Slamming the British government’s decision of retaining Pakistan on its list of countries facing travel restrictions, Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said on Monday that Pakistan was never asked to share its data on the local coronavirus situation.
In a tweet, she said that the government of United Kingdom is dominated by ‘Indophiles’.
“Ridiculous! UK govt, dominated by Indophiles and despite globally documented India’s continuing disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic, moved India to the Amber List but keeps Pakistan on the red; then under pressure from Opposition MPs, gives feeble excuse that Pakistan didn’t share data,” she tweeted.
Her tweet came in response to a report published in a local newspaper.
According to the report, British MPs of Pakistani-origin had held a virtual meeting with Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan on Friday.
During the meeting, the issue of whether or not Islamabad had provided data to the British government was discussed.
“According to the MPs, Umar told them that the data was publicly available on the NCOC forums, including Twitter and YouTube, and the UK authorities could have accessed it,” the report said.
It also quoted one of the British lawmakers as saying: “It’s clear looking at these sheets that Pakistan has up to date data but I feel Pakistan authorities should have shared the same with the UK government and run effective lobbying.”
After the meeting, the planning minister had tweeted that data regarding Covid surveillance and Pakistan’s Covid response strategy had been shared with the group. “Will engage with the UK government to try and ensure that red list decisions are based on science [and] not politics,” he had said.
She further defended her stance, saying British authorities never asked for the data as the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has “the most centralised & daily updated data bases anywhere & data shared with UK HC”.
She criticised the UK government for ‘shifting goalposts’, noting that it had earlier said Pakistan had been placed on the Red List because more passengers from Pakistan compared to India were testing positive for coronavirus.
Earlier, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said that the country was looking into Pakistan’s placement on the Red List. The PM’s remarks indicated that there was a chance that Pakistan may be moved to the Amber List in a few weeks.
The Pakistani delegation included top envoy Moazzam Ali Khan and three other diplomats.
Geo News reported that PM Johnson’s remarks were in response to the Pakistani delegation raising the issue of the “red list” and how inconvenient it was for thousands of Pakistanis.
Johnson had assured the delegation that his government was looking at the data and “considering possibilities” based on scientific advice.
PM Johnson had said that he is looking forward to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the United Kingdom soon. The Pakistani delegation told the UK premier that the South Asian country, too, is looking forward to the visit.
Last week, British lawmakers had criticised their government’s move to keep Pakistan on its ‘red list’ while promoting India to amber despite the latter’s Covid-19 situation being more serious.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah had said she was “surprised” at the move, adding that it was not the first time the UK had exhibited “callous behaviour” in managing its quarantine traffic light system.
“The last time this government favoured political choices rather than science and risked our nation’s Covid efforts, it failed to place India on the red list,” she said. “That led to the Delta variant becoming the most prominent Covid variant in the UK.”
Terming the decision “unacceptable”, she had vowed to raise the issue further.
Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi had noted that Pakistan remained on the red list despite “not having any variants of concern”.
“The government is seeking to penalise Pakistan in favour of potential economic benefit,” she had said. “This is clear and blatant discrimination towards Pakistan.”
Labour MP for Luton North, Sawah Owen, had also said it was difficult to understand the reasoning behind the latest changes.
“When you see figures like this, Tory ministers have a lot of explaining to do as to why India is going amber yet Pakistan and other countries remain red,” she had said.