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Federal Minister for Education Rana Tanveer Hussain with the Pakistani students at the Islamabad airport prior to their departure for China. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: A total of 105 Pakistani students whose studies had been suspended for the last two years due to the COVID-19 situation and imposition of travel ban in China, left for Xian, the capital city of Shaanxi Province in central China from Islamabad International Airport.

They left via Pakistan International Airlines chartered flight PK-6854. Senior officials of the Pakistani government led by Federal Minister for Education Rana Tanveer Hussain saw them off.

They have been pressing the Pakistani government to take up the issue with the Chinese government as their career was at stake while coronavirus was also on the decline.

The students left after undergoing PCR tests and fulfilling necessary health protocols.

They were excited and overjoyed at the prospect of returning to China and expressed gratitude to the Pakistani government and officials for making it possible.

Two years’ wait is over

On the occasion, the Education Minister congratulated the students on their return to China for the completion of their education. He said it was the government’s national duty to facilitate the youth in their pursuit of knowledge.

He acknowledged that the students had been facing difficulties for two years. A round of deliberations was held between all relevant stakeholders including Chinese Embassy, Islamabad, MoFEPT, HEC and MoFA to address the subject issue of 5,832 students who provided their particulars online to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Rana Tanveer said that it was the first batch of students returning to China and soon the rest would also fly back. The students’ return to China will be completed in three phases.

The government has decided to send the Pakistani students in three phases. According to the plan, Phase-I includes 492 students who were due to complete their degree programmes in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

The priority-II includes 1,529 students who were to complete their degrees in 2022 while the priority-III includes 3,196 remaining students due to complete their degrees in 2023 onwards.

This is a pilot project of sending the first batch of students back to China, which has been a tremendous team effort led by the federal minister of education and all other stakeholders, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Education stated.

A member of the Pak-China Students Council, Dr Asmat Malik, who was also accompanying them requested all students to follow the strict standard operating procedure (SOP) as the remaining students’ future is dependent on their successful journey.

“Thank God, the students’ pre-departure PCR tests are negative. Good luck for the 1st batch of Pak students,” he said.

Last month, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited Guangzhou, where he thanked the Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi for allowing the safe and secure return of Pakistani students in a phased manner to China.