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CMYK

Wednesday, 25 March, 2020 I 29 Rajab, 1441 I Rs 20.00 I Vol X No 266 I 12 Pages I Islamabad Edition

Govt announces Rs1.2tR fInancIal SBP cuts policy rate packaGe amId lockdowns from 12.5pc to 11pc g

reduces PetroleuM PrIces by rs15, announces tax funds for IndustrIes, slashes Interest rate, allocates rs200bn for labourers

g

PM IMran says coMPlete lockdown wIll be IMPosed as last resort, govt In constant touch wIth ProvInces

ISLAMABAD

I

staff report

n a bid to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Imran khan on tuesday announced concessions and tax refunds for exporters and businessmen, followed by a 150 basis points decrease in interest rate by the state bank of Pakistan (sbP). briefing the journalists regarding the measures taken by the government, Imran talked about immediate measures taken by the government to deal with the coronavirus crisis in the country. the PM said the government has approved the stimulus package to help the poor and business community. “we have allocated rs200 billion for labourers and we will immediately release rs100 billion tax refunds to exporters and industry,” he announced. the government decided to allocate rs 200 billion to the labour class. to help the industrial sector, it was decided to release tax refunds amounting to rs100 billion, besides, deferring of the interest payment. “for the small and medium industry and agriculture sector, another amount of rs100 billion was set aside with deferred interest payment,” the PM said, adding concessional loans would also being extended to the sectors. the government wanted to bring down the input costs for the farmers, he added. other packages included an additional amount of rs50bn for the utility stores, rs280bn for the wheat procurement, slashing of petrol and diesel prices by rs15 per litre for which the government would have to bear the burden of rs75bn. an amount of rs100bn was allocated separately for the emergency situation, he added. the prime minister said power consumers using 300 units and gas users with rs2,000 monthly bills would be facilitated to deposit their bills through three monthly installments. a sum of rs50bn was also allocated for the medical staff. the national disaster Management authority (ndMa)

would get rs 25bn for purchase and procuring of kits, he announced. Imran said for the vulnerable families who were bearing the brunt of the difficult time, it was decided to allocate an amount of rs150bn for a period of four months. he said they were also expanding the network of Panagah (shelter houses) where the precautionary measures had been strictly practiced. besides, he said, it was decided to either completely cut taxes or reduce them on different edible items. for the construction industry, the government would announce a separate package within days, which, he promised, had never been witnessed in the country’s history. reiterating that the country could not afford a complete lockdown with the imposition of curfew, the prime minister said the situation in the country so far did not warrant for resorting to that last step. ‘CHAOS IS DANGEROUS’: “chaos is more

dangerous than coronavirus if we take any decision in haste it will have a dire impact on the society,” he said. he said the option of lockdown was first discussed after the national security committee (nsc) meeting. “I opposed the complete lockdown aka curfew,” he added. a complete shutdown will disrupt the supply of food items and medical equipment, said the premier. “this is not a t-20 match and this crisis may continue for six or seven months,” he further said.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 03

Experts welcome govt’s stimulus package, but deplore ‘nominal rate cut’ STORY ON PAGE 09

Opp calls for immediate lockdown to prevent coronavirus spread LAHORE staff report

an all Parties conference (aPc) cohosted by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman bilawal bhutto-Zardari and Pakistan Muslim league-nawaz (PMl-n) President shehbaz sharif via video link urged the government to announce an immediate lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has so far infected nearly 1,000 people across the country. according to a statement issued after the meeting, all parties agreed that by now the government should have called such a conference and set in motion a comprehensive national action Plan (naP) with all stakeholders on board. It is a matter of grave national concern, and all political leaders have pledged on their own to unite against what needs to be a war effort, but a single day’s delay in taking decisions are costing valuable lives, they added. they said that messaging for public safety is crucial in changing social attitudes, and all resources, including private tv channels as well as the clergy, must be nationally engaged by the federal leadership to use their pulpits for amplification of life-saving messages. the parties called for a national task force, which should include all representatives of all political parties. they said that immediate actions must in-

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oPP PartIes aPc calls for ProtectIon of Poor and vulnerable segMents

clude health sector actions, economic management and public messaging that must use all platforms for protecting the public as well as the medical workers on the frontlines of this fight. Paying tribute to dr usama riaz, who passed away after getting infected from the virus while attending patients, they said that doctors like him must be appreciated with the highest civil awards, and the entire medical community should be given protective gear before anything else. the opposition parties condemned the leadership deficit on the part of the federal government, and demanded that crisis management committees be formed at all levels, from the provinces to the local bodies tiers, with all parties representation be formed immediately by government in order to manage the ravages of this unprecedented risk to Pakistan and all humanity. they said that relief efforts must use

local bodies as well for outreach, while philanthropic and volunteer efforts should be streamlined. the conference was united and vociferous in appreciating the sindh government’s efforts and cM’s proactive leadership. sindh’s charter of demands, which were endorsed by all leaders include the federal government’s urgent operationalisation of an effective national lockdown, because without full coverage and coordination across the country, one province cannot continue to impose effective containment measures on its own. they said that this should include the suspension of all public transport, including passenger trains, however, private transport may be allowed in case of immediate need. they also said that in case the federal government cannot impose this, it must go for a full lockdown. the lockdown should be coupled with expanding capacity for testing, beds, ventilators, Icu facilities, PPe, and isolation centres to be effective, they added. the opposition parties said that pooerest of the poor must be immediately protected by using the benazir Income support Programme (bIsP) data and other poverty alleviation programmes to identify the most vulnerable must be used and then providing rs15000 to each household.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 03

CMYK

KARACHI MeIrYUM aLI

the state bank of Pakistan (sbP) has decided to cut the country’s policy rate from 12.5pc to 11pc in an emergency meeting held on tuesday, said a statement issued on tuesday. this was a second rate cut in this month after the central bank slashed the rate from 13.25pc to 12.5pc last week. according to the sbP, the Monetary Policy committee (MPc) was of the view that this cumulative easing would cushion the growth slowdown while protecting inflation expectations. In making this decision, the sbP has taken into account global and domestic developments, regarding the covId-19 pandemic. “the developments discussed imply that the outlook for growth and inflation in Pakistan is likely to be revised down further,” said the sbP. on an international level, the virus has severely increased in reach. “this has caused major disruptions to economic activity and the International Monetary fund (IMf) has also significantly downgraded its global growth outlook for 2020 from 3.3 per cent growth previously to below zero. these global developments have also led to a sharp fall in international trade,” said the sbP. on the domestic front, since the last MPc, the sbP noted that the number of covId-19 cases has increased considerably, prompting social distancing and curtailment of activity. sindh has imposed a lockdown for two weeks, while Punjab and balochistan have imposed a partial shutdown. “this is expected to lead to noticeable slowdown in domestic demand,” said the sbP. the MPc felt it was able to make these decisions, as in the last meeting it had emphasised that “it was ready to take further actions if and when needed as more information becomes available on the outlook for inflation and growth” due to uncertainty regarding the covId-19 pandemic. the MPc also said that sbP was in the process of taking necessary regulatory measures in coordination with banks to address pressures on cash flows of borrowers affected by coronavirus-related disruptions, through facilitating deferment and restructuring of their loans. these measures will be announced soon. last week’s decision to cut the policy rate by 75 basis points, from 13.25 per cent to 12.50pc was based on a lower predicted inflation forecast, but also a concern about the coronavirus pandemic and its potential impact on the external and domestic demand. according to the state bank, the average headline inflation is expected to remain within the 11-12pc forecast in fy20, before falling to the medium-term target range of 5-7pc. this is earlier than previous state bank expectations. national cPI inflation surged to 14.6 per cent in January 2020, before a deceleration in february 2020 to 12.4 per cent. currently, the average national cPI stands at 11.7 per cent during the first eight months of fy20. analysts at the time had predicted a cut ranging from 50 basis points to 100 basis points. after the cut was announced, many had felt that the sbP should have reduced the policy cut further in light of the global pandemic.

more inside

KSE-100 plunges 2,100 points amid virus uncertainty STORY ON PAGE 09

us cuts afghan aid by $1bn after Pompeo fails to break impasse STORY ON BACK PAGE

Punjab reports first virus death, tally nears 1,000 STORY ON PAGE 02

train service across country suspended for a week STORY ON PAGE 03

Shehbaz blames Taftan botch for Pakistan's virus outbreak STORY ON PAGE 03


02

Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

NEWS

PUnjAb rEPOrtS FIrSt VIrUS DEAth, tAlly nEArS 1,000 PRESIDENT ALVI URGES LAW ENFORCERS TO AVOID ARRESTING PEOPLE FOR MINOR VIOLATIONS OF LOCKDOWN LAHORE

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Staff RepoRt

uNJAB reported its first coronavirus death on Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to seven, as the total number of coronavirus cases crossed 950. By the evening, the total number of cases in Punjab and Sindh reached 265 and 407, respectively. Balochistan and KP have 110, 78 cases, respectively, whereas Islamabad has reported 15 cases so far. In Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan region, they have 78 cases of the deadly virus so far. The news of the death in Lahore was confirmed by the provincial health department official Qaiser Asif. Asif said the 57-year-old patient was under treatment at Mayo Hospital and was a resident of Sheikhupura. The patient also did not have a prior travel history, implying it was a second-

ary transmission case, he said. Asif added that the details of all those who interacted with the patient during the past 14 days was being collected so that they could also be tested. Separately, GB government’s focal person for coronavirus Dr Shah Zaman announced that two patients have recovered. Both patients were admitted to a hospital in Islamabad, where they were being kept in isolation, he added. As the federal government is struggling to contain the spread of the virus which has killed some 16, 578 people worldwide, many of its appeals, calling for self-isolation, have gone in vain. As the last resort, the government on Monday summoned the Pakistan Army under Article 245 to assist the civilian administrations across the country in keeping the citizens indoors. In addition to it, the provincial governments have also imposed complete and partial lockdowns to minimize social interaction. In Karachi, the police claimed to have

arrested at least 119 people by the evening, registering 29 cases for the violation of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the wake of the government’s lockdown orders. On Tuesday, President Dr Arif Alvi urged law enforcers to avoid arresting people for minor violations of restrictions. The president posted on microblogging website Twitter and also requested police, rangers and armed forces to implement social distancing on the streets. He also asked

volunteers who are taking part in social, political and religious groups to serve in any campaign to keep a distance. Alvi lauded the judiciary for releasing minor offence prisoners, following the decision of Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah to release over 400 prisoners amid the Covid-19 outbreak. He also appreciated the role of the doctors in the current crisis and urged the nation to be brave and take precautions.

GB to open border on 27th for Chinese medical supplies SUPPLIES INCLUDE THREE VENTILATORS, 200,000 FACE MASKS AMONG OTHER THINGS

ISLAMABAD Ghulam abbaS

The Pakistan-China border will be opened on March 27 for one day after Beijing de-

cided to donate medical equipment to the Gilgit-Baltistan government on the latter’s request for medical supplies to combat the deadly disease. According to a letter sent by the Chi-

Pakistanis stranded at airports in Qatar, UAE return home ISLAMABAD Staff RepoRt

Pakistanis, who were stranded at airports in Abu Dhabi and Doha, were flown back to Pakistan early Tuesday morning after the federal government granted special permission to Fly Dubai and Qatar Airways to operate flights. In a statement issued here, Aviation Division Spokesperson Abdul Sattar Khokhar said that 101 people stranded at Abu Dhabi and Dubai were flown back to Pakistan via Fly Dubai. “An additional 40 Pakistanis, who were stranded in Doha, also landed at Islamabad International Airport via Qatar Airways,” he said. He added that all passengers were tested for the coronavirus and their test results are awaited. The announcement to bring back the stranded nationals was made yesterday by Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Aisha Farooqui. Separately, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian and thanked him for looking after 13 Pakistanis affected in his country. According to a press release from the Foreign Office, the two ministers also discussed ways to enhance cooperation to combat the spread of the disease. In view of the situation in Iran, Foreign Minister Qureshi underscored the need for the immediate lifting of sanctions and extending humanitarian assistance to the country. He also expressed concern over the continuing communication and movement lockdown in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, especially with the pandemic spreading all over the world. Later in the day, the foreign minister also telephoned his Spanish counterpart and discussed COVID-19 among other things.

nese embassy, the Xinjiang governor would like to donate a batch of medical materials, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and five ventilators, to the region. The batch further includes 200,000 ordinary face masks, 2,000 N-95 face masks, 2,000 testing kits, and 2,000 medical protective clothes. “The materials are ready to be delivered to GB through Khunjerab Pass at 9:00 am (Pakistan time) on March 27. Therefore it is requested to temporarily open the [border on] same date. In this regard, it is also highly recommended that the Pakistani side should agree and make due preparation before the date so that all

materials could enter Pakistan smoothly,” the letter said. According to officials in Gilgit, the region, which is witnessing the highest rate of corona cases (over 80) in the country if the rate is compared with its population, has only two to three ventilators in Gilgit besides shortage of other medical materials needed to deal with the virus. Earlier this month, the Gilgit-Baltistan government had announced to keep the Khunjerab pass closed for an indefinite period over coronavirus threats. All the concerned authorities had agreed to keep the border closed till the pandemic was controlled in China and Pakistan.

