Pakistan’s prime minister urges public to adopt preventative measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus
The smooth functioning of Pakistan’s economy cannot be brought to a halt now that it is once again on the path to recovery, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Wednesday, as he said the country must safeguard the economy while curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Addressing media during a visit to Lahore, he assured industries that the government would not shut down any factories or businesses amidst the ongoing second wave of COVID-19. “We cannot leave daily wage workers unemployed,” he said. “But I strongly urge all factory, shop and shopping mall owners to strictly enforce safety protocols. And the easiest thing to do is just to wear a mask,” he added.
Claiming that Pakistan’s exports were now ahead of India and Bangladesh, the prime minister claimed that Faisalabad’s textiles industry was actually facing a shortage of workers. “So we will not shut down factories,” he stressed, noting that countries in the west had already started re-imposing complete lockdowns.
“While safeguarding against corona, we cannot allow our people to die of hunger. Our economy has recovered after hard work; we cannot stop its smooth functioning at this juncture,” he added.
“For the first time in 17 years, Pakistan has showed a current account surplus … [we] could even end our fiscal deficit if we did not have to repay the loans taken by the previous government,” he claimed, without factoring in the substantial loans the incumbent government has also secured in its two years of power.
Khan claimed the rupee’s exchange rate had reached its “natural position,” and once again claimed previous governments had not considered overseas Pakistanis as “assets.”
“The PTI government’s policies will protect overseas Pakistanis’ investments and encourage them to send dollars back home to help Pakistan raise its foreign exchange reserves,” he claimed. As part of this, said Khan, the Punjab government had started acting against “land mafias,” which he alleged had been given a free hand because they funded political parties’ public meetings, and election campaigns.
Urging the public to act responsibly and wear masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus, he said it was concerning that around 50 deaths were being reported due to COVID-19 daily. Reminding people that Pakistan had “successfully fought off” the first wave of COVID-19 by adopting preventative measures, he said everyone must once again show the same willingness for the sake of lives and livelihoods.
To a question on the opposition’s planned political rallies, Khan said such activities should be avoided as large gatherings cause a rapid spread of COVID-19. “We must not allow any activities that cause people to gather,” he said. “We know that when people have close contact, the virus spreads at a very fast rate … this is why we even put off our own rallies,” he said, adding that the situation could return to normal once daily infections have been brought down.
Referring to a judgment of the Islamabad High Court, the prime minister said it had also required the public to follow all directives issued by the National Command and Operation Center. “These people [opposition] are endangering the lives of people,” he said, and reiterated his claims that nothing they did would yield a NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance].
During his media interaction, the prime minister claimed that Lahore’s Ravi River and Karachi’s Bundal Island projects were “very important for the future of Pakistan.” He reiterated his claims that Bundal would help distribute the Sindh capital’s burgeoning population, adding that it would also reduce the metropolis’s waste management, sewerage and water supply issues. He also claimed that making Bundal Island a “model city” would protect the mangroves and reduce pollution.
“In Lahore, the water supply is dwindling. In 20 years, Lahore has grown 1.5 times. And 70 percent of the city’s green cover has been depleted, leading to pollution,” he said, claiming that at its current rate of growth, the city would expand to the Ravi project’s location within five to six years.
The prime minister claimed both proposed projects would focus on vertical expansion to protect green areas, and claimed this would also reduce food insecurity. He also claimed that both projects would boost job creation and foreign exchange through direct investment.
Khan credited his government’s foreign policy as its “greatest success,” claiming the country now boasted the kind of global acceptability it had never enjoyed earlier. “Until now, India was a ‘very nice country’ and Pakistan ‘only belonged to terrorists’,” he said, claiming that his government’s lobbying efforts had “exposed” India’s atrocities in Kashmir.
Similarly, the prime minister claimed, Afghanistan used to consider Pakistan an enemy, with the United States believing Islamabad was playing a “double game” in the war on terror. “Today, Pakistan is seen as the country that is bringing peace to Afghanistan,” he claimed, adding that the mantra of “do more” had been demolished.
Khan also reiterated claims that the country was under no pressure to recognize Israel, stressing that ties with Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E. were in good shape.