Daily Briefs

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24 March 2020, Tuesday 

Curfew last option: Imran Khan

Tabligh gatherings continue; Pakistan deploys troops to battle coronavirus

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Curfew last option: Imran Khan

Lakshmi V Menon

On 24 March 2020, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while speaking to media persons at the Prime Minister’s Office, said that a curfew would be imposed only as a last resort to control the spread of the pandemic. In which case, food will be supplied at the doorstep of the poor and low-income groups. (Dawn, 25 March 2020) 

Mr Khan rejected allegations that a delayed response from his team caused the rapid spread of the virus and claimed that Pakistan had fared better than any other world government in dealing with the pandemic. He reminded that with only 21 confirmed coronavirus cases Pakistan had shut down all educational institutions and banned social gatherings. He said there were stages to a lockdown of which a curfew would be the last. He also spoke of the difficulty in quarantining pilgrims in the Taftan facility.  Saying that Pakistan’s economic conditions weren’t similar to European countries to be able to provide essentials during a curfew, the prime minister called upon Pakistani diaspora to support the country. The PM also expressed concerns regarding the uncertainty of how long the current state of affairs would persist. 

Meanwhile, NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal said China was providing aid to Pakistan by supplying medical equipment. He added that NDMA $80m funds would soon increase by $800m. Khusro Bakhtiar, Federal Minister for National Food Security assured Pakistan had sufficient foodgrain stocks.

In brief

Tablighi gatherings continue

Lakshmi V Menon

On March 20 and 21, hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat members conducted a large gathering of “Shab-i-Juma” (on Par Hoti) in their Mardan centre (location of their permanent “markaz”) defying government instructions to avoid public gatherings. Religion students in Bannu composed and sang a Pashto song ridiculing coronavirus, terming it a fraud and advising public to not be misled by government’s coronavirus propaganda. They conducted prayers, speeches and stayed together. (The News International, 24 March 2020) 

Despite, the death of a coronavirus patient in Mardan city, answering questions regarding preventive measures, an attendee of the gathering said they believed that no harm would fall upon any of them as they trusted Allah. He also said that in the absence of protective measures, thousands of Tablighis had spent 40 days at the Raiwind headquarters. 

The video of two students singing “tarana” in Bannu is doing the rounds on social media. Another viral video shows a police officer arresting a cellphone shopkeeper for not using hand sanitizer while catering to his customers. A video being widely shared was made by Hazrat Umar in KP. It ridicules coronavirus, objects to the closing of mosques and says there is no need for social distancing. He says “We are Muslims so we aren’t affected by these kinds of viruses.” According to Umar, the real problem was the economic effects of the Torkham closure and not the virus. “We are ready to go to China to look after those affected by the coronavirus and stay in the affected areas. Just open the border and we will be gone,” he added.


In brief

Pakistan deploys troops to battle coronavirus

Lakshmi V Menon

The federal government’s Ministry of Interior approved military deployment requests of Sindh, Balochistan, KP and Punjab. The Centre also approved summaries from Islamabad, and Pakistan administered parts of Kashmir. On 23 March, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered deployment of military’s medical assistance and troops for countering the virus. (Dawn, 24 March 2020)

Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations, announced the army deployment during a televised statement. This announcement came following the Centre’s seeking of armed forces in all provinces, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad under Article 245 of the Constitution (“functions of the armed forces”) and the Criminal Procedure Code’s Section 131(A) (“power to use military force for public security and maintenance of law and order”). The decision of deployment came with the coronavirus cases inching towards the 900 mark.

Meanwhile, restriction on international flights would continue till April 4; military announced its decision to donate a few days’ salaries of military personnel; and various high-ranking military officials tried to boost the country’s morale in the face of the highly proliferous coronavirus.

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