SC rejects SCBA's request to postpone proceedings ISLAMABAD Staff RepoRt

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday dismissed a request of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) to postpone the proceedings on the pending cases before the top court in the wake of COVID-19.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed remarked that the State institutions couldn’t be closed in such a situation. The courts were operating even in Europe which had been badly hit by the coronavirus, he added. As the hearing commenced, SCBA President Syed Qalb-e-Hassan appeared before the court and requested

the CJP to delay the proceedings on pending cases due to the current situation in the country. The CJP said that judges should be present symbolically, adding that this important institution couldn’t be closed in such a condition. The court subsequently turned down the request of SCBA.

China reports four newly imported COVID-19 cases from Pakistan GUANGZHOU: China’s Guangzhou city reported four newly confirmed cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) imported from Pakistan on Tuesday, reports Gwadar Pro App, quoting the municipal health commission. The four patients, whose hometown is in Henan Province, all had trips in Pakistan and shared the same trajectory of flights before they entered into Guangzhou. On March 20, the four patients took off from Islamabad, Pakistan by flight TG350, and transferred to flight TG668 in Bangkok, Thailand. What’s worth mentioning is their seats were near each other in the flight of TG668, which were 59D,58D,58E,58F. They arrived on March 21 at Baiyun International Airport, Guangzhou, where they underwent nucleic acid testing (NAT) to screen for coronavirus while waiting for transfer in the airport lounge. On March 22, the four tested positive for the COVID-19, and were sent to a local hospital for quarantine and medical treatment. The result of the CT examination further showed they were suffering from pneumonia, and after the consultation of experts, they were confirmed as COVID-19 cases. By March 23, two people had been initially reported to have close contacts with the patients and had been quarantined for medical observation. The four cases confirmed in Guangdong marked the third province that has imported cases from Pakistan, following Shandong Province and Beijing Municipality. According to China’s National Health Commission, the Chinese mainland reported 74 newly imported cases of COVID-19 on March 23, bringing the total number of imported cases to 427. Of the 74 newly imported cases, 31 were reported in Beijing, 14 in Guangdong, nine in Shanghai, five in Fujian and four in Tianjin. INp

Qureshi calls for debt restructuring in talks with French, Spanish counterparts ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held telephonic conversations with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzales Laya on Tuesday to discuss measures to counter the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Foreign Office (FO), Qureshi, while expressing deep concern over the loss of precious lives, lauded the steps being taken by the French authorities to contain the virus, and thanked his counterpart for looking after 13 Pakistanis affected in France. He also briefed the French FM about the measures underway in Pakistan to contain the outbreak. He told his French counterpart the number of coronavirus patients in Pakistan is increasing along with the rest of the world and the situation demands a coordinated approach by the international community to combat its spread. Speaking about the situation in Iran, FM Qureshi underscored the need for immediate lifting of sanctions and extending humanitarian assistance to enable Iranian authorities to save precious human lives. Staff RepoRt

Mirza says govt’s measures will contain coronavirus ISLAMABAD Staff RepoRt

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza Tuesday expressed the hope that the government’s strict measures will help to control the further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country. Addressing a routine media briefing on COVID-19, Dr Mirza said that the objective behind stern steps of provinces and involvement of the Pakistan Army under article 245 was to curtail the virus at the existing stage. “All provinces were making sincere efforts at their level to successfully combat the disease and making foolproof protection for citizens against COVID-19. Plans were made in accordance with the changing situation, which will hopefully improve with the passage of time”, he said. He said that National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was a lead organization to procure and ensure the availability of necessary medical items while the Ministry of National Health Services was responsible for making need

assessments of required items. He thanked Pakistanis living inside and outside the country for their generous support offer who were willing to donate the government to meet the requirements of medical equipment etc. Dr Mirza said the government has made arrangements by making a focal point in this regard. He added NDMA would receive all such things and share it where required. He said that as Prime Minister said that this was not a lockdown, but the permission was only for required staff at offices and those running the business of medicines, food, grocery and other essential items however other citizens were being stopped to move freely. He said that the government had planned to start the training of healthcare staff and workers who were busy in the treatment of coronavirus patients or to be appointed for the purpose. Dr Mirza said that 5,000 health professionals will be trained while he also assured the protection of health staff during the treatment of coronavirus patients at hospitals. He added that at the national

CMYK

level the government was also working to start a national-level volunteer programme. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was likely to announce economic support and protection for people in wake of prevailing coronavirus situation. He added all available resources were being allocated and joint efforts were made to control the disease. He appealed people to avoid unnecessary movement outside the home and follow the directions of respective governments and administrations. He said provinces had made plans to restrict citizens at home with the objective to protect them from coronavirus. He said that the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) related cases reached 892 in the country with the addition of 89 new positive cases. He added suspected cases were 7,736 out of which 1,262 were reported during the last 24 hours. He said that 78% of cases had travel history of Iran while 63% of the confirmed cases were men and 37% were women. He said that 635 patients were admitted to hospitals while five were in serious condition. He said six deaths had been reported

from the disease so far while 399 cases were reported from Sindh, 249 from Punjab, 38 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 110 from Balochistan, 15 from Islamabad Capital Territory, 80 in Gilgit Baltistan and one in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He said that six patients had been discharged after complete recovery. He said that 4,788 people were at different quarantine centres at provinces, who were shifted from the main quarantine at Taftan while the ratio of disease positive trend in them was 24%. He said that globally, 382,000 cases were reported from 195 countries and over 100,000 patients had been recovered.


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

Shehbaz blameS TafTan boTch for PakiSTan'S viruS ouTbreak NA OPP LEADER CALLS FOR SEPARATE HEALTH FACILITIES FOR TREATMENT OF CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS LAHORE

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StAff RePoRt

ATIONAL Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday claimed that if the federal government had ensured proper protocol and arrangements at Taftan border crossing between Pakistan and Iran, the country’s coronavirus outbreak would never have accelerated to this degree. Addressing the nation via video link, Sharif said, “While it is unfortunate that this happened, it is necessary to move forward towards a solution.” Sharif also observed that bringing politics into the equation at such a time when

the country is dealing with a deadly coronavirus “would be a sin”, adding that everybody has to play their due role in ensuring the nation can combat the virus. “Our society has unfortunately been a victim of deep divides. However, faced with the threat, we have to rise to the challenge & convert this challenge into an opportunity. We can do this only when we rise above our parochial interests and personal bias,” he said. On dealing with confirmed cases, Sharif said, “Separate health facilities should be dedicated to the treatment of [such] patients,” adding that if the patients of this virus are treated in general hospitals, all the efforts to contain the virus may become counterproductive.

Alleged audio clip of PM's aide claims govt hiding actual number of COVID-19 cases According to an alleged audio call between Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant Nadeem Afzal Chan and a man named Mukhtar that is doing the rounds on the social media, the PM’s aide has said that thousands of people are dying of coronavirus but the government is allegedly under-reporting the number of cases. In the audio call, which has not been verified as yet, Chan allegedly says, “The country’s situation is very serious right now. You [Mukhtar] should go to your hometown, Hafizabad. Do not come out and keep the children inside. Currently, thousands of people are dying of coronavirus, but the government is under-reporting the cases.” It may be mentioned here that Punjab on Tuesday reported its first coronavirus death, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to seven. The news was confirmed by provincial health department official Qaiser Asif, according to whom, the 57-year-old patient was under treatment at Mayo Hospital and was a resident of Sheikhupura. The patient also did not have a prior travel history, implying it was a secondary transmission case, he said. Asif added that the details of all those who interacted with the patient during the past 14 days was being collected so that they could also be tested. Earlier, Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) governments reported 16 and nine new cases respectively. Separately, GB government’s focal person for coronavirus Dr Shah Zaman announced that two patients have recovered. Both patients were admitted to a hospital in Islamabad, where they were being kept in isolation, he added. The total number of cases reported in Pakistan are now 887, with six reported deaths. The number of recoveries stands at six. NewS DeSk

Pakistan needs 10,000 extra ventilators to cope with COVID-19 pandemic: NDMA National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal on Tuesday said the government needed at least additional 10,000 ventilators over the next few months to deal with coronavirus outbreak and has approached Chinese authorities in this regard. “There are around 2,200 ventilators across Pakistan at the moment,” he said, adding only around half of these would be available if needed for Covid-19 patients. After the authorities approached the Chinese authorities, they have issued instructions to their factories to provide the material Pakistanis are asking for as a preferred buyer, he added. He said that acquiring protective gear for doctors and health staff was the first priority and “a small number” will arrive on Wednesday while another batch will arrive on Thursday. The protective equipment included around a million masks, out of which 50,000 were N-95, he told reporters. By the end of this week, a significant number of protective gear and other equipment will arrive via air as well as by road. NewS DeSk

He also offered the government solutions for combating the fallout from the outbreak, which included cutting down the interest rate by three to four percent, doubling the salaries of medical staff, taking the media on board and launching an awareness campaign and reducing oil prices by 70 percent to bring down inflation. Sharif suggested the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) can also be used to register the “poorest of the poor” in

cities for the provision of financial assistance. The funds available with Pakistan Baitul Mal (PBM) can also be used for this purpose, he said. “In addition to some Rs13-14 billion which can be procured from [PBM] funds, the govt should consider deferring the payment of utility bills to the extent of Rs5000 if it cannot [afford to completely] waive them off. At the moment, such households are not in a position to pay gas/electricity bills,” he said. Separately, through a tweet, he announced that his party will donate 10,000 protective kits, approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), to the country’s medical association. He said: “We need to give our medical professionals a sense of safety as they treat coronavirus patients.” The PML-N president also urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to convene a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to address the pandemic.

Train service across country suspended for a week KARACHI APP

Pakistan Railways on Tuesday announced the closure of all passenger trains across the country till March 31, in order to contain the spread of coronavirus. According to a notification released by Ministry of Railways, the train service will remain suspended from 12:00 am (Wednesday) till March 31. The authorities have said that those who booked their advance tick-

ets from the reservation counters should contact the ministry for refund. Operations of freight trains would not be curtailed, the notification added. Pakistan Railways earlier announced to reduce operations due to coronavirus pandemic and suspended 40 passenger trains for up and down tracks from March 25. In a video message, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed said that 24 more trains have been suspended in view of the increasing number of cases of COVID-

19 across the country. He added that the overall 34 out of 134 trains were halted for travel operations. The Sindh government had also requested the federal government suspend train services in the province. On Monday, while talking to journalists following a provincial cabinet meeting on coronavirus, Sindh Minister for Local Government Syed Nasir Hussain Shah had said that they would contact the federal government to stop the people arriving in the province through trains.

Alice Wells condoles Dr Usama’s death WASHINgtON AgeNcieS

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells on Tuesday said the United States stands with Pakistan in her fight against the novel coronavirus. The diplomat also expressed her condolences on the death of Dr. Usama Riaz, the 26-year-old doctor from GilgitBaltistan (GB) who died on Sunday after contracting the virus while screening pilgrims returning at Taftan border crossing.

