Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed the confidence that despite the many challenges to Pakistan from the coronavirus outbreak, it can emerge as a stronger nation and become the truly welfare state it was envisioned to be.
“When we emerge from this challenge, we will be a totally different nation. We will be the nation which was envisioned. It was a big vision which we have forgotten,” said the premier.
He said that the “primary reason why our respect in the world has diminished, and we face so many difficulties, is because we left the vision far behind, the promise that was Pakistan”.
He said that businessmen, in his experience, face greater losses not when there are hard times, but when in those times they try to take “shortcuts” or commit fraud.
“Those who take such times as a test and face it head on as a challenge, come out stronger.”
Urging patience on the part of all Pakistanis, the premier said the greatest quality one can possess is to exercise patience during tough times.
“Those who are patient go far in life. Those who throw their hands in the air and give up, they rank among the many who fail.”
He said one has to admit these are difficult times without having any pretense of the situation being otherwise. “It is difficult because no one has the experience to deal with such a crisis.”
Citing the example of giant economies which have far greater resources and institutions, with healthcare systems that have more funding that what Pakistan spends on its entire population.
“The US has prepared a $2tn relief package, whereas we can barely manage $8bn.”
He said that despite the US’s resources, there is “a breakdown of their systems”.
“If this is what can happen to them, our situation was dire to begin with.”
He said that around 50-60mn people are already below the poverty line and cannot afford to have two meals a day.
“Above these people are 50-60mn others, who are right at the border. If one misfortune befalls them, they are pushed below the poverty line.”
Khan said those with means must contribute and the government’s “historic” package will continue to be expanded alongside.
The prime minister said that all of the nation’s efforts are geared towards protecting the most vulnerable sector, which is now the daily wage workers.
“The small shop owner, the rickshaw driver [...] those in construction, the painter, the welder, they are all sitting at home right now.”
He said there is a fine balance to strike between stemming the spread of the virus and taking care of the poor.
“One the one hand we closed all places where people could gather but on the other we have to run our affairs in a manner that we do not let these vulnerable segments feel the financial crunch that comes from such measures.
“We have opened the construction industry,” said the prime minister, “which will provide the most jobs” in cities.
He said that in villages the agriculture sector had been allowed to function as usual as it is one upon which rural residents depend on for income.
“Everyday we sit down and think about which other such industries we can open to strike this balance.”
The prime minister said that so far 600,000 volunteers have applied to join the Corona Relief Tigers force.
“No one should be under the false impression that the coronavirus will keep Pakistanis safe,” said the premier, while warning the nation that the fight against the coronavirus will be “a long war”.
He urged everyone to remain self-disciplined and exercise precaution.
The premier said that a lockdown will certainly be implemented wherever a surge in cases is witnessed, but for a lockdown to be successful, the Force will have to be fully operational so that food supplies are able to reach every household.
He said that it makes him happy to see so many foundations and charitable organisations have opened, recalling how when he started the Shaukat Khanum, only Edhi’s name would be prominent in doing large scale charity work.
The prime minister said Pakistan ranks as the fifth or sixth most charitable nation.
He said people only donate when they have trust it will be utilised as intended.
Khan said that with the assistance of Dr Sania Nishtar, who is in charge of the Ehsaas Programme, a large database had been made and will constantly be updated with a list of families who are most deserving.
The prime minister said that distribution of funds will be done “purely on merit” without any “political interference”.”
It will not matter who belongs to which party”.
He said that the crisis will be a true test of how members of the provincial assemblies (MPAs) serve their constituencies.
“The field of politics has been stained with this belief that politicians say they will serve the people’s interests, but only serve their own.”
The prime minister said a Facebook page will be launched next week which will identify which areas are the most in need of donations.
He said all charities wishing to donate will all be registered under one platform, and will be informed which areas need funds, so there is no duplication, like in the times when earthquakes and floods struck Pakistan.
“We must ensure the funds are utilised properly and for that we must be organised.”
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