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Pakistan prepares to evacuate citizens from Yemen

ISLAMABAD/SANAA: Pakistan Saturday said it was preparing to evacuate its citizens and diplomatic staff stranded in Yemen, with two planes on standby.

“Pursuant to the directive of the prime minister, the government of Pakistan is making all necessary arrangements for immediate evacuation of Pakistani community members and embassy personnel from Yemen,” said a statement from the foreign office.

There are around 3,000 Pakistanis in Yemen and the foreign office said stranded citizens were being taken to safer cities from where special PIA flights will be arranged to bring them home.

A convoy of 12 buses would transport 500 people to the western port city of Hudaidah on Saturday, it said, with two PIA planes on standby.

“We are also in contact with all neighbouring countries of Yemen for evacuation of Pakistanis there without visa by any safe means,” it said in a tweet.

In an earlier tweet, the foreign office said it was facing problems evacuating stranded citizens, with the main airports dysfunctional while routes to operating airports and the sea were unsafe.

Pakistani television channels aired live Skype and telephone interviews with citizens stranded in Yemen who complained that they were being threatened by rebels.

On Friday, Pakistan’s defence minister said it was ready to defend Yemen’s “territorial integrity” but had not yet decided to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Shiite Huthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia launched air strikes on Thursday to defend the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi from the advancing insurgents.

Pakistan is a longstanding ally of Saudi Arabia with close military ties, but Islamabad has not yet committed to the operation, which has drawn strong criticism from its neighbour Iran, the major Shiite Muslim power.

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