“Saddened to hear of the death of Dr Usama Riaz, who was on the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19 in Pakistan. The US stands with you,” Wells said via Twitter. We salute all the brave medical workers across South and Central Asia who are risking their lives to help the sick and keep us safe. Saddened to hear of the death of Dr. Usama Riaz, who was on the frontlines of the fight against #COVID19 in Pakistan. The U.S. stands with you. AGW — State_SCA (@State_SCA) March 23, 2020 Riaz developed serious complications two days after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Opp calls for immediate lockdown to prevent coronavirus spread CONtINuED fROm PAgE 01 For fast-tracking such delivery, the provinces must be allowed to negotiate with foreign governments and international donor agencies directly, they added. The parties agreed that testing capacity as well as general health service capacity be immediately enhanced to identify affected patients. Government-run isolation centres are urgently needed for treating patients, and large scale-testing capacity kits and PPE for health professionals, they added. The meeting also unanimously agreed that electricity bills up to Rs5,000 and gas bills up to Rs2,000 should be paid by the state as Sindh has pledged. To promote economic activity, interest rates need to be slashed, and oil price reductions be passed to Sindh as well, the attendees added. All emphasised that this should be a national approach, with no province left out of the consultative loop and suggested that Prime Minister Imran Khan should call meeting of Council of Common Interest (CCI) on daily basis so that all the federations units are on board and no one is left behind. All parties endorsed PML-N’s national corona strategy presented by Shehbaz and urged the restoration of local governments that are closest to communities so that they can play an effective role in any communityrelated initiative. While urging immediate lockdown to save lives, the committee advised immediate steps to give daily-wagers, small businesses and all vulnerable groups real relief, not just token announcements made too little, too late. This, they agreed, will only be made possible by making timely, coordinated policy in consultation with all provinces. As part of the wage and ration lifeline provision to vulnerable sections of Pakistan, the APC repeatedly emphasized that the government must do more. The attendees said that relief on global oil prices must be passed on to the poor, while industries that pay daily wage

earners who cannot come to work must continue to pay salaries as Sindh has legally mandated, while giving advances and other benefits in times of such distress. The BISP income support supply lines must be scaled up, while subsidies and food ration distribution must be made a priority and industries and big employers that need a stimulus package must be given that, like the world over, they added. The scale of the medical emergency is huge, and can scale up exponentially in weeks, the APC observed, and called for immediate actions to be taken to reduce dangerous gaps in testing kits, hospital beds, quarantine capacity, protective gear for health workers and ventilators. They attendees said that whenever a vaccine is made available, it must be provided directly to provinces, while border quarantine facilities must be real quarantines, with hygienic testing facilities at border entry points on all sides. The Taftan quarantine experience was highly contaminating, and instead of quarantining or containing the virus, proved to be the point of real contagion for many, because they were not tested at all, and must be avoided at all costs, the attendees added. All agreed that lockdowns and social distancing is critical to flattening the curve of the pandemic, but that it is not enough. All parties also condemned the growing atmosphere of media coercion and the restrictions on freedom of speech, including the arrest of Mir Shakilur Rehman, and demanded the government’s focus on solving Pakistan’s urgent issues instead of political vendettas. The meeting also urged to pay all the dues of media on urgent basis so that they can effectively play their role as fourth pillar of the state The meeting was attended by the leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNPM) among other parties.

NEWS

03

army not to leave Gb people alone in challenging times, says Gen bajwa RAWALPINDI StAff RePoRt

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that Pakistan Army is cognisant of the challenges facing the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. “We are working closely with GB government and civil administration to provide all possible support while additional resources are being arranged on war footing in conjunction with federal government,” the army chief was quoted as saying in a tweet shared by the Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). “We will never leave the people of GB alone in these challenging times. Pakistanis will fight against Covid-19 as one,” said the army chief.

Govt announces rs1.2tr financial package amid lockdowns CONtINuED fROm PAgE 01 Imran said that curfew is the last stage of lockdown. “I am so much concerned about the downtrodden segment of the society as to how would they meet their ends during curfew,” he said, adding that if situation worsens, then the government will have no option but to impose curfew but with a comprehensive strategy. “We will form a team of volunteers to distribute food items to the poor if curfew was imposed,” said the prime minister. Imran said he would have imposed curfew immediately if situation in Pakistan was as bad as it is in Italy and the rest of Europe. “But in Pakistan it is not feasible considering the number of poor in the country,” he explained. Pakistan has a majority of the young population that’s why the situation here is different from Italy, he maintained. Without comprehensive strategy curfew cannot be imposed, said the PM, adding that the strategy would change with the evolving situation. “After the 18th Amendment, Sindh has the right to take its own decisions and that is why they imposed a complete lockdown in the province,” he said.He also said the federal government would not dictate provinces as they were empowered in their own decisions. “We are constantly monitoring the situation and preparing the paramedical staff and arranging ventilators to deal with the coronavirus crisis,” he added.


04 ISLAMABAD

Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

WEATHER UPDATES WEDNESDAY

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CaPItal’s rEsIdEnts stay Indoors amId Corona fEars ISLAMABAD

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APP

ITIzENS of Islamabad were practising social distancing under government’s orders amid the increasing health situation in the country due to Coronavirus as roads and streets of Islamabad were desolated on Tuesday here even after a long weekend. All the main markets and business centres witnessed less human presence on Tuesday after practical measures were taken by the capital’s administration including the deployment of the army on main roads of the city. Bazars and malls, which were allowed to remain open to ensure the supply of essential goods to citizens, looked bereft of customers. After spending a long weekend including public holiday of Pakistan Day at homes, locals were only allowed to come out in extreme emergency situations or those who were bound to be present at offices. Although, many public and private offices have directed their employees to ‘work from home’ for those who can perform their duties online. Despite the pleasant weather with light rains in the federal capital, recreational sites such as Shakarparian, National Monument, Margalla Hills, etc looked deserted. With practical cooperation with the administration, the residents of Islamabad have shown that they have realized that the government alone cannot prevent the outbreak if people do not abide by the laws and performs their civic duties. A local, Nabeel Ahmad, said that he was preferring to stay home to fully support the measures announced by the government. “It was not only for my safety but also for others’ sake as I don’t want to be a source of spreading the virus

if any”, he added. Another resident Umer Shaukat told APP that unnecessarily going out or buying essential good more than you need will only create panic

among the public. “As a member of civil society this was high time for us to pursue our moral duties towards country and stay home as much as we can”, he added

“We can only get rid of the virus through joint efforts,” he said, adding that most people are now avoiding venturing outside of their homes.

Meanwhile, the police and district administration stringently enforced the ban on public gatherings and events in the twin cities. Amid pandemic of Coron-

CM visits city, reviews arrangements against corona spread PESHAWAR

3 held for selling surgical face masks on high prices RAWALPINDI: In wake of COVID-19 outbreak, Police have arrested three persons who were involved in selling surgical face masks on high prices, a police spokesman said here on Tuesday. According to details, in a bid to provide surgical masks on prescribed rates, the Kalar Syedan police with the assistance of district administration conducted raids on different medical stores and apprehended three persons selling masks on high prices. Police have registered separate cases against all of them under the price control act. City Police Officer (CPO) Muhammad Ahsan Younas said that no one would be allowed to cheat the general public and strict action would be taken against those who were involved in malpractices. APP

Police hold flag march RAWALPINDI: As precautionary measures to curb coronovirus, Rawalpindi Police conducted a flag march that started from Police Line and culminated at the Civil lines after marching on the important roads of the city, a police spokesman said. The district administration, Deputy Commissioner Anwar ul Haq, City Police Officer (CPO) Muhammad Ahsan Younas, SPs, DSPs, SHOs, elite force and police personnel participated in flag March. During the flag march, police announced and urged the citizens to take preemptive measures to fight with the virus. Police also suggested to people stay at homes and avoid to contact with the people and large gatherings, otherwise, strict action would be taken against the violators and would be punished accordingly, the spokesman said. APP

APP

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan on Tuesday paid a surprise visit to various areas of the city to review the arrangements made by local administration to ensure closure of markets, shopping plazas, restaurants, wedding halls, parks and other places of public gathering. The Chief Minister visited Gulbahar, Nistherabad, Hashtnagri, Qissa Khawani, University Road and other places and reviewed overall arrange-

ments against corona. Expressing his satisfaction on measures and arrangements of local administration to keep public places close, CM said that provincial government has decided to close these places as a preventive measure against spreading of corona. He also urged general public to remain at their homes, avoid public places, minimize people to people contacts, maintain social distancing and strictly follow other precautionary measures. He said that the overall situation of the province with regard to corona out-

break was good and added that provincial government is utilizing resources to further improve the situation. He urged upon public for maximum cooperation to make government’s efforts against pandemic fruitful. Mahmood Khan expressed his gratitude to owners of shopping plazas, restaurants and markets for their support. He also lauded the role of civil administration, police, Army, Rescue 1122 and health workers in fighting corona virus and said that better team work and coordinated efforts would definitely yield better results.

ICCI demands 5pc interest rate to save businesses ISLAMABAD

Emergency cell set up to facilitate expats amid virus pandemic ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development has set up an emergency cell to facilitate expatriates and their families amid the coronavirus crisis. The initiative was taken after the government made an announcement for suspension of the international flight operations for two weeks to contain the coronavirus spread, said the ministry in a statement issued on Tuesday. According to the ministry, a dedicated facility had been established in Islamabad to render best possible assistance to the expats and their families. It said the queries of overseas Pakistanis would also be answered by the officers deputed at the dedicated cell. The essential staff deputed at the cell will work in shifts to facilitate Pakistanis around the world. The cell can be contacted at +92 51 9212525. WhatsApp users can access the facility via +92 306 0329901. APP

IHC grants bail to 408 prisoners amid coronavirus fears

StAff RePoRt

Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) has urged the government to reduce the policy interest rate to 5 per cent in order to save businesses from the negative impact of coronavirus. In a statement issued here on Tuesday, President ICCI Muhammad Ahmed Waheed said that due to spread of coronavirus, all shopping malls and business centres are being closed down in major cities due to which business activities are suffering badly. He said that the best option for the government to provide relief to businesses is to cut interest rate to 5 per cent to cope with the situation emerging after coronavirus. Waheed said that imported raw material of many industrial units of millions of rupees is stuck up at Karachi port as transport is not available due to lockdown. He said that industrialists have paid duties of imported raw material, but it has become difficult for them to pay to mark up of banks due to halt in money circulation. “In these circumstances, the government should cut down the interest rate to 5 per cent and allow the business community to pay reduced mark up in instalments so that they could survive in these tough times”, he added. He said that cutting down the interest rate to 5 per cent will revive business activities and encourage investment in the country. He said that due to impact of coronavirus, US, Canada, UK, China and many other countries have made a drastic cut in interest rates, but SBP has reduced policy interest rate by only 75 basis points which are very negligible.

avirus, all the cultural activities at the main art institution have already been cancelled following the government’s instruction of avoiding the gatherings.

The ICCI President further said that till the time the coronavirus issue would be tackled, the government should defer receipt of electricity and gas bills and banks mark up from the businesses so that they could be able to survive in these difficult times. He said that the business community is standing with the government in this crisis situation and will not allow an increase in the prices of food items so that people may not face any problems on this account. He said that in cooperation with the business community of Islamabad, a fund is being created to provide necessary relief to the labour class and daily wagers so that they could be provided necessary support in this difficult situation. Senior Vice President Tahir Abbasi and Vice President ICCI Saif ur Rehman said that oil prices in the international market have come down to historically low levels. They also urged the government to passed on their benefit to the general public.

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday granted bail to 408 prisoners imprisoned at Adiala Jail under minor offences amid coronavirus fears. Chief Justice Athar Minallah approved bail petitions of the prisoners. The bench also constituted a committee to materialize the release of 408 prisoners on bail. The committee included Director General Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), deputy commissioner, I.G. Police and other concerned officials. The district administration in Islamabad had earlier decided to release prisoners jailed over petty crimes amid fears of coronavirus outbreak in overcrowded jails. The Islamabad administration had earlier decided to release 230 prisoners in the first phase on bail, jailed over petty offences. Those freed were jailed for their involvement in cases of dishonoured cheques, beggars act and other minor crimes. INP


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

NEWS

05

Are there Any loopholes in sindh govt efforts to sAfeguArd employment?

