Wednesday, February 2

Pak embassy slow in responding to Egypt crisis

Despite Premier Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s directive for evacuating stranded Pakistanis in the troubled capital of Egypt since options to survive are thinning out quickly, Pakistan’s embassy seemed to be in slumber yet, diplomatic sources confided with The Nation on Tuesday night.
The Ambassador is interested in waiting for two to three days more prior to evacuating the expatriate nationals.
This seems to be getting tenser since the Egyptian protesters has called for an indefinite general strike and they are planning to mark ‘million man march’ since the start of deadly anti-government protests. They have also decided to begin an open ended general strike for the weeks to come till the incumbent President Hosni Mubarak steps down. Pakistanis fear that there is every possibility that these protestors can indulge in street fights, and start killing people.
Seeing this, Gilani on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Defence to dispatch a special aircraft to Cairo to repatriate the families and non-essential staff of Pakistan Embassy and all Pakistani nationals including some stranded tourists who wish to leave Egypt because of the prevailing security situation there. Furthermore, he has also directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador of Pakistan in Cairo to facilitate and arrange the required logistics for ensuring that all Pakistani national’s are evacuated from Egypt, who may be feeling insecure in the given circumstances in Egypt and wishes to return home.
The diplomatic sources have mentioned that around 800 persons have got themselves registered with the embassy for evacuation. This number includes Pakistanis working there, students under the cultural exchange programme, and around 150 diplomatic persons and their families. However, these figures have been refuted by Pakistan’s Ambassador Seema Naqvi, who asserted that only 450 Pakistanis had shown their intentions for evacuation, while there were only 100 diplomatic personnel and their family members.
While talking to this scribe from her residence in Cairo, she was playing cool and advised others to stay in the same state since summary from Pakistan directing for evacuation was awaited, which could take two to three days. “There is a possibility that the situation will be ‘clear’ by then,” hoped the lady while talking in plain Urdu in reply to questions phrased in English language. When quizzed whether this ‘summary-summary to and fro game plan’ could jeopardise the lives of hundreds of Pakistanis, she maintained that it was not time consuming since the situation had not aggravated to such an extent when the Pakistanis could not be evacuated. “There has to be a procedure, which involves money and infrastructure, and it has to be approved by the authorities concerned. I believe the situation is not that bad to act out of wits,” asserted the lady, while acting as a cool player in tense situation.
While mentioning that she had herself initiated the summary, the Ambassador repeatedly stated that whenever it would be required, the evacuation plan would be carried out. “We have seen the last two to three days of tense situation, but all Pakistanis are safe, and there is no immediate emergency as such,” she said though simultaneously admitting that an emergency was impending since people could run short of food stocks and money. “Preparations have been finalised, and there is no need to panic. We will see for two to three days before going for the last straw,” maintained the Ambassador, who happens to be wife of a former diplomat.
When questioned about an impending siege of the presidential palace, and surrounding areas by the angry protestors, and this would clog roads to the airport, consequently blocking traffic options and hampering evacuation, an incorrigible optimist Naqvi stated that it was a distant possibility.

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