An Afghan refugee boy stands with face masks on a stick selling them at the corner of a street during a lockdown in Karachi on Wednesday. AFP
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the authorities to prepare a relief package for the Afghan refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) facing hardship due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The directives came during a meeting of the federal cabinet following a request by Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Shehryar Afridi.
The prime minister gave the directives regarding allocation of funds for the IDPs and refugees from the Rs200 billion earmarked for poor farmers.
Following the meeting, the minister told reporters that around 2.8 million refugees were living in 52 refugee camps across the country, of which 80 per cent were daily wage earners.
Earlier in the day, Imran has taken a serious notice of suspension of goods transport despite his earlier order for its restoration and tasked Rangers in Sindh with ensuring its implementation through appropriate measures for movement of trucks and opening of industries amid a complete lockdown in the province.
The federal cabinet approved a coronavirus relief package of Rs1,200 billion and okayed issuance of Rs700b Domestic Sukuk Bonds (DSB) for three years to provide some support to the economy being affected by the global coronavirus pandemic and address the issue of liquidity.
"Imran Khan was quite annoyed that the decision taken by the National Coordination Committee (NCC), in which all provinces and mainstream opposition parties have representation, was not implemented in letter and spirit by the Sindh government by not easing the movement of goods transport from Karachi,” his Special Assistant on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters.
She said the NCC had decided that all the four provinces and the governments of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan would ensure the movement of goods transport to ensure adequate supply of essential food items, but Sindh had so far not adhered to the decision.
"The prime minister observed that as a result of lack of goods transport, shortages of some basic food items, including wheat flour, have been reported in many parts of the country which also caused a sharp increase in prices of kitchen items,” she added.
"If relevant industries are still closed due to lockdown in Sindh and if there are no labourers and loaders at Karachi Port, the movement of goods transport will remain suspended. Therefore, the prime minister has tasked Rangers with removing all hurdles in the way of goods transport,” Dr Awan said.
Imran and his wife Bushra Bibi tested positive for the coronavirus the other day. The prime minister tested COVID-19 positives two days after receiving the vaccine, triggering a debate on the effectiveness of the jab.
The sealing of high-risk area comes as Pakistan reported 6,472 news cases on Saturday, the country's highest single-day total. Pakistan has confirmed a total of 132,405 cases, including 2,551 deaths.
The prime minister said he was not imposing a lockdown for now but that he would close down cities if Pakistan started facing a situation line in neighbouring India,
Remarks by the Indian ministry's spokesperson reflect an unprofessional attempt at point-scoring over a serious issue that involves lives of millions of poor people in the sub-continent, worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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