Covid-19 Outbreak Yet to Peak in Pakistan, Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday alerted the National Assembly that Covid-19 is yet to touch its peak in Pakistan as the Lower House met after a gap of almost two months owing to the current pandemic situation in the country.

Addressing a session of the assembly, which was convened on the demand of the opposition parties, Qureshi said: “Our death and infection rate is 2.17 per cent. Across the world, this percentage is about 6.8 per cent. So we have been largely spared from the larger consequences of this pandemic.”

Reiterating the assertion made by the government and seconded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Pakistan has scaled-up its testing capacity, Qureshi said that the country was “ahead of its South Asian counterparts” in terms of handling the pandemic.

He observed that despite being a developing country with an unenviable healthcare system, Pakistan had held up better than most developed countries. The foreign minister added that when comparing with other countries, it was important to consider data.

“There is no doubt that this is an unprecedented challenge,” he said, adding that “different experiments” are being held to curb the spread of Covid-19 until a vaccine is developed.

Addressing the session, Qureshi regretted that Iran “pushed 4,000 to 5,000 Pakistanis” in Balochistan despite Islamabad’s request to wait until a quarantine facility was developed at the otherwise deserted Taftan border crossing.

“They are Pakistanis, we could not disown them, we had to own them,” he said, adding: “I laud the Balochistan government who did their best [to provide facilities] despite scarce resources.”

The minister took a strong exception to the allegations made by the Indian Health Ministry, which blamed the Covid-19 outbreak on the members of the Tablighi Jamaat and used the opportunity to fuel anti-Muslim sentiment prevailing in the country.

Coronavirus did not discriminate on the basis of colour and religion, the foreign minister said. “When I see the comments made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and people from his party, it pains me. Muslims are being called ‘super spreaders’.”

The foreign minister lamented the fact that “hate speech” and “hate-mongering” were taking place in India during this time of crisis.

Qureshi noticed that the government had honoured the opposition’s request to summon a special session with a one-point agenda. He assured opposition parties that all of their arguments regarding the country’s handling of the outbreak will be heard during today’s session.

“We were advised not to hold a session, but we want to debate and we want the Parliament’s input,” he recalled.

“The time for playing the blame game is over. It is now time to sit down together and play a part in saving the nation.

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