o

AribA ShAhid

n Monday, the Sindh government issued a decree by invoking Section 3(1) of Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act, 2014, whereby employers, private or governmental, operating commercial or industrial establishments were barred from non-payment of wages and laying off workers. The government assigned special powers to the labour secretary and labour director and the department was given the task to ensure that salaries, vacations and employment of citizens were safeguarded in these difficult times. The government stated that pay cuts and layoffs would be considered as punishable offences and may be penalised. The act provides the government the powers to enforce temporary regulations necessary to prevent the outbreak and spread of an epidemic disease where “it thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose”. The act further enhances the government’s power to “determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation, if any) shall be defrayed”. Section 3(1) of Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act, 2014, allows the government to allocate resource distribution and impose burden of payment of expenses on anyone. Considering they are managed by the government, the public sector companies have absolute liability to compensate workers and ensure that nobody is laid off. However, the legality for the private sector comes into question. Who is defined as a ‘worker’? As per labor laws, defined under section 2(n) of the Sindh Terms of Employment Act, 2015, the general perception regarding the term is that it is used for “blue-collar” employ-

ees engaged in clerical or manual labor. Generally, it is not inclusive of employees performing “white-collar” jobs. Under Section 2(n) “worker” means any person employed in any industrial establishment or commercial establishment or a mine to do

not, due to plethora of judgments given by courts where they have often passed contradictory judgments, or where a particular job description has not been analysed and categorised by the courts.” He further states that workers can further be classified into various

yond his control, stop any section or sections of the establishment, wholly or partially for any period or periods without notice”, The act further states, “In cases where workers are laid-off on account of failure of plant, a temporary curtailment of production or any

any skilled or unskilled, manual or clerical work for hire or reward and includes permanent, probationer, badli, temporary, apprentices and contract workers, but does not include occupier and manager having the hiring and firing authority; provided that no worker shall be employed through an agency or contractor or sub-contractor or middleman or agent, to perform function relating to their contract of employment. Muhammad Umer Toor, an associate at Jillani and Co explains, “The order only applies to the latter category. It not always clear whether a particular employee is a workman as

categories, such as permanent, temporary, etc. that may be employed on month, weekly, or daily wages. Is it possible for private companies to lay-off employees? The notification issued by the Sindh government prevents employers from laying off workers, which under the Sindh Terms of Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 2015, is different from dismissal. As per under section 16 of the act, the employer is entitled for a “Stoppage of work” for an employee in the event of “fire, catastrophe, break-down of machinery or stoppage of power supply, epidemics, civil commotion or other cause be-

stoppage of work for reasons mentioned in clause (1), they shall be paid by the employer an amount equal to one-half of their daily wages during the first fourteen days of lay-off as compensation. When, however, the workers have to be laid-off for an indefinite period beyond the above-mentioned fourteen days, their services may be terminated after giving them due notice or pay in lieu thereof.” While employers may not be able to terminate employees, Toor says, “The employers seem to have powers to ‘terminate’ workers defined separately under section 16 of the said act, on grounds of miscon-

rs12,000 to be given per family via ehsaas emergency Cash programme: dr sania ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania nishtar on Tuesday said that the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme has been approved for giving cash assistance to 10 million people affected due to the spread of novel coronavirus. Dr Sania, in a series of tweets, said that the programme would benefit 67 million people (given household size) as Rs12,000 would be given to each family as per decision. She said that the daily wage earners were their top priority whose livelihood had been badly affected by the corona-induced economic downturn. The Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, she said, would benefit 10 million affectees in three categories. Listing the first category, she said 4.5 million existing Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries (all women) already getting Rs2,000, would get extra Rs1,000 emergency relief (total Rs3,000) for the next four months. In the second category, she said, three million affectees would be identified through the national socioeconomic database. The eligibility threshold would be relaxed upwards and with previous income of up to Rs20,000, who had now suffered economic shock and were without livelihood, would be helped through Ehsaas, she added. Dr Sania said that in the third category, an SMS campaign, to be launched in two weeks would allow others, not currently enrolled in the database to seek assistance. The district administrations would conduct assessments speedily after SMS was received and around 2.5 million would be identified through the Ehsaas SMS route, she added. She said that data analytics would be used to ensure that the system was not abused. Computerised national Identity Cards (CnIC) of those declared eligible would be passed to Ehsaas partner banks, including Habib Bank Limited and Alfalah Bank, and simultaneously an SMS message would be sent to them directing them to collect money through nearest bank, she added. APP

duct or other judicially recogniSed grounds of termination. In light of this, it seems the notification may sustain any legal challenge on constitutional grounds by employers.” The act does not mention dismissals. Advocate Umer Jamil says, “The notification would be applicable only upon those workers of Sindh-based employers who are in Sindh.” When asked about the right to dispose one’s property, he said, “no such provision either in epidemic act or payment of wages act. Section 13 of payment of wages act only gives power to government to prescribe conditions regarding deductions from salary but in my view that provision also does not give sufficient power to government to issue the referred notification. So, I doubt the notification can be issued with its present wording.” Adding to the applicability of the notification, Jamil notes, “Sindh government wants private empowers to defray the expenses of the lockdown. The 2014 Epidemics Act allows it to do. Whether it is an unreasonable restriction on the right to dispose of one’s property is a question that employers can raise in Courts – but, given the situation, their chances are slim.” He further adds that the employers may question the courts on the legality of whether the notification is in the public interest and is reasonable. However, Jamil points that while Article 24 of the Pakistani constitution protects everyone’s rights to dispose their property in whatever way they like, it also allows the state to restrict this right under the following conditions: n Restrictions can only be imposed by law n Restrictions must be in public interest n Restrictions must be reasonable The notification forces private

Maria B thanks PM, army for intervening in husband’s arrest TAHIR SAEED WAS ARRESTED FOR ALLEGEDLY HIDING EMPLOYEE’S CORONA INFECTION, ALLOWING HIM TO ENDANGER LIVES OF OTHER PEOPLE NewS deSk Fashion retailer and designer Maria Butt, commonly known as Maria B., has come forward with another video to clear the controversy regarding her viral video regarding her husband Tahir Saeed’s arrest related to an alleged coronavirus case. In the video, she thanked Prime Minister Imran and the Pakistan Army for intervening in the matter and for saving her trust in the country’s institutions. “I did not think someone would understand my pain,” she said. Her husband, Tahir, then explained that the family was harassed by Punjab Police unnecessarily because of their own lack of knowledge. “The incident that happened yesterday was an outcome of pure panic and is plain harassment,” he said, adding that two dozen policemen had stormed their house in the dark of the night. He said that the police created a ruckus at their home and tried to break in. When he went out to inquire about what had happened they simply asked for his CnIC card number and arrested him on confirmation that he was the person they had come for. In between asking for his details and taking him into custody, the police not only manhandled him but also misbehaved with his wife, Maria. The couple clarified that they were not complaining about how they had been treated as “they were under no illusions of what the country’s police is like” and went into detail about how the whole incident was a result of miscommunication between government authorities. The exposé detailed how it was the government’s failing that they had to deal with the stress of having an infected worker, and explained how institutions were not equipped for dealing with the pandemic.

They said that they had taken all preventive measures and ensured a relatively safe passage to home for their cook who was to follow strictly given instructions regarding quarantine after much deliberation by the family, on whether they should send him home or not. “What else were we to do? Servants are not slaves. We have children at home too. We took the best decision we could after the authorities failed to handle the situation and left us no choice by leaving us in the dark. The couple also showed Tahir’s test report declaring him free of coronavirus and added that the whole family had tested negative. It is pertinent to mention here that Maria and Tahir revealed that the law enforcers who had come to arrest the designer’s husband were poorly equipped to handle an infection whereas many were simply in their usual attire with no form or protection or sanitary arrangements. Earlier, in a viral video circulating on social media, the designer had said that the Punjab police raided her house at an untimely hour and arrested her husband without letting him call his lawyer. She had appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to take notice of the police raid at her house. “Last night they raided my house as if I was the biggest drug mafia don in Lahore,” she said in the video. “They (police) said to me, you are culprits,” she said in the video, adding that the raiding party also told her that an FIR has been registered against her husband and didn’t even let a lawyer come. “They came at 12:30 am. nobody was up, we tried calling so many people but nobody was up,” a teary eyed Maria said. “How are we culprits when we are the ones whose tests may come out positive at any moment? We are the ones

who are culprits” she said while conclusively asking, “Is this the system we have in Punjab?”. On the other hand, multiple reports circulating on social media stated that the issue began with the family deciding to send off a cook working at their house after he tested positive for coronavirus. The couple sent the domestic staffer to his village in Vihari via public transport and did not inform the doctors or alert the authorities. According to some social media claims, the cook changed two buses to reach his village, thus endangering many others who may now become indirect transmitters of the virus. Further, speaking to a local media outlet, Lahore police said that the owner of the popular brand was arrested by the nishtar colony Police for sending his infected cook away, amidst the pandemic. “He conducted the COVID-19 test for his cook Omer Farooz, from a private laboratory after his health deteriorated and the test came out positive. Instead of informing the concerned authorities, Saeed sent Farooq to his native city on a public bus,” they said, adding that the cook interacted with fellow passengers and then met family at his home. Following this, the authorities contacted Saeed in view of the data available from the laboratory and he informed them that Farooq had already gone to his village. The health authorities, with of the police then took Farooq into custody and transferred him to the isolation ward. After the investigation, Saeed was also arrested. The latter is accused of hiding his employee’s deadly disease and letting him go to civilians and endangering the lives of the rest. The Lahore police in a statement said, “Saeed after knowing that his chef was corona positive sent his employee to his village through local transport, which is a big crime. Hiding a corona patient is no small deal in times of global crises and we will ensure that all such acts are also duly followed up.”

employers to pay wages, thereby making it a restriction. Jamil however points out, “It clearly meets Condition 1. It is backed by the “Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act, 2014” Can the notification be challenged? n While the notification may sustain a judicial review in court due to its limited and temporary application, the loop holes within the notification remain a concern. The weaknesses are: n It is only applicable on private and governmental industrial and commercial establishments defined under various labor laws. n It does not apply to those working in administrative, non-clerical and supervisory jobs. The notification only requires employers not to “lay-off” workers, however employers seem to have powers to “terminate” workers. This is defined under section 16 of The Sindh Terms of Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 2015. Termination on the grounds of misconduct or other judicially recognized grounds of termination are still possible. Keeping this in mind, the notification may sustain legal challenges on constitutional grounds by employers. Experts of law cite it as a form of assurance. They claim that in order to ensure the applicability and legality of the order, the government needs to introduce a new law, ordinance, or Act to address the extra provisions the government is ensuring for citizens. The West Pakistan Epidemic Diseases Act from the 1950s, being a provincial subject was put on Concurrent List in 1973 (22), Prevention of the extension from one Province to another of infectious or contagious diseases or pests affecting men, animals or plants. It was then deleted in the 18th Amendment. This made it a provincial subject whereby each province was free to adopt its own Act. Sindh introduced the act in 2014.

roads deserted as AJK observes lockdown MIRPUR: People across Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Tuesday mostly acted upon the orders as the first day of the three-week complete lockdown went underway from last midnight to control the spread of coronavirus. It was not a curfew-like situation as individuals were allowed to move out for purchasing edibles. The streets were, however, gave deserted looks, as the shops, shopping malls and major business centers remained closed except the shops of edibles including bakery items, milk, vegetables and fruits, besides medical stores. All kind of private and public service vehicles stayed in inter-city, inter-provincial and national routes to and from Azad Jammu Kashmir whole of the first day of the lockdown. All universities, schools and colleges remained shutdown, besides the closure of offices of all private and public-sector departments across AJK. Thousands of the travelers hailing from Pakistan and AJK remained stranded at in various parts of the country and AJK as no private or public service vehicles plied to and from AJK. This APP correspondent went around various streets of the city of Mirpur, where the officials of law enforcement agencies, including police and civil administration, were found vigilant to ensure the complete imposition of the lockdown across the district. However, they seemed to be lenient to some extent as several bikers with pillion riders were seen on the city roads. Like other parts of the country, the AJK government has imposed the three-week lockdown with certain measures on emergency grounds to ensure social distancing and self-quarantine to discourage the emergence of new cases of the epidemic. AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had, in a televised address on Monday, made it clear that the recently-promulgated prohibitory orders, would neither be curfew nor lockdown situation but be a precautionary step to help stop the spread of deadly coronavirus. Journalists were exempted to move, during the lockdown, for the performance of their professional duties. APP


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

06 COMMENT

How India converts pacific Kashmiris into human missiles

Enter Shahbaz Sharif The call for unity to fight coronavirus

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ML(n) President Shahbaz Sharif has returned to Pakistan at a time when the nation faces the coronavirus challenge and there is a need to jointly put up a fight against the pandemic. The PTI government, which is supposed to bring the nation together, is however unwilling to part with its partisan attitude. Even when forced by circumstance to follow the course adopted by the PPP’s Sindh government, the Prime Minister continued to indulge in a hairsplitting exercise differentiating between lockdown and shutdown, even when the PTI’s Punjab government was taking steps identical with those of the Sindh government, including calling in the Army in support of the provincial administration. Mr Shahbaz Sharif has called upon politicians to join hands ignoring political and personal agendas to collectively fight the coronavirus challenge. Having been twice a CM he knows the ministries and departments from where funds can be transferred to deal with emergencies. He has given the government a number of suggestions to overcome the hurdles the PTI leadership had mentioned in the way of providing relief to the common man. He also pleaded the case of the medical workers including doctors and the nursing staff who are fighting the virus on the front lines. The arrival of Mr Sharif can on the one hand raise the morale of the PML(n), while on the other act as a catalytic agent to bring the opposition together so that it can play its role at this crucial juncture. The joint opposition, which had become moribund after the JUI(F)’s Azadi March in December, is displaying signs of animation now. Heads of the opposition parties, including PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, would soon be holding a video conference to exchange views over how to deal with coronavirus in the country and keep an eye on the government’s performance. The joint opposition can draw the government’s attention to shortcomings that sycophants around the PM often try to cover up. Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s arrival is also likely to speed up the formation of a joint parliamentary panel that will help government and opposition evolve consensus over policies to overcome the menace of the pandemic.

