ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday proposed global truce, including cessation of all "skirmishes and war like situations", in order to focus solely on the fight against coronavirus (Covid-19).
The idea was floated by President Arif Alvi during the virtual summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) convened by Azerbaijan, the current chair.
NAM with over 120 members is the biggest global forum outside the United Nations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among several other leaders, who attended the summit.
President Alvi raised the issue of Kashmir as well as hate crime incidents against Muslims in India and proposed a ceasefire. Although, he did not name India, it was evident that Pakistan's offer extended to the current hostilities with India along the Line of Control (LoC).
An important World summit to address the health and economic ravages of Covid-19. The world must develop a coherent international approach to lift people out of this scourge, including debt relief so that the impact on the poor of this earth can be reduced. https://t.co/f9no4nO3v8— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) May 4, 2020
Despite the outbreak of coronavirus, there has been no let-up in skirmishes along the LoC.
In the last two months alone, India violated ceasefire agreement over 450 times, targeting the civilian population, according to Pakistani officials.
Pakistan has also been expressing serious concerns that India might resort to "false flag" operations to divert the attention from domestic problems, particularly the growing incidents of hate crimes against Muslims.
Against this backdrop, President Alvi's offer is seen as significant.
According to the Presidency, Alvi said the unprecedented crisis could and must be transformed into an opportunity to create a more equitable world economy that could enable developing countries to make progress towards Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that in an inter-connected, inter-dependent and increasingly globalised world, our policies and responses to such crisis, leaves no one behind.
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The president proposed to cease "all skirmishes, war-like situations so that countries can focus" on the fight against Covid-19.
"Our efforts to handle Covid-19 should stay clear of politicisation and pursuit of narrow agenda," he stressed.
He also reiterated Pakistan's call for an urgent “Global Initiative on Debt Relief”.
"There should be strong efforts by governments to discourage intolerance and discrimination, incitement to hatred, etc because of Covid-19 and to provide equal health access to all people," he said, referring to hate crimes against Muslims in India
A major effort particularly focused towards the poorest in the world for their relief, and revival of economies at the earliest so that livelihoods may be restored should be made, he said.
He said the impact of Covid-19 had exposed the fragility of our global system and the enormity of the “challenges we face”.
Located in a region where two of our immediate neighbours have been severely impacted by Covid-19, he said Pakistan undertook a range of measures at an early stage to mitigate its spread and address its effects.
A robust institutional mechanism was set up to ensure a unified response.
Wide-ranging measures were introduced to check the spread of the virus, he added.
"These included international and domestic travel restrictions, school closures, restrictions on public gatherings, localised quarantines, strengthening of countrywide health response and varying levels of lockdown in cities across the country."
Screening and testing, surveillance of cases and launching of an information campaign to raise awareness among public also helped our timely response.
Our three-pronged response of preventing Covid-19 from spreading, suppressing it, and mitigating its impact have largely been effective, as Pakistan is still in the containment phase.
He also highlighted steps Pakistan had taken, including approximately $8 billion for vulnerable groups, covering relief measures in cash for daily-wage workers, low-income families, financial support for SMEs, support for health and food supplies and fuel prices, and procurement of emergency services.
The president said there had been an alarming increase in religious intolerance, hate speech, Islamophobia, Xenophobia and other forms of discrimination, resulting in incitement to hatred against and scapegoating of religious minorities for the spread of virus.
"Those targeted – especially children, women, and elderly – have faced verbal abuse, death threats and physical attacks, and have even been denied access to vital health services," Alvi said.
"Nowhere are these trends more pronounced than in our immediate neighbourhood, where response to Covid-19 has not only been discriminatory but also specifically targeting Muslims."
He said the spread of the virus has been widely dubbed “Corona Jihad” by supporters of a far-right government, amid claims that the pandemic is a conspiracy by Muslims to infect people from other religions. "This hate-mongering is part of ideological dispensation and anti-minority agenda that has taken deep roots in our neighbourhood."
He said the people of Kashmir, who have been under occupation since 1947, have now been made to suffer under a political lockdown since August 2019.
"The situation has become even more aggravated in the wake of the pandemic, where the Kashmiris continue to be denied high-speed internet access and face restrictions in terms of medical and other supplies."
"The Kashmiri political leaders and a vast majority of its youth are languishing in crowded jails, making them vulnerable to the pandemic," the president further said. "It is unfortunate that while the world’s attention has been focused on fighting Covid-19, opportunistic moves were made to alter the demographic structure of the occupied territory, in complete violation of international law and relevant UNSC resolutions."
He said despite UN Secretary General’s appeal to avoid war and war-like situations during this pandemic, “we have suffered cross LoC heavy shelling resulting in many civilian deaths”.
He said the world has never been in more serious crises, which loudly demand that leaders of the world should rise and lift humanity out of its misery and “save the world as we know it, indeed to improve upon it”.