Pakistan’s prime minister says country too poor for sustained lockdowns, urges citizens to donate to relief fund
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged Pakistanis to unite in the fight against the novel coronavirus, as he announced the formation of a volunteer force and a charitable fund to cater to the needs of the impoverished during lockdowns.
In a nationally televised speech, Khan said the entire world was struggling to overcome the spread of COVID-19, adding that China had thus far been the only country to successfully overcome it. He said Beijing had only been able to manage this feat by placing 20 million people under lockdown, which was not sustainable for a country like Pakistan. “If Pakistan was in a similar position as China, I would have shut down whole cities,” he said. However, he added, 25 percent of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line, while another 20 percent is on the edge.
In this scenario, said the prime minister, a lockdown could never succeed as people would lose their sources of income and have nothing to eat. “This virus does not differentiate between the rich and poor,” he warned. He also defended his decision to not proceed for lockdown by pointing to neighboring India, where he claimed P.M. Narendra Modi had been forced to apologize for imposing a nationwide curfew. However, Modi had merely apologized for the harsh nature of the restrictions, and said this was necessary to overcome the disease.
But while Pakistan lacks funds, “we have two other things,” said Khan. “The power of faith and [our] youth. We have faith that we can win it [fight against COVID-19] with unity and faith, one of the basic principles espoused by the father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam, and we have the second-largest youth population in the world, which will be used to assist the government and administration to overcome the disease,” he said.
As part of this, Khan announced the establishment of the Corona Relief Tiger Force, a volunteer initiative that would work with the civil administration and Army to contain the spread of coronavirus. According to Khan, the Force would be deployed as needed to distribute food to impoverished placed under lockdown, and would also serve to raise awareness about the coronavirus and its preventative measures among the populace. Registration for the Force is now open via the Pakistan Citizen portal.
For those wishing to sign up, the iOS and Android apps for the Pakistan Citizen portal are located here:
The prime minister said a cell was working in the Prime Minister’s Office to monitor the ongoing situation. He said in a week’s time, the trends about the spread of the virus would become clear and the government would take further action as required. “We will go for a complete lockdown only when the government will be in a position to feed people at their homes,” he added.
Khan reiterated that the coronavirus was most dangerous to the elderly and people with compromised immunities, and urged people not to treat it as a social stigma. He also, once again, warned of strict action against hoarders and profiteers during this crisis.
The prime minister also announced the establishment of the Corona Relief Fund at the National Bank of Pakistan for charitable contributions to aid the fight against the virus. These contributions would be tax-free and tax incentives would be given to tax-filing persons, he said. The account would open for donations from tomorrow (April 1, 2020).
Khan said Pakistan had, thus far, allocated $8 billion for a coronavirus relief package, adding that this would be enhanced if required. He said the State Bank of Pakistan would give loans to industries on low markup so they would not exterminate any jobs.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund can do so using the following information:
Account No: 4162786786
Swift code: NBPAPKKAMBR