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‘Apna time kab aaega?’: Pakistani students ask Imran Khan on the eve of his trip to China

Two years ago, Pakistani students were sent back home owing to China’s ‘zero-Covid policy’. Now they want Imran Khan to intervene.

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will jump on a plane to China on Thursday, beginning his four-day visit to attend the opening of the Winter Olympics. But Pakistani students enrolled in Chinese universities are awaiting their turn, asking: ‘Apna time kab aaega?’ Two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, they are still stranded despite the government’s assurance of ‘constant negotiations’ with Beijing.

According to reports, thousands of Pakistani students, who returned home from China after the Covid-19 outbreak two years ago, have not been able to resume their studies. Overseas Pakistani students, enrolled in Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD programmes, say that their stipends and scholarships have been withheld by the Chinese authorities.

Desperate to resume their studies, they have been asking for an exact time frame for their return, but haven’t been offered any firm answers yet.

Last month, a video went viral, in which Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was reportedly seen criticising Chinese President Xi Jinping when he was approached by a person asking him about China’s travel ban.

Also Read: Pakistani students take a dig at LUMS university with ‘missing persons’ notice in Lahore

China’s ‘zero-Covid policy’ and Imran Khan’s visit

International students, including Pakistanis, were sent back home owing to China’s ‘Zero-Covid policy’. Although China lifted the travel ban from some countries, Pakistan was reportedly not on the list.

Since the start of the pandemic, and the enforcement of lockdown in Wuhan in 2020, China has not hosted foreign leaders and President Xi Jinping has also not travelled out of China for close to two years. “Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan may become one of the first foreign leaders to visit China after the start of the pandemic”, The Hindu reported.

Also Read: Pakistani students are angry at police brutality. And people slam Imran Khan online

Pakistani students concerned

Using hashtags like #PMSavePakStudentsOfChina, #TakeUsBackToChina and #TakeUsBackToSchool, the students from Pakistan have taken to Twitter to voice their concern about their abysmal future.

They appealed to PM Imran Khan that he use the opportunity of his visit to China to talk about the return of the students to universities.

Twitter user Misbah Anjum appealed to PM Imran Khan to “save the Pakistani students who have been stranded for more than two years.” He also posted a BBC video, in which former United States ambassador Curtis S. Chin is seen discussing the issue.

Meanwhile, another user, Waqas Azed, questioned China, saying that they were sent back home on chartered flights in the middle of the pandemic but are not being allowed to return even after being vaccinated.

A Twitter account named ‘Struggle for future’ pointed out how MBBS students are apprehensive of a grim future because those who have taken online classes cannot apply for a medical practice licence in Pakistan. User Waleed Iqbal claimed that the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) was “behaving like a child” and ‘didn’t want to understand the situation.’

A student shared his video and alleged how the classes of new students have not even started and because there are no ‘proper labs’ in Pakistan, he is not able to do research. He appealed to the Pakistani government to talk to the Chinese officials. In the same vein, another user posted an image of the quote: “Without laboratories men of science are soldiers without arms”, attributed to Louis Pasteur.

Some users also alleged discrimination towards Pakistani students, pointing to how students from Korea, America and Russia were being allowed back to China.

Several Pakistani users on Twitter also conveyed their exasperation through memes, asking who will take responsibility for the future of Pakistani and other international students enrolled in Chinese universities?

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