ISLAMABAD: Around 6,000 Pakistani students, who returned home from China in the middle of their studies after the Covid-19 outbreak there two years ago, have not been able to resume their studies in the neighbouring country.
After running from pillar to post in their attempt to travel back to China, these students have now appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene in the matter so that they could resume their studies.
The Covid-19 pandemic had started surfacing in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, in December 2019. Then a lockdown was imposed and international traffic was suspended to most of the countries.
Initially, Pakistan decided not to bring students back from China but parents and relatives of students started protests. The students also shared their problems and sufferings on social media.
Covid-19 outbreak drove 6,000 students back home two years ago
In January 2020, the students started returning to Pakistan and it was decided that they will be sent back to China in July of that year.
Now Covid-19 has been controlled, but around 6,000 students who have registered themselves with Pakistani embassy in Beijing could not be returned to China.
Adam Ali, an engineering student enrolled in a Shanghai university, told Dawn that the students of engineering, medicine, PhD and other disciplines had returned to Pakistan in January 2020.
“At that time, special assistant to the prime minister for overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bukhari had promised that all students will be sent back to China in July 2020. We have been stuck in Pakistan for almost two years, but China has not announced a policy for Pakistani students.
“There are a number of students who have returned to Pakistan, but as many as 5,875 students have registered themselves with the Pakistani embassy in China with a request to make arrangements for their return,” he said.
“Our universities in China have informed us that the X Category (study) visas were not being issued and they (universities) were waiting for a notification from Chinese government to issue call letters. On the other hand, a local company in Pakistan, which collects passports of students for the visa, is not receiving passports for X Category and saying that there is a ban on it.
“Visas are issued for one year and after that a fresh application has to filed for new visa or extension. We have come to know that South Korea had taken up the matter with the Chinese government and a notification has been issued for the South Korean students due to which they have reached China.
“Since my childhood, I have been hearing that Pakistan and China are all-weather friends but unfortunately Pakistani students have been suffering,” said Mr Adam, who hailed from Attock but was in Islamabad on Thursday.
“We have held two meetings with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on October 5 and then again on November 3 this year and he assured us of addressing the issue. But after seeing that no practical step was being taken to resolve our problem, we appeal to Prime Minister Imran Khan to help us and secure our future,” he said.
Gulmeena, a PhD student, said that “we also met Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood twice and requested him to address the issue but to no avail”.
“Two months ago, the students also met Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Usman Dar and he assured us that he will play his role in addressing the issue. Last week, Mr Dar again promised that issue will be resolved. We all are vaccinated and ready to stay in quarantine in China but unfortunately visas are not being issued to us,” she said.
Ali Raza, a medical student, said they also met Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar but only got assurances.
“Medical students were studying online, but now the Pakistan Medical Commission has announced that online classes of medical students will not be accepted as it involves clinical practice as well,” he said.
Last week, Member of the National Assembly Shahida Akhtar, who belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, raised the issue on the floor of the house.
Former education minister of Punjab Rana Mashood, who belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, has also spoke about the issue in the provincial assembly.