KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Around a hundred people called on Pakistan’s government to “bring back our children” from the locked down Chinese province of Hubei in a demonstration on Sunday in Karachi.
Family members hold signs demanding the evacuation of Pakistani students from Wuhan city in China, who couldn’t return after the coronavirus outbreak, during a protest in Karachi, Pakistan February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Imran Ali
Pakistan’s government has so far ruled out evacuating the more than 1,000 Pakistani students in the province, home to the city of Wuhan, at the center of the coronavirus outbreak.
State Health Minister Zafar Mirza said on Twitter on Friday that he and other ministers would hold a meeting for parents in Islamabad on Wednesday and that his government was working with Chinese authorities to ensure students were taken care of.
But many students and their families have expressed growing frustration as the death toll in China mounts, pointing to other countries, including neighboring India and Bangladesh, evacuating their citizens.
“For God’s sake, we request from the government representatives please bring back our children, please listen to a mother’s grievance,” one protester, who declined to give her name, told media while bursting into tears.
The protesters chanted “bring back our children” and held up banners with the same message.
Earlier in the week dozens of families in Lahore held a similar protest outside the Chinese consulate.
A spokesman for Mirza did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for further comment.
He said on Twitter six Pakistani students in China confirmed to have had the virus had fully recovered and one was still receiving treatment.
Nonetheless, students in touch with Reuters from China over the past days said they wanted to leave.
Mir Hassan, a student whose father died of a heart ailment this month while he was stuck in Wuhan, said he had been told by Pakistani officials he would not be evacuated despite wanting to return home to his grieving mother.
“She is also begging me to come back home. Unfortunately, I haven’t any idea when I will go back home and see my mom,” he told Reuters.
Sahil Hassan, a PhD student in Wuhan, said he was finding it hard to receive scholarship payments, leaving them unable to afford food and bottled water from their university’s food delivery service while in lock down.
Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi and Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; additional reporting by Mubahser Bukkari in Lahore; Editing by Alison Williams