600 Pakistanis on way to Yemen port for evacuation

600 Pakistanis on way to Yemen port for evacuation

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The Foreign Office said on Saturday a convoy of about 600 Pakistanis was close to Yemeni port city of Al-Hodeida from where they would be evacuated.

"A convoy of 600 Pakistanis including Pakistani ambassador in Yemen Dr Irfan Shami is moving towards Al-Hodeida, where arrangements for their brief stay before their return journey to Pakistan have been made," Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said.

A PIA aircraft, he said, was ready for departure to Yemen and clearances were being obtained because of the no-fly zone imposed by Saudi Arabia on Yemeni airspace.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif discussed the issue of evacuation of Pakistanis from Yemen with his Saudi counterpart Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

There are some 3,000 Pakistanis living in different cities in Yemen. Mr Chaudhry said about 1,000 were willing to return home.

He said Pakistan Navy would send two ships - one on Sunday and the other on Monday - to bring back people from the Al-Hodeida port.

Moakala, another Yemeni city, was also being considered as a possible route for evacuation.

The situation in Aden, the foreign secretary said, was critical because of the fighting taking place there. Evacuation from the city would begin once fighting there stopped.

A statement issued earlier in the day from the Prime Minister's Office said: "As state system is collapsing in the war-torn country, most airports are no more functional.

"Therefore, some families would also be safely taken, in the form of convoys, to Yemen's neighbouring countries and airlifted to Pakistan from there."

Meanwhile, a Crisis Management Cell has been established at the Foreign Office to coordinate the arrangements for evacuation.

Bhagwandas adds: The largest aircraft in PIA's fleet, a Boeing 747 Jumbo, has been readied at the Jinnah International Airport so that it may be rushed to Yemen to bring back Pakistanis stranded there as soon as the necessary clearances have been obtained.

Answering queries from Dawn, the national carrier's spokesman Haneef Rana said the ministry of foreign affairs had asked PIA in the morning to keep an aircraft ready so that it could be sent to Yemen.

He said the aircraft would be sent to the Hodeida International Airport, which is around 150 kilometres from Sanaa.

The flight time between the Hodeida airport and Karachi airport is about three and a half hours.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz discussed the situation in Yemen by telephone late on Friday night, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

The agency claimed that Mr Sharif had assured King Salman of Pakistan's "strong military support" in the fight against rebels in Yemen.

However, there was no statement from the Prime Minister's Office on the conversation.

A source said a Pakistani delegation led by Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif would travel to Saudi Arabia on Monday.

The departure of the delegation, which was to originally visit Riyadh on Friday, was delayed because of Saudi leadership's preoccupation with Arab League summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

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