Pakistani people evacuated from Sudan by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's comprehensive supply ship Weishanhu arrive at the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah on April 29, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Haizhou)
"Chinese friends opened their doors and hearts for us during our most dire circumstances" in conflict-torn Sudan, said a 42-year-old Pakistani mechanic after being evacuated aboard a Chinese navy ship to Saudi Arabia.
by Misbah Saba Malik
SWABI, Pakistan, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Nasrullah Khan, a 42-year-old Pakistani mechanic who worked in Sudan, experienced the real adversity of life for the first time since his birth when sitting anguished and penniless in Port Sudan in recent days.
Now safely in his home in Swabi, a city in Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, he recalled the intense and moving experience, saying that "the Pakistan-China ironclad friendship helped him out of danger."
Deadly armed clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces erupted on April 15, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands.
Nasrullah Khan, a Pakistani evacuated by a Chinese navy vessel from Sudan, meets with his friends and family at his home in northwest Pakistan's Swabi, on May 3, 2023. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)
"It was the worst time of my life when the conflict in Sudan broke out, I was so uncertain if I could get back home because the situation was getting dismal back there. With every passing hour, my hopes were fading until I heard an announcement to get on board a Chinese navy vessel to take a voyage towards peace," Khan, who worked in a printing factory in Sudan, told Xinhua.
In the wake of the recent unrest in Sudan, Khan and thousands of other foreigners working in the African country had to flee for their lives, leaving all their belongings behind.
Khan rushed to a safer place from his workplace in the Sudanese city of Soba to the capital city of Khartoum one night in April, from where he was sent to Port Sudan by the Pakistani embassy for evacuation.
Nasrullah Khan, a Pakistani evacuated by a Chinese navy vessel from Sudan, chats with his friends at his home in northwest Pakistan's Swabi, on May 3, 2023. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)
According to Pakistan's foreign ministry, over 200 Pakistani evacuees in Sudan were brought to Jeddah city of Saudi Arabia by the Chinese navy ship Weishanhu.
"We are grateful to our Chinese friends for this gesture of support and friendship," the ministry said.
Khan told Xinhua that he and other Pakistanis spent four days in a hotel near the port, adding that initially the Pakistanis were being evacuated in groups of 30 to 40 people, but when the Chinese navy vessel arrived, it evacuated over 200 Pakistanis waiting at the port.
"Chinese friends opened their doors and hearts for us during our most dire circumstances, they took good care of us and ensured that our 18-hour-long voyage to Jeddah was a comfortable one," Khan said while ruffling his daughter's hair in affection.
Khan took selfies with the Chinese navy staff, enjoyed the halal cuisine specially prepared for the Pakistani evacuees, and eventually had a peaceful sleep in a cozy room in the vessel after many days of fear and uncertainty in Sudan.
"Throughout my life, I had heard about the Pakistan-China friendship, but never had I imagined the depth of the friendship until I experienced it myself ... It made my heart swell with pride that my best friends saved my life and reunited me with my family. For us, China is indeed the most valuable friend in this time of need," the father of four children told Xinhua.
Nasrullah Khan, a Pakistani evacuated by a Chinese navy vessel from Sudan, meets with his daughters at his home in northwest Pakistan's Swabi, on May 3, 2023. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)
Khan Ghalib, Khan's 65-year-old father, a white-bearded man living with the children of Khan and four of his other sons in an old ancestral home in the remote area of Swabi, said that he had several sleepless nights when Khan was stranded in Sudan.
"I was worried about his life and wellbeing, and I sighed with relief when I saw him safe and sound before my eyes," Ghalib told Xinhua.
He said that since his son returned safely, he always wished the crew which had evacuated Khan the very best, and hoped that the Pakistan-China friendship would further bloom.
According to an official statement, Chinese naval vessels evacuated 493 people, including 272 Chinese and 221 foreigners from countries such as Pakistan and Brazil, from Sudan in two evacuation operations that concluded on April 29, as the evacuees arrived at the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah.■