Families of Pakistani students in China fear for children's well-being

Pakistani students attend a class at Yanshan University in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province, China Dec. 14, 2017. (Photo Courtesy: VCG Photo/File)
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Updated 26 January 2020

Families of Pakistani students in China fear for children's well-being

  • As coronavirus breaks out, foreign office says over 28000 Pakistani students are in China
  • The country’s embassy in Beijing has asked students to avoid unnecessary movement

ISLAMABAD: Families of Pakistanis living in China have expressed grave concern over the well-being of their loved ones due to the outbreak of coronavirus in different Chinese provinces.
“We are worried about the health of our daughter who is studying at Xiamen University since 2018,” Rawalpindi-based Zahoor Ahmad, father of Maham Zahoor who is pursuing her Master’s degree in international relations, told Arab News on Saturday. “I talked to her this morning and advised her to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary movement, especially to markets and other public places.”
The coronavirus, which emerged in December, has now spread to other countries, but the majority of cases and all 41 deaths have been reported in China.
The Chinese authorities shut down transportation from Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, hoping to contain the spread of virus, and have since expanded the lockdown to other cities, covering a total population of about 35 million.
The World Health Organization described the outbreak as an emergency for China, though it stopped short of declaring it as a public health emergency of international concern.
“There are approximately 28000 Pakistani students studying all over China, around 800 resident traders and around 1500 Pakistani traders who travel to China frequently. There are close to 500 students in Wuhan alone,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in a statement on Saturday.
She added that these numbers excluded those students, visitors and traders from Pakistan who were present in China without registering themselves with Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in Beijing.
The Pakistan mission also issued an advisory to Pakistanis living in China on January 24.
“The embassy urges Pakistani students to remain vigilant and adopt good personal hygiene practices such as those shared by the ministry of health of China through its advisory. Pakistani community members and students in Wuhan are advised to comply with the efforts of Chinese authorities and not leave the city without any particular reason,” the Pakistan embassy said in a statement, adding that the mission would continue to stay in touch with its nationals and students.
“There are around 800 Pakistani students in Wuhan, but many of them have gone to their country due to the Chinese new year holidays. We are facing problems as we have been asked to remain in our hostels. We are facing acute shortage of food as shops and restaurants are closed due to the blockade of the city,” Muhammad Atiq, who is doing PhD in Public Administration from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, told Arab News on phone from China.
Atiq added that his family in Pakistan was worried because Wuhan was deeply affected by the epidemic.
“The university promised to provide us special masks, but we haven’t received them yet as air traffic, railways and even taxi services are closed in the city. We even could not offer Friday prayers since all sorts of gatherings have been banned in the city,” he said.
A government school principal, Mumtaz Begum, from southern Punjab city of Bahawalpur, whose daughter Mahnoor Sajwar is studying in Peking University, Beijing, expressed her serious concerns for the health of her daughter while speaking to Arab News on the phone.
“I want her to come back to Pakistan, but she has her exams in a couple of months. I have asked her to remain inside her apartment, wear a mask and avoid going to public places. We all are praying for her health as the virus is spreading to the whole of China,” she said.
Sohail Shaukat, a Pakistani businessman from Karachi told Arab News that he used to visit China at least once in a month for his import and export business, but he decided to cancel his trip due to the outbreak.
Madah-ul-Mustafa, a student in South China University of Technology, Guanzhou, who landed in Multan Friday night, told Arab News that he was screened extensively by the airport authorities in Pakistan.
“I came back from China with my wife last night as we were unable to figure out how to deal with the outbreak. I have to go back on 8th February, but now I will assess the situation and then plan to return to the university,” Mustafa said.

Pakistani Umrah pilgrims will be compensated, says Saudi envoy

Updated 28 February 2020

Pakistani Umrah pilgrims will be compensated, says Saudi envoy

  • Ambassador Al-Malki says pilgrims will be able to travel to the Kingdom on the same visa or get a new one
  • PIA spokesperson says passengers can get full refund or get their seats readjusted

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki said on Friday that all Pakistani Umrah pilgrims affected by the temporary travel ban to the Kingdom due to the threat of coronavirus would be compensated.

“Pakistani Umrah pilgrims who had to travel to Saudi Arabia during the dates of suspension will be compensated in the best possible way,” Al-Malki told Arab News on Friday. “They will be able to travel on the same visa or will be issued a fresh one free of charge.”

Saudi Arabia on Thursday placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims in an attempt to ensure public safety and prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also supported the Kingdom’s decision to protect its citizens from the epidemic.

“All those passengers who have Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tickets will be able to get full refund from the PIA offices or their travel agents,” the national carrier’s spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan told Arab News on the phone from Karachi, adding it was up to the passengers if they wanted to avail the refund option or get their seats readjusted after the ban.

Meanwhile, Saudi airlines also announced full refund of tickets through a circular which is available with Arab News.

“The Pakistani mission in Saudi Arabia is in touch with the Saudi authorities on this issue and will take all possible measures to facilitate Pakistani pilgrims,” spokesperson of the Pakistani embassy in Saudi Arabia Arshad Munir told Arab News on the phone from Jeddah.

Faizan Akhtar, a member of Pakistan’s Umrah Travel Agents’ Association told Arab News from Rawalpindi that the situation would become clear in the next few days, but all the passengers would get refunds or manage to travel on the same Umrah package after the ban.

“There was a previous incident of flight suspension during the Pak-India standoff last year which disturbed Umrah pilgrims. They were compensated by the Saudi authorities who extended their visas without extra charges and airlines adjusted their seats accordingly. We haven’t received any official communication on this so far, but the situation will become clear in the next few days,” Akhtar said.