LAHORE: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that lockdowns in the wake of coronavirus pandemic are set to adversely impact global economies, including that of Pakistan, and this situation calls for improvising the national strategy.

Since the Pakistan government believes that the pandemic is going to be a lengthy affair -- from six months to a year, the foreign minister said Pakistan’s economy would not be able to sustain this pressure and demands measures to save people not only from Covid-19, but abject poverty and hunger. Simultaneously, he said, the country’s healthcare system could not sustain the burden if the coronavirus spread surged.

Speaking to the media at Services Institute of Medical Sciences on Sunday, Mr Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan was spearheading the development of a national strategy based on a holistic picture of ground realities.

Responding to a question whether the prime minister was unaware about the lockdown that he claimed was imposed by certain “elite”, as he expressed displeasure at a recent event, Mr Qureshi said the prime minister knew about every development. The “elite” propagated for a lockdown with good intensions of saving lives, but they overlooked its adverse effects.

“A very delicate balance is needed while imposing smart lockdowns depending on the variations in spread of coronavirus – severe, moderate and normal – as is the case world over,” Mr Qureshi stated.

FM says lockdown impact calls for improvising national strategy

Referring to adverse effects of the pandemic on the US, Europe and the UAE, the foreign minister said their economies were slowing down, exports depleting and remittances decreasing as overseas Pakistani wanted to return home. He said economists were saying that the world was heading towards global contraction posing at least three per cent impact, which would run in trillions of dollars.

He said PM Khan had taken the global initiative of seeking debt relief for Pakistan as well as some 75 other countries facing limited fiscal space. He said bridging the fiscal space by world bodies would help Pakistan focus on healthcare facilities, including ventilators and medicines.

He also said that he had instructed Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN Munir Akram to contact other countries and raise a combined voice at the UN, G20 and other international institutions for relief for the developing world.

Answering a question, Mr Qureshi expressed resentment over India’s brutality towards Kashmiris and Muslims in India when the whole word was passing through worst of times. “Even Covid-19 has not changed the senseless attitude of India as siege in India-held Kashmir is continuing and Muslims being tortured in their homes and their bodies not even returning to their relatives,” he regretted.

He said he had written a letter to the UN Security Council president and invited the global body’s secretary general’s attention towards the inhumane situation in Kashmir.

Responding to a question about coronavirus patients’ protest at Expo Centre field hospital here, Mr Qureshi said Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had taken notice of the situation and called for a report.

He also claimed that the biggest quarantine centre was established in Multan that hosted some 1,250 coronavirus patients, who had already undergone 15-day quarantine at Taftan border. “All the patients left the Multan quarantine centre happily after they tested negative,” he added.

Mr Qureshi also lauded Pakistani doctors serving abroad and laying their lives in the war against coronavirus, adding that two more doctors died while serving Covid-19 patients. “The Pakistani doctors serving abroad are true ambassadors,” he stated.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2020