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Pakistan contacts besieged elderly couple in Syria

Muhammad Fazal Akram and his wife Sughra Bibi Akram have been living in Syria since 1975

Pakistani diplomats in the Syrian capital, Damascus, have contacted an elderly couple in a besieged suburb after their plight was highlighted by Anadolu Agency.

Muhammad Fazal Akram and Sughra Bibi Akram are among the 400,000 civilians caught in Eastern Ghouta by a Syrian regime blockade.

Earlier this month, Anadolu Agency spoke to the Pakistani couple, who called for assistance from their government.

In a news briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said the embassy in Damascus contacted the Akrams on Tuesday.

“Our embassy in Damascus contacted Fazal Akram on 26 December after a story published in the media about the couple seeking refuge in the Pakistani Embassy in Syria,” he said.

They had been assured that every effort was being made to safely evacuate the couple, originally from the Gujrat district of Punjab province, as soon as possible.

Faisal said Pakistan had asked for assistance from the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

Fazal, 72, and Bibi, 62, left Pakistan for Syria in 1975 and eventually settled in Eastern Ghouta.

When civil war erupted in 2011, they found themselves caught up in the violence and have been under siege for more than five years.

“We heat our home by burning cow dung,” Fazal told reporters on 12 December. “We sleep in the same room as the animals.”

He added: “Our situation here is very bad. We are under blockade. If the Pakistani government could help, we want them to take us from here.

“My family don’t even know if we are alive. I just want them to hear my voice.”

Like the area’s other inhabitants, the Akrams have found food and medicine difficult to find under the siege.

The conflict in Syria has left hundreds of thousands dead and seen more than 10 million people displaced, according to the UN.

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