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Pakistan repatriates 274 students from coronavirus epicentre Wuhan


Press Trust of India  |  Islamabad 

Pakistan has finally repatriated over 270 students stranded in China's Wuhan city -- the epicentre of the coronavirus -- since the outbreak of the pandemic there in December.

The repatriation came almost four months after hundreds of stranded Pakistani students in Wuhan in early February made desperate pleas to the Imran Khan government to evacuate them from China's worst-affected Hubei province, urging his administration to take a leaf out of India's book.

India that time had airlifted 654 people, including seven Maldivians, from Wuhan.

However, the Pakistan government rejected their pleas, saying that it was not in the interest of the students and the country. India at that time had said that it can consider evacuating the students "if such a situation arises" and resources are available.

A special Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight on Monday flew the stranded students from Tianhe Airport in Wuhan.

"A special PIA flight carrying 274 Pakistani students from Wuhan city in China arrived in Islamabad last evening. During the period of lockdown in Wuhan, the Chinese authorities took extraordinary measures to ensure the safety and security of the Pakistani students," the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Two officers from the Pakistan Embassy in Beijing were also dispatched to Wuhan to look after the well-being of the students, it said.

Zulfi Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis, said the students had suffered a lot and a subsidy of Rs 50,000 per ticket was given to them as a gesture to thank them for their cooperation.

"Thank you to everyone at PIA and foreign office for coming together to make this happen," Bukhari tweeted.

Last week, Bukhari announced that Pakistan would send its first flight on May 18 to repatriate students from Wuhan.

The Foreign Office appreciated the efforts of the government and people of China for extending full support and co-operation to Pakistani students, as the Wuhan city defeated the COVID-19.

It also recalled President Xi Jinping's telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 20 during which the Chinese leader reaffirmed that his country will treat Pakistani students as "our own".

Pakistan is facing the challenge of bringing back thousands of its citizens from different parts of the world.

According to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, over 110,000 Pakistanis from across the world want to come back and the government is trying its best to facilitate their repatriation.

A special PIA flight carrying 257 stranded Pakistani nationals from Iraq arrived in Islamabad on Saturday.

Pakistan has reported nearly 44,000 cases of coronavirus and 939 deaths due to the disease.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 19 2020. 20:30 IST