Russia deports 132 Pakistanis

ISLAMABAD: Russia sent around 132 Pakistanis back on Thursday as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed his senior aide on foreign policy and the foreign office to ensure their swift return.

“On the directions of prime minister, efforts are being made to provide all possible assistance to the Pakistanis stranded at Moscow’s airport,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office on Thursday.

The Foreign Office disclosed during its weekly briefing on Thursday that Russia was deporting 132 Pakistanis. Of these around 84 were being held at the Moscow airport from at least Wednesday evening, while another 48 had been sent back via Turkey.

“At 8:30pm [on Wednesday] our ambassador in Moscow had received a call when he was in the middle of a Pakistan Day reception. He immediately contacted the Russian ministry of foreign affairs and also sent a Russian-speaking officer to the airport,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria told reporters at the briefing in Islamabad.

Zakaria added that the officer was refused access to passengers on Wednesday evening. The officer returned on Thursday morning seeking access to the passengers.

“We are still awaiting details as to what happened and why these Pakistanis are being sent back,” the spokesperson said, adding that the FO was taking up this issue with the Russian embassy in Islamabad.

In a statement issued later in the day, the foreign office said the Russian-speaking embassy official was allowed to meet with the passengers.

It added that the Russian foreign ministry confirmed the stranded passengers were provided with food and were being looked after appropriately. The passengers are expected to be repatriated later on Thursday, the statement added.

Earlier, Nawaz directed Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi to assist the return of stranded Pakistanis from Russia at the earliest.

The 48 Pakistanis, who were deported from another Russian airport to Istanbul, are in transit. The foreign office said that Pakistan’s mission in Turkey was in touch with the relevant quarters there.