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British nationals stuck in Pakistan look upon both governments for assistance

LONDON/MANCHESTER: Hundreds of British citizens are stuck in Pakistan due to the travel restrictions which ban international flights to and from the country till April 4. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced a two-week ban on international flights as a precaution to stop COVID-19 from entering the country.

Earlier, PIA had announced four special flights to the UK and Canada for stranded foreign nationals in Pakistan but cancelled them soon after, leaving customers who had paid up to three times the fare furious and without any support.

British citizens stuck in Pakistan have urged the British government to intervene on their behalf like they have done in China and Peru since they fear that the ban on international flights might continue even after April 4. Many have said that the British government has left them to rot and no concern has been shown for them.

Sumaira Ali, from Leeds, is stuck in Azad Jammu & Kashmir's Mirpur district, with two of her young children. She was due to fly back on March 23, but her flight was cancelled. She has requested both the governments to arrange flights for stranded British Pakistanis.

Ali Mansoor, from Barking in East London, said he visited Karachi to meet his mother and has been stuck in the city for two weeks. “My family is in London and everything is shut down. They are suffering and I cannot leave my home. My wife is stuck at home in London. I want to reach my children, they are young, but both the British and Pakistani governments are not helping me. I am asking the PM to help me and let me go to London.”

Amjad Hussain, from Oldham, told The News, ”I am currently stuck in Dina and trying to get back home as soon as possible with everything going on at the moment.

“I paid extra money and booked the next available flight on Friday, which was for Wednesday, March 25 with Emirates, flying from Islamabad to Manchester. Now Emirates has suspended all its flight operations in Pakistan and I don’t know what to do now. My family is very worried.”

The travel crisis has impacted the work of people from all professions, including not just healthcare workers but also journalists and activists who are unable to properly continue working due to these travel restrictions. The ban on international travel has also devastated the finances of families whose breadwinners are stuck in Pakistan due to these flight restrictions.

Adeeb Mushtaq, who works as a reporter for a Pakistani news channel in Bradford, is now stuck in Kharian. He told The News, ”I was due to fly this month but the cancellation of flight operations has put my arrival plans back in Britain into uncertainty now. I have young kids who are worried, my family can’t go out with this lockdown situation and I need to be back to help support my family. Both governments need to arrange something for us stuck here".

While Pakistan is carrying on with the travel ban, the airports in the UK are continuing to function despite an extremely low volume of flights going through. The stranded British citizens feel abandoned by the British government since special flights were arranged for citizens in China and Peru but not Pakistan.

Speaking to The News, Iftikhar Ahmed from Bradford whose family is stranded in Pakistan said, ”My relatives are stranded in Pakistan. We are worried about them as there are kids and elderly in the group. The enforcement of a lockdown in Pakistan and AJK has left them with no food and money. We request both the governments to arrange special flights for the thousands of Pakistanis stuck in Pakistan”.

Some stranded British citizens urgently require their medication which is not available in Pakistan. Mahmood Hussain, who works as a radio presenter in Huddersfield, is now stuck in Gujar Khan with his wife due to these restrictions. He said, "My return flight was booked for March 23 but the flight operations got cancelled and now I am stuck here with my wife. We have run out on medications. My wife and I need some special medications. I request both governments to arrange something us and thousands of others.”

Oldham resident Munir Hussain, who is stranded in Gujar Khan, told The News, ”I am stranded here in Pakistan with a valid PIA ticket which was cancelled. Now PIA has announced that we should buy new tickets. I don’t understand why we have to pay more when my ticket is already valid and was cancelled due to a ban on flight operations. The British and Pakistani Government should rescue us; we are eagerly waiting to go back home.”

Birmingham based Businessman Ikhlaq Ahmed who is stranded in Azad Jammu & Kashmir told The News, ”I should be returning back to the United Kingdom along with my family but this lockdown and restriction of movement in Pakistan has left us stranded and without food. Initially, PIA announced special flights for stranded British Pakistanis. The price of the ticket was not affordable at all but even those flights have been cancelled now. I urge the British government to arrange special flights for us, as we are going through a trauma-like situation here”.

Mehboob Hussain from East London said he is in a remote village in Kashmir and the British government has not told him and others what to do next.

He added he was not in a hurry to return to London but a few with him were stuck in Azad Kashmir and some of them are desperate to return. “I am stuck in an area in Kashmir where there are strict restrictions on movement. I have a business and family in London. My family wants to know when I will be back and I have no answer. Both governments are not doing anything for us.”