By our correspondent
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday approved the resumption of international flights after Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari raised the matter with him, sources informed Geo News.
According to the sources, the matter was discussed in a federal cabinet meeting where Bukhari briefed the members on the difficulties and hardships faced by overseas Pakistanis. The prime minister, while green lighting the resumption of international flights, asked the relevant authorities to devise a plan of action to repatriate Pakistanis stranded abroad.
At the initial stage, the flights will only operate from Gulf countries and after the safe repatriation of Pakistanis stranded there, those from other countries will be brought back as well, the sources said. Those rendered unemployed and labourers will be brought in the first phase, they added.
The premier, while stressing on the importance of overseas Pakistanis, said that they were close to his heart and that they could not be left alone at such pressing times. Millions of overseas Pakistanis have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said, adding that "we understand the pain that they are going through". The premier assured the cabinet that the Pakistani government would do everything possible to help the stranded Pakistanis.
According to the sources, Bukhari said that nearly 200,000 Pakistanis have become unemployed. It is the need of the hour that we stand with them and help them in every way possible Bukhari said, adding that a NCOC meeting should be called to review the matter.
Meanwhile, the federal cabinet was told Tuesday that the government had devised a strategy to contain and prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic keeping in view the country's economic situation as well as the ground realities, as Prime Minister Imran Khan said the prevailing situation had badly affected the national economy. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said this while briefing the media about the decisions taken during the Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who called on the cabinet members to help ensure compliance with the SOPs. The minister explained that the government had been making efforts to save the people's lives and as well as the economy and that at the outset, prime minister emphasized that the virus outbreak had badly affected the national economy, while on its part, the government, among other steps, had given special economic package for construction sector. The prime minister, he continued, said that the PTI government had a clear cut policy on handling the outbreak of corona virus cases from day one, and the minister quoted the PM as saying that in the beginning a selected lockdown was imposed and the National Coordination and Operation Centre was formed, which held meetings on daily basis, and had been formulating policies on the basis of facts and figures.
He said that in the NCOC meetings, input of medical professionals, chief ministers, ministers and other experts was given before taking decisions on future line of action. Shibli pointed out that some people had been criticising the government policy but they should realise that Pakistan could not afford long-term complete lockdown due to ground realities as Pakistan had to save the poor segments of the society from hunger.
Prime Minister Imran Khan told the meeting that Pakistan economy and healthcare system could not be compared to that of the United States of America or Europe, but even their healthcare systems collapsed in the face of the corona spike and even US government had come to the conclusion that lockdown was not the answer to the spread of coronavirus.
The meeting was informed that when neighboring India imposed strict lockdown, there were only 635 confirmed cases but when it eased the restrictions, these had reached 198,000, which spelt failure of the lockdown. Moreover 120 million Indian had lost jobs and a big portion of the population was facing starvation presently.
The prime minister said that when the government eased restrictions, it also issued SOPS and advised the people to adopt precautionary measures and maintain social distancing but unfortunately they neglected the directives especially during Eid shopping.
The minister noted that the prime minister urged the cabinet members to play proactive role in ensuring implementation of SOPs against coronavirus, saying that if the masses started following the SOPs, the increase in the corona cases could be reduced to half. He urged the masses to adopt precautionary measures, for this would help move the wheel of the economy and save the vulnerable from starvation. The prime minister said that the provinces had been given complete authority to impose strict lockdown in the areas considered as hot spots of the virus. Moreover fines and imprisonment would be awarded to the violators.
The minister said that the cabinet was informed that when the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country, there were only two testing labs, which now have reached the figure of 126. Similarly in end of February only 2,800 ventilators were available, now their number has reached 4,800 and 1,400 more ventilators were being added in coming few days.
Moreover, now the number of oxygen beds has reached 2000 mark and now 30,000 tests of corona were being conducted on daily basis. He explained that in the new budget, special incentives had been given to agriculture and construction sectors which could play crucial role in revival of the economy in coming months.
Shibli said that the prime minister issued directives for taking urgent steps for return of stranded Pakistani labourers in the Middle East countries.
He said that the cabinet was informed that the problem of shortage of petroleum products had been overcome now and now these were available.
However, it was learnt that some of the cabinet members were not satisfied with the reasons given by Special Assistant on Petroleum Nadeem Babar, who claimed that since people and thousands of oil agencies had stored petrol at their homes and at petrol pumps illegally in view of the virus crisis, this caused its shortage. Ministers expressed their reservations on it and contended that due to this level of very limited storage, shortage across the country was impossible. The prime minister reportedly made it clear that in future, such scenario must not develop in the country.
The minister said that cabinet accorded approval to the ECC decisions in its meeting held on June 10. The ECC had given floated a proposal to continue provision of risk allowance to health workers in the country.
The cabinet discussed the issue of high rise buildings near the airports and deferred the item till next meeting. The cabinet gave approval for constitution of a special fund for the remaining amount of Rs1.2 trillion allocated for the corona relief activities so that the amount does not lapse and could be utilised in next fiscal year. The minister said that the cabinet gave unanimous approval to the draft law for protection of the rights of children working at homes.
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