India needs to realise that violence isn’t working aMjed jaaved

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STORy about pacific Kashmiris reflects how timid they had been. A Kashmiri youth joined army but never fired a shot. Asked by a Punjabi Sikh (assumed to be scion of a martial race) what he would do with his rifle, he replied he would put in the sun and “tapsi tey t-hus karsi.” (when it heats, it will automatically fire). Humiliation of Kashmiris motivates them to become human missiles. The first car bomb exploded at Army Corps headquarters at Badami Bagh Gate in 2000, the second car bomb exploded the same year at the state assembly, the third in 2004 on a bus of the Army in Pattan, Kashmir. The Pulwama Fedayeen, a schoolboy, was forced to rub his nose on ground by a soldier. Roads were blocked to prevent mourners from attending his funeral. Even dead bodies of stone-throwers are mutilated, paraded unzipped in body-packs, and photographed by way of memorabilia. Renowned writer Barkha Dutt reminisced about a sensible local police officer’s directive: `Bodies of those killed in encounters were to be properly zipped in covers and not paraded. At post-mortems of killed terrorists, no photographs were to be taken or distributed.’ ‘Credit’ goes to reign of terror by the 780,000 Indian forces for punishing Kashmiri stone pelters with live bullets or pellets that blinded them William Lukens, Bluemont (USA) clarified in The Washington Post “To most Americans, a pellet gun is an air-powered pistol or rifle firing a single pellet. It is rarely able to kill or even wound a person hit with the pellet. As used by Indian police, “pellet gun” is a 12gauge shotgun using shells that contain dozens of pellets propelled by gunpowder. There is a huge difference. When Americans read “pellet gun,” they think of “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Even girls and babies in laps are not spared. Most of the pellets, fired from a high-velocity pumpaction guns (outlawed by Amnesty International) hit above chest, usually face. India’s chief of defence staff (ex-COAS), Gen Bipen Rawat, himself a general’s son, has so far displayed a fight-or-flight response to insurgency rooted in Kashmiris’ multifaceted deprivation.

To lockdown or not? An unnecessary argument

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ow that the Punjab government has locked down the province, a mere two days after Prime Minister Imran Khan had ruled out any such reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic, the debate over whether it suits the country or not should be put to rest. In short, it doesn’t, but it has to be done given the current circumstances. This was the only way to approach the situation if we had decided already to follow the best international responses to COVID-19. However, the delay that has taken place will come at a cost. An opportunity to restrict the movement of people earlier that would have minimized the spread of the disease has been missed, the consequences of which will become apparent in the coming weeks. Other provinces also under PTI rule will follow suit. After announcing the lockdown, Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar, repeated twice that this is not a lockdown, adding to the confusion. PM Khan at a press briefing yesterday did refer to it as a lockdown claiming that a partial lockdown had already been in place for the past few weeks. He insists that ‘panic is more dangerous than the Coronavirus’. Such a major shift in policy in a matter of hours displays a level of confusion and indecisiveness that does not inspire much confidence in the government’s ability to address this unprecedented crisis; it spreads panic rather than restricting it. This perhaps necessitated that the armed forces, apart from being deployed in cities under Article 245 of the constitution, had to present a clearer picture of what the country will be facing in the days to come, through the DG ISPR. A relief package amounting to almost Rs 1.3 Trillion has been approved to provide support to individuals and businesses in the aftermath of the Coronavirus. This includes a further 150 basis point cut in the discount rate to bring it to 11 percent. Rs150 billion will be distributed at the rate of Rs3000/month over a period of four months to help the poorest families. not only is the stipend insufficient, it is unclear how the recipients will be identified. The government has to start taking the lead in this crisis, so far it seems to be constantly trying to catch up.

MuhaMMad Tahir iqbal

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n 2011, Begum nusrat Bhutto was acknowledged for her invaluable contributions for Pakistan’s democracy and was given the highest civilian award posthumously, the nishan-ePakistan, along with the title of Mother of Democracy. It is a fitting tribute for a brave political leader and a compassionate person. Often, the gap left by our beloved leaders is ,never filled and the yearning for their guiding light is felt forever. Their memories, however, keep them alive in our hearts and minds. Begum nusrat Bhutto is one such leader whose supporters still bathe in the fragrance of her memory. Her charismatic personality and efforts for democracy will never be forgotten by the PPP workers and for this reason, her birthday is celebrated every year with great enthusiasm. 23 March was her birthday and on every Pakistan Day, we get to pay tribute to Pakistan’s Mother of Democracy. Forty-five years ago, the International Women’s Conference was held in Mexico and Begum nusrat Bhutto led Pakistan’s delegation. She represented the Pakistani women on the world’s stage. In recognition of her contributions, she was appointed Vice-Chair-

Editor Umar Aziz

Asher John

Executive Editor

Deputy Editor

Lahore – Ph: 042-36300938, 042-36375965

Amjed Jaaved is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at amjedjaaved@gmail.com.

Pakistan Day coincided with Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s birthday

Arif Nizami

Joint Editor

freedom goes on despite Indian forces’ reign of terror (abductions, custodial deaths, rapes, arson, and pellet shelling). `The Security Council should make clear that it opposes Modi’s brutal tightening of India’s control on Kashmir. An immutable lesson of history is that Kashmiris never reconciled with foreign rule. If they could no longer fight an invader with arms, they pelted stones on invaders (Moghal). The stone throwers were called dilawars, and the Moghal, were addressed as shikas mogle. This Kashmiri-language expression, akin to French C’est dommage (it’s too bad), is spoken when something is lost. The Moghal were Muslim. yet, the Kashmiris hated them. Shikas mogle affords a peek into the Kashmiri heart and mind. They cursed foreigners, be they be Muslim. Kashmiris hate cheating and consider Akbar `the Great’ an epitome of treachery. Akbar invited Kashmir ruler yusuf Chak (1579–1586) for talks. But, he treacherously imprisoned and killed him in Bihar state. Be it noted that Akbar had failed to subjugate Kashmir in his earlier two expeditions. After takeover, the Moghal lived in a walled nagri (city), later called Srinagar. The helpless Kashmir used to throw stones at the walled city to express their anguish. The general feeling of hatred, kashmiriat, was akin to what Ibn-e-Khuldoon calls asabiya (national cohesion). It ran across all sects (Shia-Sunni), religions, castes and creed. Let India realise it can’t stifle Kashmiris’ dissent. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the Dogra (1846-1947) forbade even slingshots. now the struggle for freedom goes on despite Indian forces’ reign of terror (abductions, custodial deaths, rapes, arson, and pellet shelling). `The Security Council should make clear that it opposes Mr. Modi’s brutal tightening of India’s control on Kashmir. While Mr. Modi may think he can control this volatile conflict on his own, he almost certainly cannot’ (The new york Times, 2 October 2019). It is unfortunate that Indian courts fail to deliver justice to Kashmiri victims of state sponsored injustice.

Remembering Our Mother of Democracy

Dedicated to the legacy of the late Hameed Nizami

Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad

Just recall he awarded a commendation certificate to Major Leetul Gogoi who drove his jeep with a Kashmiri protester, tied to its bonnet. Gogoi was later caught red handed with an 18-year-old girl in a Srinagar hotel. General Rawat let the offender off the hook by charging him with the mild charge of ‘fraternization with a woman’. He is a misogynist who publicly declared women unfit for military service. A Kashmiri newspaper reported that army mercilessly beats even peaceful Kashmiris ‘for not hoisting Indian flag on their cars, bikes and even bicycles’, `even for selling or buying a pencil battery for a radio or wall clock’ .The presumption is that `these batteries will be used in the wireless sets or bombs’. Kashmir students and traders are attacked and looted in schools and colleges, at bus stops and in railway compartments throughout India. About 700 students, including girls, fled to the Valley. Even holders of PM Modi’s merit-based competitive scholarships had to rush back to the Valley for safety. Some retired generals and RAW’s former chief A.S. Daulat cautioned Modi against the brutal use of force. While India blames Pakistan for her Kashmir troubles, it is pertinent to recall what India’s former defence minister George Fernandes said about Kashmir. “I do not believe that any foreign hand engineered the Kashmir problem. The problem was created by us, and if others decided to take advantage of it, I do not believe that one should make that an issue; given the nature of the politics of our subcontinent, such a development was inevitable.’ India stayed united while Pakistan broke apart for lack of resilience and political myopia. At the time of partition, India was embroiled in many virulent insurgencies: Dravidian South Movement, seven angry sisters of north East, Khalistan movement. India overcame the insurgencies through talks with Laldenga, Master Tara Singh, Dr. Phizo and others. It accepted demand for creation of new states. Gradually the incendiary states merged into Indian Union. But India stands alienated in Kashmir. Lest India breaks up into `a congeries of states’ (Sir John Winthrop Hackett, The Third World War), it should free Kashmiris before next war with Pakistan. Let India realise it can’t stifle Kashmiris’ dissent. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the Dogra (1846-1947) punished even Kashmiri children who played with slingshots and stones. The struggle for

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person of the International Conference which was a litical front and campaigned for his release. After the great honour for Pakistan. She shared with me a 1970 elections, when the PPP formed a government, memorable interaction from the Conference in 1975. Begum nusrat Bhutto became the First Lady and A member of the Indian delegation asked one of the made remarkable contributions for the betterment of members of our delegation, “Who are you?” She the people. She strengthened the Women’s Wing of replied, “I am a Pakistani.” The Indian member asked the PPP and helped in creating a sense of sociopolitical consciousness among for further explanation women. and wanted to know During Zia’s rule, which part of Pakistan she Begum nusrat Bhutto belonged to. The Pakistani woman replied, Forty-five years ago, the International played an unforgettable role and did not let the “From Pakistan”. Instead Women’s Conference was held in party workers feel alone of declaring her associaor left out. She stood by tion with a specific Mexico and Begum Nusrat Bhutto led them, side by side, during province or caste, the all hardships. During the woman insisted she bePakistan’s delegation. She difficult period of autoclonged to Pakistan only. represented the Pakistani women on racy, she was diagnosed Begum nusrat Bhutto a grave illness. Genwas very proud of that the world’s stage. In recognition of with eral Zia created hurdles in girl. She said our younger generation should follow her contributions, she was appointed Begum nusrat Bhutto’s access to treatment. Dethis line of thinking and Vice-Chairperson of the International spite her diagnosis, she be proud of being a Pakwas not allowed to go istani. Regarding women’s Conference which was a great honour abroad for further evaluation and disease managerole in politics, Begum for Pakistan. She shared with me a ment. Eventually, Zia nusrat Bhutto had a clear bowed to pressure from point of view that under memorable interaction from the the international commuthe flag of the PPP, Conference in 1975. nity and on 22 november women fought against 1982, Begum nusrat dictatorship for the first Bhutto arrived in Munich, time. They withstood difGermany. Before leaving, ficulties such as being in her message for the baton-charged or arrested, but they tolerated these difficulties with great valour. public, she reiterated that no one could drive them In line with the party’s mission, Begum nusrat away from the path of truth and honesty. The power Bhutto wanted to give the other half of the Pakistani of the people rests with us and nothing is greater than population a more significant role in politics and de- the people’s power. Today, as a nation, we should not cision making where their rights are concerned. She forget that the sacrifices our leaders have made for would identify herself as a social worker and would democracy should not go in vain. Begum nusrat accept her role primarily as that of a social worker Bhutto has set a great example of bravery and sacrifice for duty, a great lesson for the future generations besides Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Begum nusrat Bhutto’s struggle started during of women. the tenure of General Ayub Khan and continued The writer is the former press secretary of Shathroughout General Zia’s tyrannical rule. When General Ayub arrested Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, heed Benazir Bhutto and advisor to Bilawal Bhutto, Begum nusrat Bhutto came forward to lead the po- Chairman PPPP

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Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

COMMENT 07 Editor’s mail Send your letters to: Letters to Editor, Pakistan Today, 4-Shaarey Fatima Jinnah, Lahore, Pakistan. E-mail: letters@pakistantoday.com.pk Letters should be addressed to Pakistan Today exclusively

Need for a Coherent Education Policy It is important that the government of Pakistan establishes certain educational policies, aiming specifically at the rural areas of Pakistan, such as parts of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. It is stated that education is a crucial need for the betterment of the future of Pakistan as the current population consists of 64% of youth. Therefore the current government should adopt certain policies which help develop schools, colleges, and other academic institutes with fully functioning capabilities and abundant resources in order to reduce the risk of illiteracy. Both the private and the public sectors should take this issue under serious consideration and aid the children of these areas in terms of providing them with quality education. This will not only increase Pakistan’s literacy rate rapidly on a national level but will also bring advancement in Pakistan’s soft power projection on international platforms while at the same time changing the future of the children living in these rural areas. Zalanda Wiqar Shah Islamabad

Covid-19

Indian obduracy threat to regional peace Unless the UN resolutions are followed, India will only lose out

