PM calls for unity to handle virus spread

-Says its Ulema’s responsibility to ensure SOPs followed for prayer congregations
-Confirms rejecting indefinite lockdown, instead maintains Smart Lockdown
-Expresses satisfaction over Ehsaas Cash Emergency Program
-Asked for more donations to continue virus battle, provide relief to masses
-Meets Punjab CM, discusses Coronavirus situation in Punjab

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday while advising utmost precautions for protection against the coronavirus, asked the countrymen to act responsibly in the prevailing challenging situation as no government could overcome the pandemic alone.
“The government has not that much capacity to handle the situation alone rather the whole nation will have to take the responsibility. While going to the mosque, you must understand that it involves risk to your life and for others too,” the prime minister said addressing the Ehsaas Telethon jointly hosted by multiple television channels and online platforms for fund raising to support the people hard hit by the lockdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hosted by Senator Faisal Javed, the transmission was participated by the news anchors representing the partnering media groups.
Around Rs 550 million were raised during the three and a half hour long transmission which marked live calls from the top businessmen, corporate heads, renowned sportsmen, overseas Pakistanis, artists and philanthropists, and responded by the prime minister.
Following the telethon, the total deposits in the PM Relief Fund for COVID 19 touched Rs 2.76 billion as further donations continued to pour in the advertised account number 4162786786 of National Bank of Pakistan’s Main Branch at II Chundrigarh, Karachi.
The prime minister, who also responded queries from the news anchors, said the coronavirus was a challenge to test any nation’s capability to stand up to it and hoped that Pakistan would rise as a greater nation after sailing through the ordeal.
He said the economic impact of the pandemic would increase in future as the people would exhaust their savings and need support. In such a scenario, the nation would have to face the situation collectively, he added. He said after scraping, the government had announced Rs 144 billion Ehsaas Emergency Cash Scheme to support around 12 million families in a transparent and apolitical manner.
He advised the people not to fall prey to any misunderstanding or notions of stronger immunity among the Pakistanis against the virus rather take all the precautions advised by the doctors.
He said before launching the fund-raising, the government had completed its financial controls to ensure the donated money was spent transparently.
The prime minister said the government was moving to the smart lockdown to close the areas with the coronavirus outbreak because he feared the people could die of starvation amidst strict closures aimed for their protection against the pandemic.
He said the government had already started reopening some industries and the donations would help support the people until they resume their earnings. Realizing the sufferings of the poor class, the government decided to open the construction industry which would also revive all allied industries.
He said the great economies like the United States were afraid of possible economic breakdown as was evident from his Wednesday’s telephonic interaction with US President Donald Trump whom he called mainly to thank him for supporting his global call for debt relief to the developing countries to enable them utilize their resources on anti-COVID operations. The prime minister said he was too much concerned about the future of the small businesses for what the government would soon announce a relief package.
To a question, the prime minister reiterated his stance that there could be no lockdown or even social distancing in the slums like Machhar Colony or Liyari areas of Karachi where multiple family members shared a single room and also lacked clean water. He said while making any decision to impose full lockdown, the provincial governments must also think of such people, not only the elite class. The prime minister said perceiving the nation’s mindset of preferring to pray at mosques, particularly during the holy month of Ramazan, the government agreed upon 20-point guidelines with the religious scholars who now owed responsibility for its true implementation.
However, he advised the people to prefer praying at home during the holy month as other Muslim countries had not allowed prayer congregations. He agreed that the reopening of the businesses would increase the risk for coronavirus transmission, but the government would adopt track and trace method to contain the diseases. He said the government was expecting the coronavirus cases to reach around 15,000 by next week and the second half of May could be difficult when the hospitals could face pressure.
To a question, the prime minister assured the donors that their donations would be spent transparently as the government had established a complete database of the needy people and had also de-listed around 0.8 million non-entitled ones. He said all the government agencies, including the Federal Investigation Agency, police and Inter Services Intelligence, were engaged under the Ehsaas Progamme to detect and apprehend any corrupt elements. The main chunk of the cash scheme went to opposition-led Sindh province which was ample to manifest its apolitical execution, he added. The prime minister said so far, it was the poor class that was bearing the brunt of the situation and the affluent class should come forward to give out to the country in need of the hour.
He said the government was alive to the difficulties being faced by the overseas Pakistanis and was deliberating the strategy for their repatriation which was linked with sufficient quarantine facilities. The transmission was concluded with the special prayer by Maulana Taiq Jameel, who also advised the people to recite the supplications like Ayat Kareem to seek Allah Almighty’s forgiveness and blessings in the distressing situation.
Agencies add: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that after the government conditionally allowed congregational prayers in mosques, it was now the responsibility of ulemas to ensure the people follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for collective prayers.
Talking to journalists during the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas Telethon, which was held to raise funds for Covid-19 relief, he said the government had initially tried to convince people to pray at their homes but it later became clear that people would go to mosques during Ramazan “no matter what we do”.
“I know my nation. I knew people had to come out [to pray] during Ramazan,” he said. Once this was confirmed, he continued, the government decided to allow people to visit mosques but with certain conditions. He said it was also made clear at the time that the mosques would be closed if people violated the SOPs agreed between the government and ulema. “It is now the responsibility of the ulema who gave us guarantees” to ensure the precautions are observed, Prime Minister Imran said. Nevertheless, the premier stressed that people should pray in their homes and stay indoors during Ramazan. But he said the government had to show flexibility when ulemas argued that mosques could be allowed to open with SOPs just as some other sectors, such as the construction industry, were opened with orders to follow certain SOPs. Prime Minister Imran said that instead of issuing orders that lead to people being “beaten up and jailed” for coming out of their homes, “we as a responsible nation should place the onus on the public.”
While ruling out an “indefinite lockdown”, the prime minister regretted that decisions throughout Pakistan’s history were taken for a small elite class. He said any decisions about a sweeping lockdown should not be taken without thinking how the poor will cope with the restrictions. Prime Minister Imran asked people to visit low-income areas and katchi abadis in Islamabad and Karachi and see for themselves how long the residents of these areas, who live in overcrowded neighbourhoods, could be kept under a lockdown.