Daily Briefs

Photo : The News

12 May 2020, Tuesday, Vol 1, No 12

Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities

NA session meets on COVID;  the government and opposition end up in a blame game; Remittances record a six per cent increase during July-April FY20; Gen Bajwa discusses border security with Iranian counterpart Maj Gen Bagheri;

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities
As a part of Imran Khan’s decision to ease the lockdown, markets across Pakistan opened on Monday. The government expected that the people and vendors would follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the government, as a part of “Smart Lockdown”. Available news and images on what had happened on Monday highlight an impending disaster.

Traffic was high on the roads. Markets were full of people. Social distancing was dumped as a result.

Expecting social distancing in traditional South Asian markets is asking for the moon. Unlike the huge new malls in the big cities, traditional markets and the shopping complexes of the 1990s and 2000s – are narrow lanes, with no space for people to maintain any distance. While cities like Karachi and Lahore may have new malls, but for regular provisions, people would be visiting the local markets.

People cannot be blamed. South Asians across the region are like this. The government should have expected it. Leading newspapers and analysts warned the decision to open sooner and leave the COVID fighting in the hands of the people would backfire. However, the government would not listen. Though Imran may say that he has eased the restrictions keeping in mind the miseries and starvation of poor and daily wage earners, it may be this very segment, that may now face the brunt.

His decision was political and perhaps economic, and not based on scientific grounds.

Dawn, in its editorial, reported, “the situation is already serious, and the reports from hospitals and doctors suggest that the situation will get worse. According to the Sindh health minister, there is a sharp increase in the number of patients “after every half an hour”, and the number of beds in high-dependency units across hospitals in the province are running short.” (Editorial, "A worrying gamble," Dawn)

Smart lockdown needs smarter governments and stronger SOPs. Else, the Second Wave will be staggering.

In Focus 
By Lakshmi V Menon & Abigail Miriam Fernandez

Remittances record a six per cent increase during July-April FY20
On 11 May, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) data show that during the first ten months of FY20, the workers' remittances increased six per cent to $18.8 billion. SBP said the worker's remittances recorded a growth of $980.6 million concerning the corresponding period of the previous fiscal year. Until January, workers' remittances maintained a 4 per cent year-on-year increase in monthly average. However, April saw a 5.5 per cent decline in remittances compared to March. SBP added that a pandemic-led decline in foreign inflows is expected owing to the global economic lull.

With major inflows from US, UK and GCC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and UAE, remittances had maintained a nine-per cent compounded annual rate from 2014-19. Further, they grew in terms of local currency as the rupee depreciated more than 40 per cent over the same period. 

Previously, due to oil fall and the pandemic, the World Bank had projected a decrease in remittances to Pakistan in FY20, compared to FY19. The plummeting oil prices faced by oil producing nations and pandemic lockdowns in Saudi, UAE, UK and USA (countries from where 80 per cent of total remittances come) may cause a substantial drop in remittances.
(The News International)

NA session meets on COVID;  the government and opposition end up in a blame game
The National Assembly, which met on 11 May after a period of two months, witnessed nothing but political attacks and counter-attacks. Further, the meeting also underlined the distancing between the Centre and provinces, especially Sindh over how the pandemic has been handled.

The opposition leaders blamed the federal government for their lack of support towards the provinces in fighting the virus and, their inability to come up with a national strategy to deal with the COVID-19 situation. However, the Foreign Minister and others defended the Centre's actions and blamed the opposition's non- cooperation for the current situation. PM Imran Khan's absence was also a question that was raised. 

PPP chairman stated that this crisis had exposed the inefficiency of their prime minister, adding that the federal government should have stood along with the provinces in fighting this pandemic. Further, other ministers also expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the government was treating the pandemic. 
Gen Bajwa discusses border security with Iranian counterpart Maj Gen Bagheri
Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff held a telephonic conversation with Iran's Chief of Army to discuss the matter of border security and COVID-19 situation. The two commanders spoke about enhancing security measure on both sides of the borders and also discussed ways to ensure how border terminals could be improved with the Covid-19 situation. Further, as reported by the ISRP, Bajwa stated that Pakistan continues to desire for regional peace and stability on the basis of mutual respect, non-interference and equality. Pakistan has started fencing the border but will require mutual bilateral cooperation to ensure border security. (ISPR)

The meeting between the two comes amid the rise in attacks along the Pak-Iran border, most recent being the attack on 9 May in which six security personnel were killed in an IED blast. The security personnel were returning from their routinely patrolling when their vehicle was hit by an IED detonated by remote control close to the border. This matter was also discussed by the two commanders.

