’s been hours and no train has arrived. They are stuck at the train station. This is why I am refusing to leave,” concludes Wajid.
For its part, the Pakistani foreign office has made pronouncements of a detailed plan to evacuate the Pakistanis stuck in Ukraine. According to the foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, his ministry and the relevant embassies have sprung into action to support Pakistani citizens stranded in Ukraine but the situation on the ground narrates an entirely different picture.
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The images of these marooned Pakistanis were flashed only hours after the photographs from a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Imran khan were splashed in media.
Khan arrived in Moscow at an awkward hour just when the Russian machinery was set to come into action against Ukraine. His presence by Putin’s side led to serious questions asked about Islamabad’s positioning internationally at such a crucial hour.
The Khan delegation, chockablock with top ministers, was out exploring deeper bilateral ties with Putin beginning with securing the supply of Russian gas to Pakistan. However, back home, those familiar with Pakistan’s dependence on the western controlled institutions for bare economic survival must have been surprised by the risk taken by the Pakistan government here. Dealing with a country under sanctions and under pressure from the bloc led by the United States and a host of powerful European countries could cost Pakistan much more than it would have bargained for when it set out on a brave search for a relatively cheap source of energy.