Despite the Pakistan government’s extensive efforts to manage the crisis involving students in Kyrgyzstan, social media platforms, particularly X (formerly Twitter), were rife with criticism regarding the perceived mishandling of the situation.

Many users expressed frustration over the initial delay in government response and the lack of clear communication during the early stages of the crisis.

Concerns were being raised about the adequacy and timeliness of the measures taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the students. Criticism also focuses on the reported instances of students being left without food and shelter, highlighting a perceived disconnect between official statements and on-ground realities.

Parents and relatives used X (banned and slowdown in Pakistan) to voice their anxieties and dissatisfaction, questioning the government’s preparedness and ability to protect its citizens abroad.

Traditional media in Pakistan extensively covered the government’s handling of the crisis involving Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan which was triggered by a viral video showing a brawl between local Kyrgyz and Egyptian students at a hostel. The altercation reportedly began over harassment issues and quickly escalated. The video, which spread widely on social media, incited locals to protest against what they perceived as lenient treatment of foreign students involved in the fight.

This led to widespread attacks on hostels housing international students, particularly those from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The situation was further inflamed by false and unverified information circulating on social media, causing panic and unrest among the students and their families back home.

The media highlighted several key issues including delays in the government’s response and evacuation efforts, communication breakdowns leading to confusion among students and their families, reports of insufficient support from Pakistani diplomatic missions, concerns about the safety of students amidst political unrest, and difficulties in accessing medical care.

However, the Pakistani government’s response to the crisis involving Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan serves as an excellent case study in effective public relations (PR) and crisis management.

The government’s response started rolling after the Prime Minister fired a tweet showing his concern over attacks on Pakistan students by local mob in Bishkek on 17 May where according to Kyrgyz authorities 41 victims sought medical help.

The government, though a bit late starter, demonstrated its prioritization of the issue through rapid, high-level intervention. The Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Information immediately got involved. The Prime Minister also coordinated efforts on the ground by speaking directly with the Pakistani Ambassador in Kyrgyzstan.

Effective communication strategies played a crucial role in managing the crisis. Multiple press conferences were held to provide accurate information and updates, ensuring transparency and keeping the public informed. This approach helped manage panic and prevent misinformation.

Additionally, updates and reassurances were shared on social media platforms and government websites, allowing the government to reach a wide audience quickly. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar reached Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

He met with Shahzaib, a Pakistani textile worker in hospital who was injured during the recent mob violence in Bishkek. He met with Deputy Chairman of the Kyrgyz Cabinet of Ministers Edil Baisalov and Kyrgyz Minister for Health Alymkadyr Beishenaliev and took up the matter of the unfortunate incident and issues appurtenant to it.

He also held a meeting with a group of Pakistani medical students at Bishkek Airport and assured them the commitment of the Government of Pakistan to the welfare of overseas Pakistanis.

He also held a detailed meeting with Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Kulubaev Zheenbek Moldokanovich in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and discussed the unfortunate incidents of violence against Pakistanis. He hoped that those responsible for the violence would be held accountable.

Qamar Bashir

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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