In post-cabinet briefing, information minister reiterates Islamabad’s commitment to facilitating formation of inclusive government in Afghanistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken to his U.K. counterpart Boris Johnson about seeking Pakistan’s exit from Britain’s travel red-list, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Tuesday, adding that Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan will discuss the country’s coronavirus testing mechanism with London’s chief medical scientist this week.
Addressing a post-cabinet meeting press briefing, he said the government was dedicated to resolving this issue for the benefit of Pakistanis with families in the U.K. “We are putting in all our efforts to have Pakistan moved out of U.K.’s red list, as it affects numerous Pakistani families,” he said.
According to U.K. authorities, Pakistan remains on its red-list—requiring all travelers from it to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine at a government-designated hotel at own cost—because of its low testing rates, which suggest the real number of COVID-19 cases is likely far higher than reported. Islamabad’s limited capacity for genomic surveillance to identify new variants of COVID-19 has also been cited as a reason for keeping travel from the country restricted.
During his interaction with the press, the information minister also clarified that the government was looking at ways to make COVID-19 booster shots—required by some countries that do not recognize Chinese vaccines—free for laborers. Currently the government is charging Rs. 1,270 for a single booster shot for anyone who needs to travel to a country that has a specific vaccine requirement.
Claiming that Pakistan would provide any relief it could to the Afghan people, Fawad said he hoped that peace would soon prevail in Afghanistan and the “sad tales” of its citizens would come to an end. He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to help establish an inclusive government in Afghanistan, adding that the cabinet hoped India would not be able to use Afghan soil against Pakistan following the Taliban’s takeover. “The new Afghan authorities have come up with a clear stance and we hope they won’t allow Afghanistan’s soil to be used against any country and there would be a reduction in Indian mischief and funding to use Afghan soil against Pakistan,” he said, adding that “a change [cannot be expected] the very day after a government changes” in reference to recent attacks from across the Pak-Afghan border.
On the matter of recognizing any new government in Afghanistan, Fawad said Pakistan’s policy was clear that it would not take an isolated decision. “International and regional attitudes would be considered before a decision to recognize new Afghan regime,” he added.
Briefing journalists on the airlift operations from Kabul that concluded late on Aug. 30, he said that of the 10,302 NATO workers that had been brought to Pakistan, 9,032 had already left for their home states. “As many as 1,229 people who came from Afghanistan are present in Pakistan and they will leave within a day or two,” he said, adding that of these 545 were Afghan nationals, while 684 are foreigners. He also clarified that of the 155 evacuees belonging to the United States, only 42 were still present in Pakistan.
According to Fawad, the cabinet was once again briefed on progress in implementing electronic voting machines. He said the prime minister had reiterated that he believed this was the only means to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. He criticized the opposition for rejecting the government’s proposed electoral reforms before even testing the EVMs.
The information minister also announced that Adviser to the P.M. on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Ishrat Hussain had resigned from his post due to personal reasons.