Imran Khan during the Ehsaas Telehon Programme at PM House in Islamabad on Thursday.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday spearheaded a long telethon, televised live on TV channels, to mobilise funds from the people at large to help the deserving persons affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in any way.
People from Pakistan and abroad made generous contributions to the “Ehsaas Programme.” Government departments also took part in the campaign.
Later the government revealed that Rs550 million were collected from the Ehsaas Telethon transmission.
The telethon was held at the Prime Minister House with journalists Mohammad Malick, Hamid Mir, Nadeem Malik, Kashif Abbasi and Mansoor Ali Khan participating. Muniba Mazari and Shiffa Yousafzai hosted the transmission.
The show was conducted by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Faisal Javed.
Speaking on the occasion, the premier appealed to the people to give maximum funds for the “Ehsaas Programme.”
The prime minister said that the entire nation will have to take part in the battle against the infection. "No single government can battle the pandemic. The entire nation needs to join hands to fight this virus, keeping in mind the times that are ahead," he said.
He said there were millions of people of Pakistan, who need financial assistance. He said that the government was doing maximum using its resources, but people from all walks of life especially the wealthy have to make hefty contributions.
Imran said that it was difficult to predict the situation emerging from the coronavirus. He said even the complete lockdown would not control the scourge. "We have to live with the virus trying at the same time to deal with it in a most prudent manner.”
The prime minister asked the people to pray at homes instead of going to mosques.
In the whole Muslim world, he said, the faithful were praying at homes. "I don’t want the police to lock down mosques from here the virus spreads,” he said that people would have to show disciple in the mosques otherwise these places of worship would have to be closed down.
He said that it was not possible to implement lockdown in slums where several people have to live in small places. He said that the government was constantly in touch with the religious scholars to observe the standards operating procedures (SoPs).
Imran said that the government found a middle ground — in the form of a 20-point plan agreed with ulema on congregational prayers in Ramadan because "people would have insisted on congregations in Ramadan". He said that the onus for ensuring that the SOPs issued by the government for congregational prayers are followed would be on the ulema.
He said that an "indefinite lockdown" is not an option and any decision regarding a lockdown should be for "all Pakistanis and not just the elite."
Imran said there is no political interference in the government's Ehsaas cash disbursement programme and the entire process is computerised. He said that he did not start fundraising to help those affected by coronavirus until he "fixed the financial controls."
He said what differentiates the coronavirus from other viruses is that its rate of spread is "unprecedented," urging citizens to practice social distancing.
Speaking about his experience of collecting donations for the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, the prime minister said that he had encountered various people from around the country while building the hospital.
"I always tell this to my children and to others as well. Whenever you spend in the way of Allah, it brings you a lot of other rewards, such as the feeling of contentment," he said, adding that one's bank balance should not be the measure of his wealth. "True wealth is what you feel inside," he added.
Imran has also appealed to the leaders of rich countries, the UN secretary general and heads of financial institutions to give debt relief to developing countries like Pakistan so that they could combat the deadly COVID-19 in a better way.
“So far, 113,154 Pakistani nationals have been repatriated from different parts of the world. We thank all the governments of these countries for their cooperation in facilitating the repatriation of our nationals,” Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said.
Fearful of the economic and financial impact, and swayed by the acute hardship suffered by millions of poor families, Prime Minister Imran Khan has defended the lifting of the lockdown last week, saying the virus spread has been well below projections.
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