RAWALPINDI: A special flight on Wednesday brought back 320 Pakistanis who had been stranded in Malaysia mainly due to the closure of eastern airspace of Pakistan for foreign airlines.
The flight landed at the Islamabad International Airport at 10.10pm, over 45 minutes behind the schedule, as their friends and relatives sitting on the floor waited for the deportees.
Some of the Pakistanis brought back to Islamabad on the special flight were detained by the Malysian authorities as their tickets expired after the closure of Pakistan airspace.
Earlier, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a tweet that a special flight of PIA would bring home 320 Pakistani nationals who were stranded in Malaysian jails due to cancellation of direct flights. He said they were imprisoned for expiry of visa or residence permits.
He said the preparations for their return were directly supervised by foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a special cell to facilitate the return. It included representatives of Pakistan International Airline, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Pakistan Baitul Mal.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had issued special directives for the return of the detainees so that they could join their families on Eidul Fitr.
The aviation division said in a press release that Pakistan Baitul Mal had released Rs40 million for the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners, who had been stranded in Malaysia due to the closure of airspace after the completion of their jail terms in petty crimes.
The cheque was presented by Baitul Mal chairman Aun Abbas to Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Special Assistant to PM on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari.
The PM had directed Bait-ul-Mal and Foreign Office to release Rs40m and Rs10m, respectively, for bringing back the stranded Pakistanis, the aviation division said.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar said over 300 Pakistanis after being released were sent to the Malaysian detainee camps after the Pulwama incident that led to the closure of the airspace. He said the government was in contact with the Malaysian authorities to launch a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Islamabad.
Mr Bukhari said PM Khan was the driving force behind the initiative to bring back the Pakistani prisoners home before the Eid. He said the move would send a signal across the globe that the country was very serious in taking care of its citizens.