ISLAMABAD :Prime Minister Imran Khan stressing on the need of fighting war against Coronavirus with unity and sagacity on Monday announced “PM’s Relief Fund for COVID-19” and a youth force to effectively tackle the situation arising out of the deadly contagion which has so far killed over 30,000 people across the world.
Addressing the nation over radio and television, he urged people including the Overseas Pakistanis to contribute generously in the PM’s Relief Fund for COVID-19 for which an account “NBPaqAPKKAMBR-4162786786” had been opened at the main branch of National Bank of Pakistan Karachi and would be operative from April 1.
The prime minister said those contributing in the PM’s Relief Fund would not be asked any question about the source of their funds, rather they would be given tax incentives.
He said the money raised through this fund would be used for giving financial assistance to the poor people hit by the COVID-19 at their doorsteps, through Ehsas Programme.
The prime minister also announced “Corona Tiger Force” to help the government and institutions to reach out to the poor people affected by the lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 and provide them with food and other essential items.
“God forbids, if Coronavirus spreads, this youth force in coordination with army and administration will reach out to the poor people,” he said and added that this force besides supplying food and other essential items to the poor, would also help create awareness among people about self-quarantine and other safety measures.
The prime minister said the youth from all segments of society including young doctors, nurses and others could join the Corona Tiger Force. The whole operation of the force would be organized and coordinated by a data cell from the PM Office.
Besides, he said, the State Bank of Pakistan had decided to offer soft loans to those industries and factories who would not lay off their employees and laborers in this situation.
The prime minister further said the philanthropists engaged in the charity work in the wake of Coronavirus should get themselves registered at Ehsas Programme, so that a coordinated effort could be made without any duplication and neglecting any segment.
The prime minister said that he was addressing the nation at a critical time when the whole world was fighting a war against coronavirus by employing their available capacities and resources.
Only one country in this fight had yet emerged successful and that was China which had put a population of about 11 million in Wuhan city under a lockdown, thus, controlling the further spread of virus, he added.
“If we have the same situation, I will have opted for closure of cities here, but we have a serious problem as 25 per cent of our population is living below the poverty line with further 20 per cent population hovering around this line, which means a total of 80-90 million population can head towards complete hunger in that case,” he added.
The prime minister declared that no lockdown could be successful by neglecting the same segments of society and mentioned the Katchi abadis, where clusters of poor families and daily wagers, comprising eight to nine members had been living.
Prime Minister Khan said the coronavirus had no discrimination between the rich and the poor. If the people in posh areas considered themselves immune from contracting the virus, it was a misconception as the virus had been attacking all without discrimination.
“Look around the world what is happening! Even the United Kingdom premier was tested positive with coronavirus,” he added.
The prime minister urged the nation to fight the coronavirus threat through collective efforts.
The rich countries could not fight it alone despite having huge resources, he said and referred to the neighbouring country, India where Prime Minister Modi had to tender apology to the nation over the lockdown issue. The people were on roads as they were facing hunger and death.
The prime minister said India now faced the danger of people being infected with the virus at large scale once this lockdown was lifted. The people could die of hunger there.
The prime minister while further elaborating his point said that he wanted to tell the nation to fight the war with sagacity and prudence while keeping in view the country’s situation, If the country or any area was put under lockdown, then they would have to serve the each household with foodstuff.
Terming his relief package worth US$8 billion which he announced last week as the biggest one in the country’s history, the prime minister also compared it with that of US government which had committed a huge sum of US$2000 billion because they had rich resources.
The prime minister expressing his confidence in the nation’s capabilities said it possessed the value of ‘faith’ as the biggest resource. The same quality was imbibed in the nation by its founding father Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah with his famous quote of ‘unity, faith and discipline’.
He maintained that with this virtue of faith, Pakistani nation had been the biggest alms giving nation in the world, besides, possessing the huge youth bulge, ranking it second among the world community.
With utilization of these resources (powers), they can fight the coronavirus threat, he said.
The prime minister also warned the hoarders and profiteers from creation of artificial shortage of edible items which gave rise to panic and price hike, thus directly impacting the poor people.
Reiterating that country had no shortage of grains, he said that he wanted to remind the hoarders who often wanted to mint money out of such situation, that state would take the strict action leading to exemplary punishment.
The prime minister also advised the people to adopt the social distancing as effective precautionary measure by avoiding gathering as such frequent social mingling could lead to spread of coronavirus.
Without practicing precautionary measures, the people could be putting the lives of others in danger especially the older ones.
The prime minister referring to the State of Madina established by the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), said it had been the role model for the whole world as being the first welfare state. It took the responsibility of the vulnerable sections of society.
Pakistan also came into being in the name of Islam. Similarly, unless the people in the Katchi abadis were taken care of, they could not win the war against coronavirus.
He called upon the nation to show a spirit of sacrifice and affection as manifested by Ansar towards Mohajir during the migration from Makkah.
The prime minister said the same spirit was required to defeat the hoarders and profiteers.
He also cautioned that at this stage, they could not predict the spread of virus infection; however, they were regularly monitoring the situation and would be able to inform over the evolving situation after a week.
The prime minister also shared his worry over the way people often looked down upon the infected people.
He said the virus posed threat to only old and vulnerable segments. Hardly only 4 to 5 per cent with acute illness were required to visit hospitals.
The prime minister said that they wanted the relief efforts to be carried out in a coordinated way by all the stakeholders with the government serving as a guiding force. He also shared his experiences of relief activities when the country was devastated with floods and quake in the past.
He said they wanted all the welfare institutions to coordinate and ensure that the resources should not be wasted.