Over 400 Pakistanis have been safely evacuated from Sudan and are being lodged at Port Sudan before arrangements for their onward journey are coordinated, according to a statement from the Foreign Office. The office said it was closely monitoring the situation in Sudan and working with Pakistan’s missions in the region to provide relief to Pakistanis affected by the violence. A follow-up virtual meeting was held by Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed Khan with Pakistan’s missions in Sudan and neighboring countries to discuss safe evacuation modalities for Pakistanis.
A Saudi Arabian-arranged operation had previously evacuated an unknown number of Pakistanis from Khartoum last week. The ongoing battle between the military and the well-armed Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group in Sudan has led to a humanitarian crisis and the death of 420 people, with millions of Sudanese without access to basic services and thousands of foreign nationals trapped in the war zone. The main airport has been at the center of the fighting, and artillery barrages have made movement in and out of one of Africa’s largest cities unsafe. Diplomats have been targeted in attacks, and at least five aid workers have been killed.
Despite pressure from concerned countries, the two sides have not abided by a temporary truce, and several convoys involved in evacuations have come under attack. However, fighting calmed over the weekend, leading to a rush of evacuations by other countries, including France and Germany, who said they had evacuated around 700 people. In addition to Pakistan, several other countries have also evacuated their nationals from Sudan, including Indonesia, China, Denmark, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Japan. The United States evacuated embassy staff out by military helicopter, while some convoys took people by road to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. From there, some boarded ships to Saudi Arabia.
The evacuation of international staff from Darfur, the western region where fighting has also escalated, is also underway, with some heading to Chad and others to South Sudan. The ongoing violence in Sudan has closed most hospitals and curtailed water and electricity supplies. The killing of aid workers, including three from the World Food Programme, has led the UN agency to pause its operations in the country, which relies on food aid for about a quarter of its people. The army and RSF jointly staged a coup in 2021 but fell out during negotiations to integrate the two groups and form a civilian government four years after long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled. Their rivalry has raised the risk of a wider conflict that could draw in outside powers.