Pakistan minister faces angry parents of students stuck in Wuhan lockdown

Angry parents of Pakistani students stuck in the locked down province at the centre of China’s coronavirus outbreak confronted government ministers at a meeting, demanding their children are evacuated.

Pakistan has so far ruled out bringing home the more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak of the flu-like virus have been recorded.

Health Minister Zafar Mirza and Minister for Overseas Citizens Zulfiqar Bukhari briefed parents, telling them the students’ welfare was better off in China and Pakistan did not have adequate facilities to quarantine them if they returned.

But hundreds interrupted the briefing, with some seizing microphones to say they did not want to listen to officials until their children were returned and dozens flooding the stage to crowd around the ministers.

“Bring our kids back, they have been in lockdown for 25 days…they are not getting any support…from you,” one family member who took the microphone said.

Health minister Mirza said he would convey the parents’ anger to the cabinet.

Pakistan has said its embassy in Beijing is supporting students and a two-person team travelled to Wuhan this week to meet students and gather more information about their situation.

More than 400 parents travelled from around the country to attend the meeting at a school in Islamabad and around 100 protested with placards outside after the meeting, blocking a nearby road. Protests in the larger cities of Lahore and Karachi were held last week.

Many students and their families have expressed growing frustration as the death toll in China mounts, pointing to other countries, including neighbouring India and Bangladesh, evacuating their citizens.