Friday June 02, 2023

Who brought coronavirus to Pakistan from Iran?

By Our Correspondent
March 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A number of prominent personalities – including some politicians and TV show hosts – have blamed Zulfi Bukhari for ‘importing’ coronavirus to Pakistan.

While Pakistan's political leadership is asking for the nation to come together to defeat the coronavirus epidemic, the blame game over who ‘brought’ the disease to the country seems to be taking on a sectarian colour, which needs to be dealt with urgently before it threatens national unity.

In the most recent development on this matter, a religious scholar is being quoted out of context to suggest that she and Special Assistant to the PM for Overseas Pakistanis Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari are somehow responsible for the disease spreading in Pakistan.

The accusation is that Zulfi Bukhari used his influence to allow certain persons who were returning from Iran to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine. The persons’ names had allegedly been forwarded by the religious scholar.

A video was shared by a prominent TV personality on Twitter Saturday to reinforce the accusation. It featured a short clip of religious scholar Tayyaba Khanum Bukhari speaking about a phone conversation she allegedly had with Zulfi.

“I was speaking to Zulfi, and the first thing he said to me when I called him was: ‘I am the one who is monitoring the situation. You have called the right person. All of this is under my watch.’ He then told me he would talk to the [Balochistan CM], but he did not call me back today,” she is heard saying in the clip.

A source close to PM House has said a preliminary investigation was conducted and Zulfi’s mobile phone records were checked to ascertain the facts. The source shared some screenshots of Zulfi’s WhatsApp conversations and a preliminary report which tentatively absolves him of wrongdoing.

One screenshot indicates that Zulfi did not oblige Tayyaba Bukhari when she had apparently asked him to allow an individual to skip quarantine. “I had relied on you before but I was disappointed,” she wrote to him while asking for a favour.

In response, Zulfi says, “We couldn't take him out earlier as the same rules apply for everyone. 220 million people of Pakistan are at risk if any rule is broken for anyone. So it’s important that they all do the full quarantine time.”

It bears mentioning that senior ministers and advisers have already explained on the record that Pakistani citizens were evacuated from Iran because Iran, which has been devastated by painful economic sanctions and the coronavirus, simply does not have the capacity to treat foreigners with its very limited resources unlike China.