Malik MuhaMMad ashraf The joint statement issued at the end of President Arif Alvi’s visit to China revealed that among other things the issue of Kashmir was also raised. China underscored that it was paying close attention to the current situation and reiterated that the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history which should be properly and peacefully resolved, based on the UN Security resolutions and bilateral agreements. China also opposed any unilateral actions that complicated the situation. The Chinese position stated in the joint statement was actually a reiteration of its stance that it has always maintained regarding Kashmir issue and the unilateral decision taken by the Modi government to change the special status of IOK. India as usual reacting to the reference to Kashmir in the statement, said that Kashmir was its union territory and an integral part of India, and issues related to Jammu and Kashmir were internal matter of India. On really wonders at the Indian audacity of resorting to such a blatant falsehood in regards to Kashmir in view of the fact that neither the UN nor the international community agrees to the Indian rhetoric though they have shown a criminal indifference to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. In the aftermath of scrapping Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and declaring Indian-Occupied Kashmmir as part of the Indian Union, the UNSC in its discussion on the situation has twice reiterated that the Kashmir dispute needs to be resolved in conformity with the UN charter and the relevant UN resolutions. Perhaps it would be pertinent to unravel the issue in its historic perspective to set the record straight and expose Indian hypocrisy and cunningness. Kashmir was a fit case for accession to Pakistan as urged by Lord Mountbatten in his address to the Chamber of Princes on 25 June 1947. It was a Muslim-majority state ruled by a non-Muslim. When its ruler signed the controversial instrument of accession, India by accepting it negated her own stance on Hyderabad and Junagadh when it had contended that those states could not accede to Pakistan because of the majority of their populations being Hindus. However, Lord Mountbatten

made it clear that the accession was accepted pro- the contrary, the United States, China, the United visionally and the issue would be resolved through Nations and other powers with influence over India and Pakistan must urgently do what they reference to the people. In the backdrop of the revolt of the people can to prevent India’s folly from escalating into of Kashmir against the decision of their ruler and a perilous and unpredictable regional crisis". the consequent war between India and Pakistan, Amnesty International, which has been regularly the former took the matter to the United Nations. documenting blatant human rights violations by The UN passed resolutions after hearing the two the Indian security forces in Indian-Occupied sides that pledged the settlement of the question Kashmir, in a statement said, “New Delhi’s uniof accession through a plebiscite under its aus- lateral decision to revoke Article 370 without pices. India accepted the resolutions and Indian consulting the state’s inhabitants is likely inPM Jawaharlal Nehru repeatedly reiterated com- flame prevailing tensions, alienate the local popmitment to implement them. But the Indian gov- ulation and increase the risk of further human ernment, instead of creating conditions for rights violations amidst a complete clampdown holding of the plebiscite, made a hypocritical on civil liberties and communication blackout” move by having the accession of Kashmir to The statement not only draws a right picture of India announced by the constituent assembly of the situation prevailing in the Valley at the moIndian Held Kashmir and then started calling ment but also expresses fears about future human rights situation Kashmirits integral in the backdrop this part, notwithstanding development. the fact that the UN India seems unthrough its Resolutions moved by the interna91 and 122 repudiated India also must realize that its tional disapproval of the Indian action and posture of a war-like state was her actions in Indianreiterated that the Occupied Kashmir, question of accession not only jeopardizing regional and Modi has repeatof Kashmir could only edly insisted that the be settled through a peace, security and economic move to make it a terplebiscite held under wellbeing, but it was also inimical ritory of the Indian the auspices of the Union could not be UN. to her own strategic and revoked at any cost. Indian hypocrisy Indian obduracy in was exposed again economic interests. Freedom this regard is a threat when in the aftermath movements and historic realities to regional peace. of 1971 war between India is in the grip of the two countries, cannot be changed through the proponents of a when it accepted supremacist Hindutva Kashmir as a disputed decrees and barrel of the gun ideology like the one territory in the Simla propounded by Hitler. Agreement; a proposiIt is indeed a very tion which also figured dangerous happening in the Lahore Declarain this part of the tion. But India never showed seriousness in resolving the issue. Kash- world. Prime Minister Imran Khan has rightly mir however continued to have special status as warned the world about the impact and conseper article 370 of the Indian constitution, which quences of the pursuance of the Hindutva phiin a way was an acknowledgment of the reality losophy by the Indian rulers at all the international forums, including the UN Genthat it was not part of the Indian Union. In view of the foregoing irrefutable reali- eral Assembly. The UN, the world community ties the move by the Modi government to end and those powers which are looking the other the special status of Indian-Occupied Kash- way to the lurking dangers for the sake of their mir, instead of fulfilling India’s obligation to- strategic and commercial interests linked with wards the people of Kashmir, constituted a India need to shake their conscience before it blatant repudiation of the UN resolutions on is too late. India also must realize that its posture of a the issue as well as an affront to the conscience of the world community. However the war-like state was not only jeopardizing regional redeeming fact in this regard is that the world peace, security and economic wellbeing, but it community by and large has refused to buy the was also inimical to her own strategic and ecoIndian narrative of Kashmir being its internal nomic interests. Freedom movements and hismatter. Even strategic partners of India have toric realities cannot be changed through decrees shown concern on the developments in Indi- and barrel of the gun. The people of Kashmir are ian-Occupied Kashmir which is under siege fighting for their right of self-determination. It is in the interest of India, Pakistan and the people for more than 200 days now. The international media also rejected this of Kashmir that the dispute is resolved in conunilateral action of the Modi government. The formity with the UN resolutions and the Indian New York Times in its editorial terming the step commitments in that regard. as a wrong and dangerous move observed "The Malik Muhammad Ashraf is an academic. United States and China must not allow Kashmir to become a pawn in their ongoing disputes; on He can be contacted at: ashpak10@gmail.com.

EVIDENCE shows that the principal means of an exponential increase in infected cases of Novel Corona Virus, is community transmission. That is why the federal government has correctly closed down educational institutions and restricted public gatherings. But the Punjab Provincial Government absurdly requires all public Universities staff to report for duty because of the rules regarding paid leave. Why should University staff be subjected to the risk of exposure to this deadly Virus ? Are we not human beings? Moreover if University staff contract the disease the provincial government will be responsible for actually defeating the federal government’s attempt to contain the spread. Will the provincial government please apply their minds? The country is facing an unprecedented national emergency and they are following arcane rules that are counterproductive in the current situation. Dr. Akmal Hussain Lahore

Brands and Bullshit SIR, through your papers here I would like to request all our Pakistan brands owners to kindly clearly differentiate between both these words ‘brands’ and ‘bullshit’. This year Pakistan is going to celebrate 71 years since independence with traditional fervor and enthusiasm. And as every independence day in Pakistan, clothes, perfumes, electronics items dealers and a number of brands launch their discount deals in the market without thinking that the real image of brands becomes cheap. For example, in the 50th year of independence, they offered a 50% discount, in the 70th year they announced a 70% discount, and for this year a 71 % discount. So my question is that on the 100th year of independence, will they will offer a 100% discount? Impossible! Alhamdulillah, Pakistan and Pakistanis are going to shine and becomes more educated in all parameters. So, please try to deliver through your brands real customer values instead of selling them bullshit. Fayyaz Ashfaq Karachi

Corporal Punishment in Schools IT is a well-established fact that teachers are the decorators of the future of their students. However, corporal punishment against the students is likely a blemish on the glory of teachers. Students are disturbed not only physically but also mentally by these erroneous actions. In the war for grades, students are socially isolated. Students, despite being called the bright future of the nation, are being treated like animals. Actually punishment is prohibited, but still this practice is going on. Many students are depressed immensely due to their studies and many students quit school, while many commit suicide. In like manner, parents are worried about their children's protection. Yet no actions have been taken to resolve this catastroph. That's why I request the relevant authorities to institute a strong law against this criminal practice as soon as possible. Asif Murad Umrani Karachi

The Doctors’ Farce RECENTLY I took one of the members of my family to the Civil Hospital Turbat in order to test his blood, but we got a lamentable response from the doctor. He told us that they could not test his blood there because a satisfactory result could not be obtained in Civil Hospital Turbat. Further, he told us he would sit in a private hospital at night were we should come for blood testing. In Turbat the doctors are just passing their time in the hospital and the patients are in grave trouble. How can an underprivileged person afford to visit private hospitals for his treatment? Therefore I would like to request the concerned authorities as well as the government of Balochistan to please facilitate our government hospitals and regulate our doctors. Mohammad Jaan Qadir Bolan

TB too, not just Corona EACH year, we commemorate World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease. TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Each day, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 54 million lives since the year 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 42%. To accelerate the TB response in countries to reach targets. So that government should take appropriate steps to overcome this issue Noreen Yar Muhammad Karachi


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

08 WORLD VIEW

RepoRts of an economic cRash have been gReatly exaggeRated

USa today vernon L smith

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HILE on spring break from Chapman University, I am now “confined” by the pandemic to my home in Tucson where I live part of the year. The fourth of four COVID-19 cases in Pima County (population just over one million) was announced as I write this — a haven of safety indeed. But street traffic is heavy, the stores crowded, and people are busily surfing the empty shelves and buying from the shelves not yet empty. Americans are selling securities and buying toilet paper as Donald Trump urges us all to socially distance ourselves at least six feet from each other and limit gatherings to no more than 10. Local stores have announced that oldsters like me will be allowed to shop their empty shelves for one hour before regular opening time. There is a deep economic lesson hidden in this rush to stock up on ordinary consumer goods, coordinated spontaneously by common fears of supply shortages and stock-outs. Why, throughout almost all our life of economic experiences, do none of us have the slightest concern that when we go to our local stores, everything we might desire will be waiting for us on the shelves? We never think on these things because we have no need or motivation to think on them. We operate deeply immersed in a world of prices and available goods and services, and never give it a thought. No central office, or person, or bureau is in charge. Yet vast supply chains encircling the globe and, coordinated by people governed by prices as-

sure that your green tea, buttermilk, canned tuna and toilet paper will be waiting silently for you whenever you might decide to shop. Each of us oversees a fragment of this whole, and that is quite enough. Welcome to the miracle of consumer markets, requiring only that sellers not falsely represent or advertise their products and that you must pay for anything you buy. Consequently, prices constantly adapt and change in response to events near and far that cause pork prices to fall, or poultry prices to rise. When your government thought it could improve air quality by mandating that ethanol be added to gasoline, you didn’t even notice that the price of tortillas increased, here and in Mexico. Not everyone in the world is so graced by this economic freedom. Those living in dark-night North Korea, rich in coal and human potential, can barely feed themselves. In contrast, their historical language and cultural brothers and sisters to the south live in brightly lit abundance. Similarly, Venezuelan citizens live in the richest of all countries in oil reserves. The government instituted price controls intended to enable the poor to buy food more cheaply, and many Americans praised their compassion. The consequence was shortages and black markets. So, the compassionate government seized the supermarkets, and now Venezuela cannot feed its people. True to this mode of thinking, many of our state governments have passed populist “anti-price-gouging” laws. Such price controls, by any name, can only exacerbate current shortages as consumers rush to buy, and producers, who need neither instruction nor police impediments, exhaust every avenue to increase output. The first motive for all savings and investment is to provide security against loss in current output and increase stores of potential consumption that can be drawn upon. NO ECONOMIC FREE-FALL: Not all markets, however, are born equal. Laboratory experiments for goods that cannot be re-traded easily converge to their predicted supply-and-demand equilibrium under conditions of strictly private dispersed information. Their counterpart in the economy, markets for nondurable consumer goods, are a rock

of stability. Moreover, these markets are very large, constituting 75% of private product (gross domestic product less government expenditures). In sharp contrast, laboratory studies of asset markets persistently yield price bubbles in environments with perfect information on fundamental value. Moreover, experiments prove that this propensity to bubble is precisely and only because the items are re-tradable. These studies helped us to understand why all market economic instability arises from durable goods markets, especially housing-mortgage markets, as we have seen in the Great Recession and in the Depression when house prices fell against mortgage debt, plunging households into negative equity. Homeowners, living in houses worth less than what they owe the bank do not feel buoyantly prosperous. The experiments also helped us to understand why security markets are so volatile, but are not a fundamental source of instability, like housing, because securities market loans are short-term callable loans, investor balance sheets are marked steadily to market as prices decline, and there is no build-up of negative equity to dampen long-term expectations. I believe the economy today lives in suspense, not free-fall. The pandemic will pass; public health institutions have been a model of forthright dissemination of information on the spread of this disease and sanitary procedures to minimize its impact. It’s the citizenry that has been unruly for a time. Supply chains will refill and stabilize quickly, as the pandemic passes, securities markets will recover, and growth will continue to reduce poverty everywhere. Homes are more valuable than ever as a haven of safe and secure living. Provided that we continue to buy them with some of our own money, homes will be part of a secure future. Stay healthy, well-fed, clothed, and warm in your home and in this suspended economy. Don’t take any “wooden nickels” either for your goods or from your politicians, and keep the faith. Vernon L. Smith is the George L. Argyros endowed chair in finance and economics at Chapman University and member of the board of directors for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He is the 2002 Nobel laureate in economics.

