Pakistan’s P.M. says U.S. should end sanctions on Iran while it copes with one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic
The world community must consider debt write-offs for poorer countries to help their economies cope with the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“My worry is poverty and hunger,” Khan told Kathy Gannon of the news agency, adding that if a serious outbreak happens in Pakistan—which has reported 187 confirmed cases of the disease so far, albeit with very limited testing—it could derail his government’s efforts to uplift the ailing economy. According to the AP, Khan believes exports would fall off, unemployment would soar and an onerous national debt would become an impossible burden.
“It’s not just Pakistan. I would imagine the same in India, in the subcontinent, in African countries,” he said, referring to coronavirus and its predicted impact. “If it spreads, we will all have problems with our health facilities. We just don’t have that capability. We just don’t have the resources.”
Despite this concern, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government has come under fire for refusing to test anyone without a recent travel history, raising questions over whether it is trying to hide community spread and lower its infection numbers. Most people who get COVID-19 only experience mild or moderate symptoms, with new research suggesting nearly 1 in 2 of patients have no symptoms at all, but are still carriers of the highly contagious virus, which can most heavily impact the elderly and those with compromised immunities.
In his interview with the Associated Press, which took place on Monday, the prime minister also called for lifting U.S. sanctions against Iran, which has reported one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the world, with over 600 deaths and more than 12,500 confirmed infections.
Most of Pakistan’s cases of the coronavirus have been traced back to Iran. Khan told the AP that Iran is a “classic example” of a place where the humanitarian imperative to contain the outbreak outweighs political rivalries or economic dogmas.
Khan also hit out at Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent call for the Taliban to demonstrate their commitment to peace by extricating themselves from Pakistan’s influence. Calling the comments “disappointing,” the prime minister said that since taking office, he’s worked hard with the U.S. to help achieve a peace deal in Afghanistan.
“If anything, it should have been appreciation of the way Pakistan has gone about furthering the peace process,” Khan said, adding that he had always opposed Islamabad’s participation in the war on terror. The conflict was a waste of Pakistani lives and money, he said.
The prime minister reiterated his claims that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of millions of people through a controversial new citizenship law. “The worst nightmare of the world has happened—an, racial party that believes in racial superiority has taken over a country of more than one billion people and has nuclear weapons,” he said. “That’s when I went to the United Nations” to warn of the danger posed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government, he added.