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Emancipation: Eight Pakistanis held by Chinese govt released

By Shabbir Mir

GILGIT: The Chinese government has released eight of the 16 Pakistanis detained for the last two months in Xinjiang province.
The jailed individuals, mostly from Gilgit-Baltistan, were businessmen and had gone to China for work in November, 2015.

Talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday, Ghulam Abbas, an immigration official at Khunjerab Pass, said, “They had been arrested by the Chinese government on suspicion, and we are very pleased that they have been released and handed over to us.” He said efforts were under way to release the remaining Pakistani citizens who are detained.

The eight Pakistanis were released after persistent efforts from immigration officials, especially Abbas. They reached Sost town in Gojal Valley late on Friday night from where they will head to their homes after completing legal formalities.

Costly trip

Speaking to The Express Tribune over the telephone from Khunjerab Pass, one of the detainees, Yawar Abbas, a resident of G-B and a trader, said the visit to China cost them dearly as they had to pay for their food during detention. “I spent approximately Rs300 on food and other necessary items each day,” he said.

According to Yawar, three of the vehicles owned by the traders are still with Xinjiang authorities. “They are with the Chinese authorities and we do not know what to do now. If we do not get them back, it will be another loss to our already difficult financial position,” he added.

Yawar complained the Pakistan embassy in China failed to help the traders while they were in detention.

However, he could not contain his gratitude at being released and said, “It is a moment of joy for us and we are thankful to immigration authorities, particularly Ghulam Abbas, for their efforts.”

The backdrop

Hundreds of G-B residents are involved in trade with China via Karakoram Highway, one of the highest paved roads in the world.

However, the volume of trade has remained low for nearly five years between 2010 and 2015. This was immediately after a landslide in Attabad created a lake which submerged nearly 25 kilometres of the highway in Hunza. The road, which has now been reconstructed, was inaugrated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2015.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2016.

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