Even the 'best science' doesn’t have the final word on covid-19 IT’S VITAL TO STRESS THAT ‘THE SCIENCE’ OF THIS PANDEMIC – AND WHAT SHOULD BE DONE IN RESPONSE – IS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM ‘THE SCIENCE’, SAY, OF HOW SOAP AND WATER PROTECT AGAINST THE CORONAVIRUS new ScientiSt DaviD aDam

“Take nobody’s word for it.” That is how the motto of the UK’s Royal Society – Nullius in verba – is usually interpreted. It’s a warning against listening to arguments made purely from authority. Only the science – data and evidence – is persuasive. But what about when the science itself is presented as the de facto authority? As the covid-19 pandemic tightens its grip, politicians in the UK and elsewhere have been invoking “the science” as their spirit guide, especially as a defence when their policies and actions (or lack of them) are criticised. Decisions on covid-19 have to be made urgently, and it’s right that the latest scientific data and expertise are taken into account. Evidence-based policy-making is presented as the gold standard and rightly so, especially in public health. But it’s vital to stress that “the science” of this pandemic – and what should be done in response – is quite different from “the science”, say, of how soap and water protect against the coronavirus. The benefits of the latter in handwashing are based on established facts, testable ideas and the results of properly planned experiments. It is knowledge; science used as a noun. Whereas research on covid-19, and in particular the policy response, is science as a verb. It is uncertain, transitive, contested and volatile. No scientist would argue otherwise, of course, and those involved in coordinating the policy response have been at pains to point out the limitations and uncertainties in their thinking, and the preliminary nature of the findings. But politicians don’t like to stress uncertainty. UK prime minister Boris Johnson repeatedly says his government’s actions are based on “the best science”. Campaigners on Twitter and elsewhere who wanted the UK to close schools earlier than it did had urged the government to listen to “the science”.

Those in the UK can see much of that science for themselves. Researchers at Imperial College London who are advising the government have published a summary of their model results, including the assumptions they rest on. The importance of these assumptions is underlined by what happened when the team got hold of some updated data for what proportion of people hospitalised by covid-19 would need intensive care. The researchers’ initial estimate was 15 per cent. But when they doubled that to 30 per cent, based on reports from Italy and China, the model said that 250,000 people would die. That single change seems to have been enough to trigger severe new restrictions on public gatherings and social contact. But those policies are based on assumptions of their own: that half of households will comply with requests to self-isolate for 14 days if someone shows symptoms, for example. And that closing schools and three-quarters of universities will actually increase community contact between infected and uninfected people by 25 per cent. How reliable are those numbers? We just don’t know. Earlier this month, an editorial in The Guardian complained that the UK’s response to the virus was “confused and hesitant”, and argued that disclosure of the scientific evidence was needed to protect public trust. Yet confused and hesitant is how the best science proceeds. Policies, even evidence-based ones, aren’t based on science alone. They emerge from a process that also accounts for values and priorities. Right now, politicians must balance the way a wider lockdown of the population could help protect against infection, against the negative sociological consequences of isolation and the impact on civil liberties. These are political decisions, and they must be seen and presented as such by politicians and others, particularly as the continuing pandemic and the severe restrictions on people’s lives start to fray the collective patience.

Drinking hot water and other dangerous myths about the virus BUT FAKE NEWS COMES IN DIFFERENT FORMS. THERE ARE LIES CIRCULATED IN GOOD FAITH AND LIES CIRCULATED IN BAD FAITH. MISINFORMATION AND DISINFORMATION Sydney Morning Herald Chris Cooper

Did you hear that Japanese scientists have found that a dry mouth will increase your chances of falling ill with coronavirus, so you should drink water every 15 minutes to wash pathogens into your stomach acid? Or that it's confirmed by researchers at Stanford that the virus is not heat-resistant and that keeping things above 27 degrees neutralises the threat? Gargling with bleach is also apparently effective, if done cautiously. None of this is true, of course. But I've seen it all circulating on social media. You've probably seen it too. And it's almost always shared by well-intentioned friends and relatives. They used to be old wives's tales. Now they've been turbocharged into fake news. The reason this news travels – like a virus – is that people are inclined to believe what they hear from family and friends. But Uncle Jack never used to have a megaphone to yell about how garlic every morning would stop the virus. That's the very 21st century problem health authorities must battle to inform the public. In the main, they are doing an effec-

tive job through relentless, consistent public health campaigns. But fake news comes in different forms. There are lies circulated in good faith and lies circulated in bad faith. Misinformation and disinformation. It's disinformation that presents as the more pernicious challenge. These are social media posts that tell me the government is lying to me. That a particular ethnic group is behind the hoarding. That I should prepare for mass panic. Last month, thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts were discovered

spreading posts deliberately calibrated to trigger maximum alarm and anger about coronavirus. US authorities believe a foreign disinformation campaign is under way to sow fear and discord among Americans. It included rumours the Trump administration was planning to announce a full nationwide shutdown. Sound familiar? It's the same message that went viral through Australian social media last week about the Morrison government. It forced Health Minister Greg Hunt to publicly announce there was no such ac-

tion planned. And this is the problem. In the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic our national resources are being redirected to fight malicious disinformation spread, primarily, via Facebook and one of its subsidiaries, messaging app WhatsApp. But here's the real crux: we are fighting this battle blind. Hunt has no idea how widely that bit of fake news was spread. Or even if it's the most worrying thing out there. In fact, no one has any real picture of what kind of fake news is circulating about coronavirus. Everything we know, we know from an-

ecdotal evidence. Facebook pushes us all into our own personalised bubbles, so none of us really knows what anyone else is seeing. This means our authorities have no systemic understanding of the scale or spread of misinformation. There's only one entity with a perfect bird's eye view and that's Facebook. But it isn't sharing that information with us. What we do know is that Facebook's algorithms intentionally amplify outrageous, conspiratorial, or inflammatory content to keep us engaged. In other words, we know social media is amplifying harmful disinformation during this health crisis, but we have no idea how much. This has to change immediately. It's not good enough to continue approaching this problem on a "user beware" basis, because, as coronavirus shows us, fake news harms all of us regardless of whether we have a Facebook account. And we can't just continue to accept the platform's word for it that it's tackling the problem. Self-reporting is rarely the answer. Instead, we need these platforms to lift the veil and allow public oversight to get a picture of who's being targeted with what and why. Platforms wouldn't need to give away the secrets of their precious proprietary algorithms. They would just have to show regulators what these algorithms are spitting out and to whom. This doesn't have to be about punitively cracking down on Facebook or anyone else. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg himself has explicitly asked to be regulated. We have never accepted that our public spaces should be run behind closed doors on a "trust us" basis. There's no reason for social media to remain the exception. Chris Cooper is the executive director of Responsible Technology Australia, which advocates for the ethical progression of digital technology.


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

BUSINESS 09 markEt daily

CORPORATE CORNER

KSE-100 PlungES 2,100 POInTS AmId vIruS unCErTAInTy KARACHI

ISLAMABAD: National Telecommunication Corporation Managing Director Brig (r) Viqar Rashid Khan appreciates the efforts of NTC staff for providing uninterrupted ICT services to all govt departments amid coronavirus outbreak. P R E S S R E L E A S E

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STAFF REPORT

HE Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) took a massive beating on Tuesday, with the KSE-100 Index nosediving below the 29,000-mark intraday, triggering a two-hour market halt under revised regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). According to analysts, investors' confidence remained low due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases across the country. Moreover, they added, countrywide lockdown also kept the investors at bay.

Global markets, on the other hand, swung higher on Tuesday. "All hopes of government incentives/bailout package for the industry and masses went in vain amid a possibility of countrywide lockdown or curfew by the government," said an official at Arif Habib Ltd. "A slight rebound in international crude prices kept the interest in exploration & production stocks alive; resultantly, Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd (OGDCL), Pakistan Petroleum Ltd (PPL) and Pakistan Oilfield Ltd (POL) traded above lower circuits." Shedding 2,156.96 points, the benchmark KSE-100 Index recorded its intraday low at 28,510.45. After struggling to find any positive trigger, the

index ended lower by 2,102.58 points at 28,564.83. Among other indices, the KMI-30 Index plunged 3,556.63 points to end at 43,903.81, while the KSE All Share Index lost 1,211.16 points, settling at 20,895.25. Out of the total traded shares, 24 advanced and 221 declined. The overall volumes remained thin and were recorded at 98.75 million, with K-Electric Limited (KEL 11.71pc), Unity Foods Limited (UNITY -8.73pc) and The Bank of Punjab (BOP -12.48pc) topping the volume chart. The scrips had exchanged 25.60 million, 11.91 million and 9.60 million shares, respectively. Sectors that drove the index south

included banking (-601.82 points), fertilizer (-319.65 points) and oil & gas exploration (-279.54 points). Among the companies, Engro Corporation Limited (ENGRO -145.91 points), Habib Bank Limited (HBL -140.31 points) and Hub Power Company Limited (HUBC 108.26 points) dented the index the most. In a notification to the PSX, Sazgar Engineering Works Limited (SAZEW -7.50pc) announced that the company has shut down its plant till further notice in order to curtail the spread of COVID-19 across provinces. Similarly, Pak Suzuki Motor Company Limited (PSMC -7.50pc) also announced to have stopped its operations (factory, showrooms) till further notice.

Punjab govt urged to allow manufacturing of exportable items LAHORE: Descon recently donated 10,000kg Sanidol to the Punjab government. A ceremony in this regard was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, Provincial Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid and Descon Oxychem Ltd CEO Imran Qureshi. P RES S REL EA S E

Azeem Iqbal Pirani appointed CEO of PakQatar Family Takaful BUSINESS DESK: PakQatar Family Takaful recently announced the appointment of Azeem Iqbal Pirani as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective from March 2020. Azeem Pirani has been associated with the Pak-Qatar Takaful (PQT) Group since its inception in 2007. He was last serving as Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) at Pak-Qatar General Takaful. Azeem Pirani, as new CEO of Pak-Qatar Family Takaful, has taken charge from his predecessor, Nasir Ali Syed, who has now taken the role of a CEO in another company of Pak-Qatar Group. Azeem Pirani has been working in various senior roles with the Pak-Qatar Takaful Group for over 12 years. These include his senior role in Pak-Qatar Family Takaful as Head of BancaTakaful. Before 2007, he had worked as regional head for Pakistan at FWU AG, besides serving as head of marketing and ADC at Meezan Bank. Azeem brings over 20 years of diversified experience in Islamic banking and takaful. He actively promotes and provides national as well as international expertise on Islamic finance and takaful to various institutions worldwide. Commenting on his new role, Azeem Pirani said, "I am honoured and excited to lead Pak-Qatar Family Takaful. I strongly believe that PQT, with its vision of providing financial protection through takaful to everyone, has the potential to achieve its goal with the right mindset and collective teamwork."

LAHORE HASSAN NAQVI

The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA)Punjab has taken up the issue regarding 'closure of textile mills during the lockdown period in Punjab' with the provincial government through Punjab Industries and Commerce Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal. APTMA has asked the government to allow the continuation of manufacturing and transportation of exportable items, Pakistan Today has learnt. Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar on Monday had announced a 14-day lockdown in the province to control the spread of COVID-19. Addressing a press conference after chairing the Punjab cabinet committee meeting on coronavirus, he had said the lockdown would be enforced from March 24 at 9:00am till April 6.

APTMA, in a letter written by its Acting Secretary General Mohammad Raza Baqir to the textile millers, informed that Punjab government on March 23 had ordered the closure of all offices, transport, gatherings, manufacturing/business premises etc. with effect from Tuesday. Baqir stated that the aforesaid order has brought all commercial and business activities to a standstill. "It has resulted in the closure of offices, cessation of production and manufacturing operations, suspension of transportation goods and stoppage of supplies both for domestic and foreign markets,” he said. "However, due to commitments with the foreign buyers, the matter has now been taken up by the APTMA Punjab management with the provincial government through Mian Aslam Iqbal." Baqir informed the millers that the minister has committed to taking up the matter with the provincial

cabinet and to come up with an amicable solution to facilitate unhindered exports from the country. "It is expected that the outcome of consultations within the provincial government would be known after the Punjab cabinet meeting,” he added. The acting secretary general, however, requested the member mills to ensure compliance with the directions contained regarding lockdown in the aforementioned order. Baqir said that keeping in view the extreme financial gravity due to the existing situation, APTMA has also approached Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) to suspend payment of adhoc and regular bills till lifting of lockdown. “Similarly, the power distribution companies (DISCOs) have been requested to extend the payment of current electricity bills till the withdrawal of lockdown in Punjab.”

