Visibly perturbed and emotionally-charged, the parents of students stranded in China’s Wuhan city and Hubei province on Wednesday served a three-day ultimatum to the government to bring the children back to the country, reported The News.
“If you fail to get our children repatriated within the next three days, we will hold demonstrations in front of your ministerial offices and the Embassy of China,” they warned the Prime Minister’s Special Advisers on Health and Overseas Pakistanis, Dr Zafar Mirza, on Wednesday.
The encounter took place during a briefing held at the OPF Girls College in F-8/2, where Mirza was subjected to scathing criticism as he attempted to apprise parents of the latest situation in China, where the novel Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on human lives. The briefing was arranged on the orders of the Islamabad High Court.
There was absolute mayhem in the auditorium, so much so that members of law enforcement agencies had to shield the two advisers from being attacked by anxious parents, who later registered their protest by staging a ‘dharna’ on Kohistan Road, causing traffic snags. Director General Health and Additional Deputy Commissioner visited the site three hours later to negotiate with the protesters but failed.
'You cannot understand'
“You cannot understand our plight because this is a matter concerning our children, not yours,” a father shouted out at the PM’s advisers. “I can predict that two months from now, you will be holding a ceremony in this very auditorium to dole out compensation cheques to us for the martyrdom of our children,” said another voice.
The parents chanted slogans against the government and demanded the immediate evacuation of their children from China. “We have no other demand of the government; we only want our children back, come what may,” cried a wailing mother, rejecting any further statements of succor.
The parents accused the government of being completely dispassionate and lacking empathy about their plight. “We are having sleepless nights; our children are without food and water. We are willing to give donations to the government to bear the expenses of our children’s return. It is very convenient for Dr. Zafar to appear on television and state that the government is acting in the larger interest of the country and the world; we are only concerned about the welfare of our children,” said another parent.
The protestors threatened that if their children aren’t brought back within three days, they would stage a sit-in in front of the relevant ministries’ offices and prevent their advisors from exiting their respective buildings. They demanded that their children be evacuated, flown back, and then be quarantined within Pakistan, till they are medically declared safe. ”Why is our government reluctant when so many other countries have gotten their citizens evacuated?” they questioned.
'Many considerations have to be weighed'
Addressing the parents, Dr. Zafar Mirza claimed having complete knowledge of their angst, and pledged to raise the matter in the next Cabinet meeting. “No matter how effective a strategy we devise, when it comes to one’s children, it is natural for you to want them to return sooner than later," he noted.
"You are justified in rejecting our statements; we also know that no matter how hard we try we will not be able to appease your concerns. While your reservations are justified to some extent, you also need to keep an eye on the bigger picture. We are just as concerned about your children as we are about the entire nation,” Dr. Zafar said.
The SAPM assured parents that their children would be brought back to Pakistan at the appropriate time. “There are many considerations that have to be weighed; bringing them back at this time will entail greater harm than benefit,” he stated.
Originally published in The News