By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the developed countries to provide debt relief to poorer nations that were struggling to cope with the coronavirus crisis that has devastated their economies.
“The experience of the developed world is completely different to what we are facing in the developing world. Countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — specifically the Indian subcontinent — our experience is somewhat different,” Imran Khan explained while speaking to the participants of the online session of World Economic Forum (WEF) as Pakistan’s death toll for novel coronavirus crossed 1,000 mark on Wednesday.
According to data from the US-based Johns Hopkins University, which has maintained a dashboard of COVID-19 cases worldwide, Pakistan is listed at 19 in terms of the number of people infected, out of a total of 188 countries and regions.
“The speed at which COVID-19 [the disease caused by the novel coronavirus] spread in Europe and the United States, we’re not experiencing the same sort of speed,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said.
“On the other hand, we are still facing rising number of cases and we still haven’t reached our peak here” in Pakistan, he added.
“From day one, the difference between, say, what we’ve seen in Europe and the United States — and, in fact, even in China — is that we had to face this twin challenge: one was to stop [and] stem the growth of the virus, hence, the lockdown.
“But the bigger challenge and increasingly in our country is how to mitigate the effects of lockdown on our population with the rising poverty.
“We, in Pakistan, we have 25 million workers who are either daily wagers or get paid weekly or are self-employed. When we [impose a] lockdown like the whole of the world to stop the spread of the virus all these people became unemployed.
“When we are talking about 25 million workers, we are talking about 25 million families. And actually it has affected around almost 120-150 million people [who] face stark poverty.
“Unless the men and the women work, they cannot feed their families. What my government did was we launched a cash programme and reached nearly 15 million families with cash transfers but this is only a short-term solution.”
“Therefore, despite the raising cases in our country, we have decided to ease our lockdown and reopen our construction industry so that people can find employment because there is no way that the government can provide for all. The only way we can do that is by providing employment.
Imran Khan said that Pakitanis realise that they had to live with this virus at least until a vaccine comes out and balances it. “We have raised a volunteer force in this regard — of one million volunteers — who will help the administration as it is already overburdened and so are the law enforcement agencies,” he said while referred to recently raised Tigers Force.
“This volunteer force will encourage people not to have large gatherings and spread awareness among masses to follow the SOPs [standard operating procedures] necessary to stem the virus,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani law maker , Shaheen Raza died of Coronavirus at a hospital in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday.
Punjab Assembly member from Gujranwala city was tested positive on Sunday and was shifted to Mayo Hospital Lahore’s isolation ward.
Doctors said that the 60-year-old MPA also had the co-morbidities- diabetes and hypertension.