Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates discussed Pakistan's commitment to polio eradication, and the Covid-19 situation in the country in a telephone call, the military's media affairs wing said on Friday.
In a statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Gates appreciated the army for supporting the country's polio drive and ensuring proper reach and coverage. The army chief responded that polio eradication was a national cause, adding that "credit goes to all involved in the process".
Gates also appreciated Pakistan's success in combatting the coronavirus pandemic despite resource constraints. For his part, Bajwa attributed it to a "true national response" executed through the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
The army chief appreciated Gates' efforts towards polio eradication and the coronavirus response and assured the philanthropist of continued cooperation, according to the statement.
Earlier this year, Gates had visited Pakistan for the first time and held meetings with the then-prime minister, the president and other national and provincial leaders. He had also attended a luncheon and a ceremony to confer on him one of the country's highest civil awards.
President Dr Arif Alvi had conferred the Hilal-i-Pakistan on Gates in recognition of his philanthropic services for humanity, eradication of polio and betterment of the people of Pakistan.
Gates had also visited the NCOC and chaired a meeting of the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) on polio. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is part of a global initiative between governments and international organisations fighting the crippling disease.
While calling Pakistan's commitment to ending polio "inspiring", Gates had said the country was near the end-game against the disease.
In a telephone call with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif earlier this month, Gates had assured Pakistan of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's continued support "for ensuring that no child is at risk of paralysis due to poliovirus" in the country.
Pakistan had reported only one case of polio in 2021 but after remaining polio-free for almost 15 months, the country has now reported a second case in less than 10 days.
The new cases have created panic among the officials concerned as the virus can travel along with people because of massive movement during Eid holidays.