Importing medicines from India snowballs into an issue
PM Imran Khan directed to investigate the import of over medicines from India. Previously, Pakistan had suspended all trade with India in August 2019 following the Indian government's revocation of the article 370. A Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) document shows 450 medicines are imported from India, including vitamins, salts and drugs.
However, due to growing appeals from Pakistan's pharmaceutical industry, Islamabad initially relaxed the ban to allow the use of already imported goods and materials from India. Later, to ensure the availability of life-saving drugs, Islamabad removed the ban on a wide range of medicines and raw materials imported from India. This policy shift was to avoid a severe shortage of life-saving drugs. However, allegations that all types of medicines, including vitamins and others, were being imported from India in the name of "life-saving drugs" arose.

It is reported that 95 per cent of drugs manufactured in Pakistan were using imported raw materials from India, China and Europe; where Indian share accounts to 50 per cent. Owing to this heavy reliance, on 11 May, representatives of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association warned against the banning of medicines and raw materials from India. They also cautioned that any such action could possibly lead to shortages, price-hikes and weaken Pakistan's ability to counter Covid-19.

As per the NHS document, Pakistan currently imports vitamins, such as B1, B2, B6, B12, D3, Zinc Sulphate Monohydrate, various vaccines including Polio, BCG and Anti Tetanus Vaccine, drugs for cancer patients and many more life-saving drugs and raw materials from India. (Dawn, 12 May 2020 & Dawn, 12 May 2020)


In Brief 
By Harini Sha and A Padmashree

People ignore SOPs on the first day after lifting the lockdown; 1,312 new virus cases, 30 deaths reported in 24 hours
The News reported on the failure of the people to stick down to the lockdown. According to the report, "most of the shopkeepers, as well as buyers, seemed throwing caution to the winds as far as observance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs), set by the government for opening of businesses for Ramazan shopping." (The News International

The above is worrying, as the numbers keep increasing. According to Dawn, on 11 May (Monday), the total number of Covid-19 cases was over 31,700 on Monday, and the deaths touching 700.

Chinese provinces Shandong, Jiangsu, and Ningxia donate PPE for Punjab province.
Three provinces of Chine - Shandong, Jiangsu and Ningxia have donated personal protection equipment (PPE) worth Rs100 million. It includes protective suits, N-95 and surgical masks, gloves and disposable medical protectors for medical professionals and janitorial staff. The News quoted the Chinese Consul General saying Pakistan is a trustworthy friend of China adding that helping the Pakistani brethren in an hour of trial is their duty (The News International, 12 May 2020)

Peshawar blast left two traffic police and five more injured 
Two traffic police and five more were injured in an explosion Peshawar, that was hidden near the electric pole and remote-controlled. (Dawn, 12 May 2020 )

The government of Pakistan bans two more separatist organizations in Sindh
The government has added the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz-Aresar Group (JSQM-A), Sindhu Desh Revolution Army (SRA) and Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SLA) to the list of banned organizations. Since 2001, Pakistan has been maintaining a list of proscribed groups, that saw the adding new names into the list. They include organizations from Gilgit to Gwadar, and across all the four provinces. There are 76 organizations that are proscribed; Dawn's report has the complete list. (Dawn, 12 May 2020)

Baloch Liberation Army claims the attack near the Pakistan-Iran border
The explosion that took place near the Pak – Iran border has been claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army. (Dawn,12 May 2020

The explosion took place on 8 May in the Jech district of Balochistan, where six security personnel were killed. It was close to Pakistan's border with Iran. (Dawn

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Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities

9 May 2020, Saturday, Vol 1, No 9

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