Covid-19 biggest challenge after WWII: Qureshi

FM says govt making effort to end the plight of stranded Pakistanis


​ Our Correspondent April 24, 2020
FM says govt making effort to end the plight of stranded Pakistanis. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday said the novel coronavirus pandemic is the biggest global challenge after World War II that has caused severe difficulties for the whole planet.

Over two million people are infected with the Covid-19 and more than 100,000 have died, according to the data of the Johns Hopkins University.

“The whole world has stopped practically because of the coronavirus,” he said while addressing the Pakistani community in the United Kingdom via a video link.

The foreign minister said the loss of human lives from corona in the UK is deeply saddening. “There are many Pakistanis among them who died and I pray for them and express my condolences to their families.”

On efforts of the medical staff in such a crisis, he said the passion of doctors, nurses and others to save the lives of others is invaluable, especially the role of Pakistani doctors in the UK and US is being appreciated.

He said that efforts are being made to alleviate the plight of Pakistanis stranded abroad. “Today, the number of Pakistanis stranded abroad has risen to more than 60,000 and is increasing on a daily basis,” said Qureshi.

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Elaborating the details, he said that there were capacity issues in quarantining Pakistani nationals coming from abroad.

“Many students are awaiting repatriation due to the closure of universities there,” he said, adding that thousands of Pakistanis around the world are stranded due to the current situation.

Qureshi said: “We have tried to hire other airlines besides the Pakistan International Airlines so that more Pakistanis can be repatriated – so we have also allowed the Qatar Airways to operate.”

With that process, the government is also working to stop the local spread of the virus, he added.

According to the federal government statistics, over 11,000 people are infected with the Covid-19 and around 237 deaths have been reported.

Talking about the government’s countermeasures, he said as many as 17,000 Ehsaas Centres have been set up across the country and a monthly stipend worth Rs12,000 is being distributed among daily-wage earners “in a transparent manner”.

To support the economy, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan launched relief programme 2020. The foreign minister also mentioned the premier’s call for the facilitation of loans to support the economies of developing countries.

“I am happy to say that there has been a very positive response to this demand from the international community and international organisations,” he said.

The FM also said that the premier held a second telethon on April 23. “We are grateful that Pakistanis abroad have been so generous and contributed wholeheartedly.”

He added that the Pakistani nation donates generously during Ramazan. “If you send your share to the PM’s Relief Fund this time too, it will be a great service,” he said.

He added: “Our economy was improving as compared to the last year, exports had increased by 40%, the rest of the economic indicators were improving, but then we had to face the same fate as the rest of the world, we fear $4 billion loss due to the corona simply because of a drop in exports.

We are moving forward with economic diplomacy. We are focusing on the construction, agriculture, and information technology sectors so that our economy can improve.”

The government has limited resources to prevent the spread of the corona pandemic, but despite its limitations, it is efficiently working.

He said that the possibility of economic activity is being explored by giving economic concessions to the private sector. “I would request the philanthropic Pakistanis living in the UK to join hands with the Pakistani High Commission to arrange rations, sehri and iftar for the Pakistani community.”

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