Kyrgyzstan Inquiry

What happened in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on the evening of 17th May has made the lives of 4000 Pakistani students very uncertain. Fearing for their safety, these medical students have come back home but we do not know yet when they will be able to return and pursue studies in peace. Kyrgyzstan has been an affordable destination for medical students from South Asia, especially Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Seeing the value attached to the field of medicine in Pakistan, students opt to pursue becoming doctors, even when they have to travel to other countries.

Kyrgyzstan is otherwise a country with very weak indicators of progress. However, the Soviet era’s medical institutes make it a reputable country for South Asian students. Seeing the events of mob violence as they unfolded on May 17, a big question mark now spins on the overall safety of international students in Bishkek. Scared by the severity of the mob and its number as high as 700, many students sought safety in coming back to Pakistan. And now, their education and future are at stake. As many as 11000 Pakistani students are studying in Kyrgyzstan.

For now, details of what triggered the mob violence remain mostly unknown. The Pakistani Embassy established emergency hotlines as the mob attack continued for six to eight hours. How well those help lines helped students in seeking safety, we do not know. Foreign Minister, Ishaq Dar, has called for an inquiry report to be compiled in two weeks. The findings must be made public or at least shared with the students and their families so that they can make a decision about their return. The announcement of online classes by the Kyrgyz government has brought some relief to the fleeing students but Pakistani government must proactively seek answers from the Kyrgyz government on an investigation as well as action against the perpetrators. With a large number of Pakistani students studying in Bishkek, it must also be ascertained how cooperative the Pakistani Embassy was and how prepared for such an emergency situation. If students had to pay for their own tickets, the Foreign Office immediately needs to rethink its repatriation course.

If two weeks is the time, all concerned departments must assess themselves for any shortfalls in managing this unexpected situation. Pakistan must ensure that the conditions are secure in Bishkek before any students go back there and the Embassy must keep a regular check on the safety of students who are still in Kyrgyzstan.

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