–MoI approves provinces’ request for troop deployment as number of coronavirus cases near 900
–Punjab CM announces 14-day lockdown, AJK PM restricts public movement for three weeks
–ISPR DG says ‘this is the time to take tough and difficult decisions on an individual, familial and societal basis’
LAHORE: The federal government has summoned the Pakistan Army under Article 245 to assist the civilian administrations across the country in keeping the citizens indoors, as the number of coronavirus cases across the country neared 900 on Monday, prompting partial and complete lockdowns in almost all provinces.
The Ministry of Interior on Monday issued several notifications in this regard approving the requests of all four provinces – Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – and federal territories and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) for the deployment of armed forces.
The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients topped 882 with 394 cases in Sindh; 246 in Punjab, 110 in Balochistan; 38 in KP; 71 in Gilgit-Baltistan; 15 in Islamabad; and one in AJK with six deaths.
The Sindh and AJK governments have imposed a blanked ban on the movement with a few exceptions, besides closing all non-essential markets, offices and shutting transport and educational institutions to limit the interaction of the people to stop community spread of the contagion.
In AJK, people will not be allowed to travel or go outside unnecessarily; transport will be suspended; one person from each family will be allowed to go out to purchase food; special passes will be issued to people for travelling in unavoidable circumstances; people will be required to carry their Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC) with them if they have to go out in extreme situations; journalists will be issued special passes and emergency services will remain functional.
In Punjab, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar announced that shopping malls, parks and public spots will be closed for two weeks.
He added that while pillion riding will also be banned, families would be exempted from this restriction. When asked by reporter whether the province was going into a lockdown, Buzdar said that this would not be like a curfew and life would continue as per routine albeit with some restrictions.
For the next 14 days, Buzdar said, security forces will ensure that the public abides by government’s restrictions. Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA), Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and Edhi will be allowed to operate and pharmacies and grocery stores will also remain open.
Separately, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) decided to close Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport and Sukkur’s airport for all domestic flights till April 4. According to the notification, the airports will “remain closed for all types of Domestic Incoming/Outgoing Passenger Flight Operations with effect from Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 0100 UTC/ 0600 PST till April 04, 2020”.
‘TIME TO TAKE TOUGH DECISIONS’:
Addressing a press briefing later in the day, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Babar Iftikhar said that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has issued directions for troops and medical resources to be deployed “as per need” in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He said that the government has summoned the army for assistance in accordance with the constitution.
“This is the time to take tough and difficult decisions on an individual, familial and societal basis,” the senior army official said.
He said coronavirus is a danger that “we have never seen in our lifetimes” but that the Pakistan Army is fully aware of its duty and would counter the pandemic with the nation’s help.
Maj Gen Iftikhar said he wished to apprise the country’s citizens of the military’s efforts in the war against COVID-19, which has so far infected 882 people and left at least six people dead.
The borders have been closed as a preventive measure but “the actual border is between the man and the coronavirus, which we have yet to take control of”, he said.
“This will only be possible through self-discipline and cooperation. The best defense against the coronovirus is cooperation,” he said, adding that Pakistan was facing a serious challenge and that only with the people’s belief in the state could this problem be resolved.
“Pakistan Army is well aware of its responsibility and will bring all of its resources to use,” he said, assuring the citizens that the army was standing alongside its people.
“Despite being deployed at the Line of Control (LoC) and the western border, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Javed Qamar Bajwa has directed that all available soldiers and the Army’s medical resources be deployed to tackle the coronavirus,” he noted.
“According to the notification issued by the federal and provincial governments, only hospitals, shops selling food items, medical stores, and food and medicine manufacturing industries would only remain open, while schools shall remain closed,” he added.
Maj Gen Iftikhar stressed that the petrol pumps and markets would remain open only according to the timings issued by the respective provincial governments.
The spokesperson also mentioned that Gen Bajwa had decided to donate one month’s salary to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, while personnel between the ranks of Brig to Lt Gen would donate three days’ worth of their salaries. The personnel below the Col rank and soldiers would donate two and one days’ worth of their salaries, respectively, he added.
Maj Gen Iftikhar also urged people to follow the guidelines issued by health authorities and the government.
With regard to the Pakistan Day, he said the citizens — the heirs of those who fought for the country’s independence — “face a new challenge, an evil that has taken over the entire world … so much so that even the developed nations seem powerless against COVID-19”.
The Army spokesperson added that there was a need for everyone to once again unite with a passion for safe Pakistan. “Today is also a day to remember our Kashmiri brothers and sisters, who, despite being helpless in the face of the worst state-sanctioned terrorism and this natural disaster, are an example of resistance in their fight for the right to self-determination,” he added.
“People of the occupied Kashmir will be successful in their struggle,” the army spokesperson added.