Interior Ministry issues notification allowing use of armed forces ‘as per needs’ for enforcement of guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus
Pakistan’s Interior Ministry on Sunday issued a notification allowing Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the federal capital to avail the services of the Pakistan Army to enforce government-issued SOPs to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Sindh has not yet been allowed to seek the Army’s help, but the provincial government’s Home Department has written a letter seeking the same. According to the letter, the armed forces’ services are required to assist the civil administration’s enforcement of COVID-19 SOPs. It said the provincial government would inform the Interior Ministry of details on required troop and equipment deployment after consultations.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced the decision in a video statement, adding that the government had decided to utilize the armed forces during a meeting of the National Coordination Committee for Coronavirus on Friday. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an address after that meeting, had announced that the government would be deploying the armed forces, warning that if the situation did not improve within a few days, the government would have no choice but to lock down major cities.
“This is a big decision [seeking the Army’s help] because, in our neighboring country of India, 350,000 to 400,000 cases of coronavirus are being reported on a daily basis,” Rashid said in his announcement.
The Interior Ministry’s notification notes that, under powers granted to it by Article 245 of the Constitution, the federal government has authorized provinces to deploy sufficient troops with effect from April 25. The Gilgit-Baltistan Home Department also issued a notification confirming the deployment of the Army and Rangers in cities with positivity of more than 5 percent.
All major provinces have warned that if the rate of spread does not slow within a week, at most, the government would have no choice but to impose a lockdown to avoid healthcare infrastructure from being overloaded.
Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid on Sunday stressed that Pakistan was facing an alarming surge in new coronavirus infections, placing immense pressure on hospitals. She warned that the government was continuously monitoring the situation, adding that if people don’t pay heed to the coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs), then it will be compelled to impose a complete lockdown in the coming two to four days.
Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah likewise announced that if the situation worsens, the provincial government will not hesitate to enforce a lockdown to curb the pandemic’s spread. Balochistan spokesman Liaquat Shahwani has also warned that if the public does not adopt all SOPs, the government would have to shut down major cities.
Pakistan on Monday posted a national positivity ratio of 9.62 percent, reporting 4,825 new infections against 50,161 tests.