Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday expressed the confidence that despite the many challenges to Pakistan from the coronavirus outbreak, it can emerge as a stronger nation and become the truly welfare state it was envisioned to be.
“When we emerge from this challenge, we will be a totally different nation. We will be the nation which was envisioned.
“It was a big vision which we have forgotten,” said the premier.
He said that the “primary reason why our respect in the world has diminished and we face so many difficulties is because we left the vision far behind, the promise that was Pakistan”.
He said businessmen, in his experience, face greater losses not when there are hard times, but when in those times they try to take “shortcuts” or commit fraud.
“Those who take such times as a test and face it head on as a challenge, come out stronger.”
Urging patience on the part of all Pakistanis, the premier said the greatest quality one can possess is to exercise patience during tough times. “Those who are patient go far in life. Those who throw their hands in the air and give up, they rank among the many who fail.”
He said one has to admit these are difficult times without having any pretense of the situation being otherwise. “It is difficult because no one has the experience to deal with such a crisis.”
Citing the example of giant economies which have far greater resources and institutions, with health systems which have more funding that what Pakistan spends on its entire population.
“The US has prepared a $2,000bn relief package whereas we can barely manage a $8bn one.”
He said that despite their resources, there is “a breakdown of their systems”.
“If this is what can happen to them, our situation was dire to begin with.”
He said that around 50-60 million people are already below the poverty line and cannot afford to have two meals a day. “Above these people are 50-60 million others, who are right at the border. If one misfortune befalls them they are pushed below the poverty line.”
The prime minister said the nation’s entire efforts right now are geared towards protecting the most vulnerable sector right now — the daily wage workers.
“Our challenge right now is to take care of them, so we have opened the construction industry,” said the prime minister.
The prime minister said a Facebook page is being launched which will identify which areas are the most in need of donations.
Corona Relief Tigers to assist in ‘long war’
He said so far 600,000 volunteers have applied to the Corona Relief Tigers force who will lead the fight against the pandemic.
“No one should be under the false impression that Pakistanis will remain safe,” said the premier, while warning the nation the fight against the coronavirus will be “a long war”.
He urged everyone to remain self-disciplined and excercise precaution.
The premier said a lockdown will certainly be implemented wherever a surge in cases is witnessed but for a lockdown to be successful the Force will have to be fully operational so food supplies are able to reach every household.
‘Organised charitable work’
He said that it makes him happy to see so many foundations and charitable organisations have opened, recalling how when he started the Shaukat Khanum, only Edhi’s name would be prominent in doing large scale charity work.
PM Imran said Pakistan ranks as the fifth or sixth most charitable nation. He said people only donate when they have trust it will be utilised as intended.
He said with the assistance of Dr Sania, who is incharge of the Ehsaas Programme, a large database had been made and will constantly be updated with a list of families who are most deserving.
The prime minister said that distribution of funds will be done “purely on merit” without any “political interference”. “It will not matter who belongs to which party”.
He said the crisis will be a true test of how MPAs serve their constituencies in this difficult time. “The field of politics has been stained with this belief that politicians say they will serve the people’s interests but only serve their own.”
The prime minister said a Facebook page will be launched next week which will identify which areas are the most in need of donations.
He said all charities wishing to donate will all be registered under one platform and will be informed of which areas need funds, so there is no duplication, like in the times when earthquakes and floods struck Pakistan.
“We must ensure the funds are utilised properly and for that we must be organised.”
Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday Pakistan is walking a ‘tight rope’ to strike a balance between a lockdown necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and ensuring its people do not die of hunger and the economy does not collapse.
The prime minister, taking to Twitter, said that the incidence of poverty is high in the sub-continent and Pakistan needs to be aware of its people and their situation.
“In the subcontinent, with a high rate of poverty, we are faced with the stark choice of having to balance between a lockdown necessary to slow down/prevent the spread of COVID19 & ensuring people don’t die of hunger & our economy doesn’t collapse. So we are walking a tightrope,” he tweeted.
We have locked down educational institutions, Malls, marriage halls, restaurants & other places where public congregates. But, to stop the devastation of the lockdown we have kept our agri sector open & now we are opening up our construction sector.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 4, 2020
Simultaneously, the prime minister noted that the government has locked down the educational institutions, malls, marriage halls, restaurants and other places of congregation.
“But, to stop the devastation of the lockdown we have kept our agri sector open & now we are opening up our construction sector,” he mentioned.
The construction industry employs a large chunk of the daily wager workforce.
A day earlier, the premier had announced a relief package for the construction sector, saying that it was necessary to maintain ‘a balance’ between the lockdown and economic activity.
PM Imran said that persons or entities who invested in the construction sector this year will not be asked about their source of income. “The government has decided to agree to the demand of the construction sector and has introduced a fixed tax,” he said.
“This [move] will bring down the amount of tax to be paid. Also, if the investment is for the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, we will exempt 90% of the tax on it,” he said.
The prime minister had made the revelation while speaking to media after chairing a meeting at the National Command Centre office. The premier announced a set of incentives for the construction sector, saying that his main objective was to provide employment to labourers so that they can be saved from “hunger and the coming difficult circumstances.”
Despite provinces invoking provincial autonomy by going forward with stringent measures such as lockdown, the prime minister has time and again raised objections to a complete, nation-wide lockdown, citing fear for the poor and their sustenance.