Govt to bring back more than 6,000 stranded Pakistanis every week beginning April 20: Moeed Yusuf

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Moeed Yusuf on Tuesday said that beginning April 20, the government will be bringing 6,000-7,000 stranded Pakistanis back to the country.

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During a press conference in Islamabad alongside various government representatives, Yusuf said that the airspace was closed on March 21 with a view to prepare for the arrival of people so they can safely return to their homes without risking the transmission of COVID-19.

The premier’s aide said that on April 4, the government eased restrictions with a partial resumption of flights. “Over the past week we said we will bring back 2,000 passengers and put to test our new plan of action.”

He said these 2,000 passengers will return till April 19.

“Beginning April 20, we will be able to bring back 6,000-7,000 passengers every week with operations running across six airports. And this will gradually be expanded to accommodate more passengers,” said Yusuf.

He said that according to information received by the government, there are around 35,000 Pakistanis looking to return to the country. “We will bring them back as soon as we can.”

Addressing all the Pakistanis “wondering when it will be their turn”, he said: “Right now our focus is the labour class who have been let go by their employers in the Gulf. They don’t have the resources to afford even a day’s stay.

“The next in the list of priority are prisoners released and waiting to be repatriated. Then we have umrah pilgrims who have been in Saudi Arabia since the past 2-3 months. Then we have those whose visas expired and are facing legal action,” he explained.

Speaking of the repatriation of people between Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said that thousands of Afganis had been allowed to return to their country last week on Kabul’s request.

“We have now made preparations for testing and quarantining at Torkham and Chaman borders and within a few days we will be able to bring back Pakistanis from Afghanistan too. We will try our best to bring them back before Ramazan,” he said.

On the subject of Pakistan’s border with Iran, he said there have always been a few districts from which Pakistan would receive food supplies.

“Our borders have been closed but a special plan of action has been developed under which we will import essential food items from five districts under controlled measures,” said Yusuf.

Later that evening, Yusuf confirmed the same in a statement on Twitter.

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