LAHORE - The Supreme Court Friday ordered the authorities of Shaheen Air International to ensure return of the stranded Pakistanis from China by Monday (August 6).

A three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, issued the order. The court also sought appearance of owner of the airline, Malik Ahsan Sehbai, to convey the court order for taking immediate action on bringing back from China the Pakistani nationals who got stuck up at the airport due to cancellation of the flight operation of the Shaheen Air when it failed to pay dues to the tune of Rs 1.5 billion to Civil Aviation.

The court is hearing the suo motu case on the sufferings of the Pakistanis who were not brought back by Shaheen Air as per schedule.

After suspension of the flights of the airline, 300 Pakistanis are awaiting their return to their country from the Chinese port city.

The Shaheen Air regional director apprised the bench that passengers could not be brought back to Pakistan as all flights, except Saudi Airline, had been cancelled on July 29 at the airport of Guangzhou. The court was informed that it was only Shaheen Air which provided flight service from Lahore to Guangzhou.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said: “China Airlines’ flights for Guanghzou leave Islamabad every day. It is another thing if Shaheen Air wants to save money.”

“Tell us when you will bring back the Pakistanis from China,” the chief justice quizzed, adding the court was ready to sit for hearing on the issue even at night as the passengers included daily wagers and those who were coming home for their wedding. “All of them are detained there and the court will also ensure compensation for the hardship they are facing.”

Later, Shaheen Air Legal Director Abraiz Khan presented a report to the bench, stating that negotiations were underway with different companies to charter a plane. He pointed out the issue would be resolved in three to four days and the SC would be kept informed of the progress. The official, however, told the court that the airline had been permitted to send a flight to China.

Dissatisfied with the response from the airline official, the chief justice ordered Shaheen Air to ensure return of all the passengers to Pakistan before Monday (August 6).

The bench also instructed the Civil Aviation Authority to prepare a report on the condition of the plane to be sent to bring back the passengers from China. Justice Nisar directed the airline not to send any plane which was unsafe for flying. “The plane must be sent after receiving the necessary clearance from the CAA,” he added.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua told the court that only 46 passengers of the originally reported figure of 300 Pakistanis were left in Guangzhou.

The chief justice ordered immediate return of the rest of the passengers. He also said a senior official of the airline should make the evacuation journey in order to experience sufferings of a common passenger. The court adjourned hearing till August 7.