Army officially notified to help enforce coronavirus restrictions

Sindh too seeks troops’ deployment

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad has said that Pakistan Army, at a critical time, has been given responsibility to assist the civil administration to get implemented the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

In a video message on Sunday, the interior minister said to this effect, a notification has been issued under which Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Islamabad Capital Territory, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) can seek services of military troops as per their needs for implementation of SOPs in the wake of increasing Covid cases in the country. He said that Sindh has so far not been included in this scheme.

The interior minister said that the decision to seek services of the army regarding implementation on SOPs was taken at a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) held on last Friday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair.

He said that the Pakistan Army has always stood by the nation during critical times, including catastrophes, floods, and earthquakes. He said that around 400,000 Covid cases are being reported in India on a daily basis, making the cremation centres and graveyards equally busy. He said in view of such a situation, Pakistan Army has been assigned the task to get SOPs implemented to contain the spread of the contagion.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Sunday that following the National Coordination Committee’s (NCC) decision, the Sindh government has written to the federal government, seeking the deployment of army personnel in the province to ensure adherence to Covid-19 precautionary SOPs.

“The services of armed forces of Pakistan in aid of civil power are required under Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” read a letter penned by the home department to the federal interior ministry.

“Exact nature of deployment of troops and equipment will be communicated in due course of time after carrying out requisite assessment in consultation with [the] quarters concerned,” the communique added.

The letter further stated that, “It is, therefore, requested to kindly accord approval for deployment of Armed Forces in aid of Civil Power in the Province of Sindh.”

The Pakistan Army was called out on April 23 in aid of civil administration to ensure implementation of precautionary measures against the rampaging novel coronavirus as the prime minister warned the government might impose lockdown in major cities if the spread of the deadly contagion is not contained.

The ominous warning came as Covid-19 – the deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus – appeared to have spiraled out of control in India where the healthcare system is staggering amid shortage of oxygen and medicines while crematoriums are being overwhelmed with deluges of bodies.

“If the situation worsens here like it has worsened in India, then we will have to impose lockdowns in cities – something we do not want and cannot afford because, in that case the poor – labourers and the daily-wagers – will suffer the most,” the premier had said during the address to the nation. He added that he had been resisting calls from his aides who advised him to immediately impose lockdowns in the major cities.

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