Foreign outflows cross $1.4bn mark Engro slashes urea price by Rs240 per bag KARACHI MEIRYUM ALI

Total gross divestment during March 2020 has reached $1.406 billion, according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), in an expected trend of foreign outflows leaving the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Foreign investors divested $92 million of treasury bills (T-bills) on March 20, as per the Special Convertible Rupee Account (SCRA), which tracks inflows and outflows from foreign countries. The net investment in T-bills from July 2019 to date now amounts to $1.69 billion, compared to the $1.98 billion it had

been just one week prior. The last two weeks had seen a significant amount of money leave the country. Foreign investors divested $47 million of T-bills on March 17 and $222 million net worth of T-bills on March 13. On March 12, foreign investors divested $166 million of T-bills; on March 11, foreign investors divested $251 million net worth of Tbills, while on March 10, foreign investors divested $136 million of Tbills. This is part of a general pattern of divestment that started in late February, as foreign investors divested $67 million of T-bills on February 28, and divested $103 million net worth of

T-Bills on March 3. In the monetary policy announcement on March 17 at the State Bank, Dr Reza Baqir said globally, because of coronavirus, there has been a general ‘flight to safety’, that was not linked to whether the SBP significantly changed its policy rate or not. The SBP cut the policy rate by 75 basis points on March 17, from 13.25pc to 12.5pc, and then by an additional 150 basis points to 11pc on March 24. Previously, the SBP said that they had enough reserves to cover the magnitude of risks, and the buffers would be more than enough to cope with any portfolio outflows in an orderly manner.

ISLAMABAD APP

Engro Fertilisers on Tuesday announced a further reduction in urea prices by Rs240 per bag amid coronavirus crisis that is impacting Pakistan’s economy. This additional price cut would result in an overall price reduction of Rs400 per bag since the beginning of the year, a company’s statement said. "The global COVID-19 pandemic poses a significant challenge to not only global, but also national economic prosperity. As one of Pakistan’s most responsible companies, Engro Fertilisers remains committed to the alleviation of adverse impact of coronavirus on our nation, in particular the agriculture sector, which remains the largest driver of employment in our country," the company stated. It said with the virus outbreak, Pakistan’s farmers are facing unprece-

dented challenges. In this difficult time, Engro Fertilisers stands firm with the people of Pakistan and the government to prioritise the sustainability of the agriculture sector to ensure the nation’s food security. "In this pursuit, the company has made an additional price reduction to support our valued farmers in these trying times," the statement read. Earlier this year, Engro Fertilisers became the first company to fully pass on the benefit of revision in the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) rates by announcing a price reduction of Rs160 per bag. With that price reduction, the company has passed on more than the entire impact of reduction in GIDC given the company’s particular gas mix, which varies significantly from other players in the industry. After this additional price reduction of Rs240 per bag, the dealer transfer price of Engro Fertilisers urea bag will be around Rs1,600.

Experts welcome govt’s stimulus package, but deplore ‘nominal rate cut’ LAHORE HASSAN NAQVI

Exporters and economists on Tuesday welcomed the Rs1,200 billion 'stimulus package' announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan to financially support different sectors of the economy in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, but deplored the 'nominal cut in interest rate' announced by the State Bank of Pakistan earlier today. Under the PM's relief package, the government has earmarked Rs280 billion for wheat procurement, Rs50 billion additional funds for utility stores, Rs50bn for medical workers, Rs100bn for emergency situations, Rs25bn for National Disaster Management Authority, Rs200bn for labourers, Rs100bn for SME and agriculture sectors, and Rs150bn worth four-month stipends for poor people (Rs3,000 per month). To facilitate the export industry, the government would immediately disburse tax re-

funds worth Rs100bn. In addition, principal and interest payments would also be deferred. Meanwhile, the SBP on Tuesday reduced its main policy rate by 150 basis points to 11pc. As per the central bank, the decision was taken keeping in mind the uncertainty surrounding conoravirus outbreak, and also its possible impact on the country’s economy. Talking to this scribe, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Group Leader Gohar Ijaz said that the most important decision to save the country's economy was to bring the interest rate down to 5pc and then to zero per cent in the next six months. "Controlling inflation by keeping interest rate high is a flawed theory that does not apply to our economy," Ijaz opined. APTMA Punjab Chairman Adil Bashir said that it was encouraging that the government was taking steps to support the industry. "We still don't have the specifics, but everything depends on how quickly and effectively these are implemented."

He, however, maintained that the 150bps rate cut announced by SBP was not enough for under the prevalent lockdown-like situation, adding that the industry was expecting a massive reduction in interest rate. "The interest rate should below 10pc and the payment of utility bills need to be deferred for the industry." Agreeing with them, acclaimed economist Sakib Sherani said that the stimulus package was a step in the right direction. However, he added, it was "short on specifics as well as maybe on size." "The important thing is that it needs to be complemented with other measures, including the announcement of significant rate cuts." Sherani said that the mechanism that would be adopted by the Ministry of Finance for speedy implementation of the relief package would determine the outcome of the government’s policies. Meanwhile, economist Dr Farida Faisal lauded the government's performance during

such these uncertain times. "Coordination between different departments and monitoring appears to be functional. What I like about the PM's approach is that he understands that coronovirus is an evolving problem that needs adjustment in policy and decision making." She maintained that all the problems of important sectors i.e. SMEs, exporters, transporters, construction, healthcare and agriculture, have been addressed under the package. Faisal opined that the subsidy for the poorest was supplemented by efforts to control core inflation; reduction in petroleum prices and fixing of support price of wheat. “Another good news is that local production of vital medical supplies and equipment would be encouraged,” Dr Faisal noted. “I would like to see a special emphasis on ecommerce though.” On the other hand, economic expert and tax consultant Dr Ikramul Haq was of the view that the relief stimulus package an-

nounced by the PM was neither sufficient nor meaningful or targeted to meet the challenges faced by industry, workers and public at large. "Unfortunately, successive governments--military and civilian alike--have been ignoring or sidetracking fundamental institutional reforms to achieve a higher rate of investment and growth and make the tax system simple, predictable, fair and equitable." He recalled that it was a golden opportunity for the Khan-led government in 2018 and 2019 to undertake institutional reforms but it also ignored the same, like its predecessors. The economic expert opined that all the governments have failed to tackle the most essential issues of ensuring ease of doing business, reducing the cost of doing business, accelerating growth, inducing investment, concentrating on human skills, tapping resources, generating employment, and deconstructing the unproductive tax system which imposes high taxes, but yields low revenues.


Wendnesday, 25 March, 2020

10 FOREIGN NEWS

VirUs sparks 'Unprecedented collapse' in eUrozone economy PARIS

t

AGENCIES

HERE has been “an unprecedented collapse” in business across the eurozone this month as EU countries impose severe restrictions on movement to slow the coronavirus, according to indicators released Tuesday. The PMI survey by analysis company IHS Markit confirmed what economists and governments had been bracing for: a dramatically abrupt tumble into a certain recession. But the figures were even worse than many had expected. The provisional data showed a slump in activity in the 19-nation eurozone in March “far exceeding that seen even at the height of the global financial crisis,” IHS Markit said in a statement. Its PMI index for this month dived to 31.4 points — the lowest since it started its survey in 1998. A reading below 50 points indicates a contraction. In February, the index had stood at 51.6. Major economies Italy, France, Germany and Spain are all deeply affected and have implemented severe social and business restrictions to try to slow the virus’s spread, by keeping potential carriers at home. The eurozone’s economic struggle was worsened by some EU member states closing off their borders to neighbours, limiting the flow of goods and people within the single market. EU countries are starting to deploy massive state spending and loan guarantees to prop up businesses and employment, with the EU dropping its strict rules on budget deficits. But that mitigation effort is yet to be felt. PESSIMISM: The IHS Markit survey showed the services sector was being pummelled the worst, sliding to well below where it was at during the 2009 global financial crisis. Manufacturing was also hit, supply

Video conferencing complicates eU coordination BRUSSELS The European Union’s decision-making process is being sorely tested by video conferencing during the coronavirus pandemic, EU officials say, with one calling it a “catastrophe”. A virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday was punctuated by technical problems, speakers who were unsure if they could be heard and a lack of translators. “These video conferences don’t work very well, there are tech problems and the ‘Hello, can you hear me?’ interruptions,” said a senior diplomat present

at Monday’s video link. “So people read out their prepared notes mostly. There is little scope for actual negotiations.” Strong coordination among the EU’s 27 member states is vital. But lockdowns and travel bans have made it harder than usual for the EU, and many organizations are unable to bring representatives together in person for meetings. “In the video conferences, it’s a catastrophe, the images are lost, the voices are lost,” the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, who has participated in virtual talks with Asian and European ministers, told reporters on Friday. He said he preferred telephone calls.

chains were being badly degraded, and there was “a record fall in export business as cross-border trade flows seized up”. Employees are being let go at the fastest rate since June 2009. IHS Markit noted “record degrees of

pessimism about the year ahead seen in both manufacturing and services”. “Clearly there’s scope for the downturn to intensify further as even more draconian policies to deal with the virus are potentially implemented in coming

AGENCIES

months,” its chief economist Chris Williamson said. Economic analysis firm Capital Economics said the PMI collapse was “so sharp that at any other time it would look like a spreadsheet error”. It said “April’s data could be even worse”, predicting the eurozone’s 2020 first-quarter GDP could plunge by at least three percent from the last three months of 2019. “That would be similar to the sharpest quarterly fall in GDP during the global financial crisis,” it said. The startlingly bad PMI indicator heaped more pressure on eurozone finance ministers, who were to meet via videolink later Tuesday to consider coordinated ways to blunt the economic fallout from the pandemic. GROUND TO A HALT Analysts at bank ING said the IHS Markit survey “paints a picture of an economy that has ground to a halt”. But while it demonstrated the wide and sudden impact of the coronavirus, it “doesn’t tell us much about the depth of the decline”. ING added: “It’s still anyone’s guess how deep this actually is. “The question is how much policy makers can soften the blow. Perhaps most relevant is how much unemployment and bankruptcies can be avoided to determine the possible steepness of a recovery.” Berenberg Economics chimed in by saying that “the short-term hit to GDP from the coronavirus recession will most likely be more severe than the initial phase of the financial crisis”. It noted a similar dive in Britain, which was never part of the eurozone and is no longer an EU member, whose PMI index slumped from 53.0 last month to 37.1 this month. It also said the eurozone collapse echoed what was seen in China last month when the pandemic that started there bit deepest. China’s economy, it noted, was showing tentative signs of recovery.

Spanish soldiers find bodies in retirement homes BARCELONA AGENCIES

Spanish soldiers deployed to help fight the new coronavirus outbreak have found elderly patients abandoned, and sometimes dead, at retirement homes, as an ice rink inside a Madrid shopping mall was turned into a temporary morgue to cope with a surge in cases. The army has been charged with helping to disinfect retirement homes in Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic. Dozens of deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded at facilities across the country. “We are going to be strict and inflexible when dealing with the way old people are treated in these residences,” Defence Minister Margarita Robles said in an interview with private television channel Telecinco. “The army, during certain visits, found some old people completely abandoned, sometimes even dead in their

beds,” she added. An investigation has been launched, the general prosecutor announced. The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged to 2,182 on Monday after 462 people died within 24 hours, according to health ministry figures. Meanwhile, the ice rink at the Palacio de Hielo, or Ice Palace, shopping centre in Madrid was turned into a temporary morgue to deal with a surge in deaths in the capital, a spokeswoman for Madrid city hall told AFP. Earlier, the city hall said the city’s 14 public cemeteries would stop accepting more bodies because staff there did not have adequate protective gear. The improvised morgue would start to be used “in the coming hours,” the regional government of Madrid said. “This is a temporary and exceptional measure which aims to mitigate the pain of the family members of the victims and the situation hospitals in Madrid are facing.” A nearby congress centre has been converted into a field hospital for coron-

AGENCIES

Woody Allen’s controversial autobiography was released in the United States Monday, swiftly finding a new home after its original publisher pulled out after protests over abuse allegations against the filmmaker. New York-based Arcade Publishing announced it has acquired world rights to “Apropos of Nothing,” saying it would not “bow to the politically correct pressures of the modern world.” “We as publishers prefer to give voice to a respected writer and filmmaker,” editor Jeannette Seaver said in a statement to AFP. Earlier this month giant publisher Hachette scrapped plans to release the book penned by Allen, 84, who has long been accused of molesting his daughter, and returned all rights to the author. Hachette had canceled the launch

after Allen’s son Ronan Farrow, who is extremely critical of his father, denounced the book group, and staff staged a walkout. Allegations that Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven years old in the early 1990s have dogged the Oscar-winning

BERLIN AGENCIES

German customs officials are attempting to track down about 6 million face masks ordered to protect health workers from the coronavirus which went missing at an airport in Kenya. “The authorities are trying to find out what happened,” said a defense ministry spokeswoman, confirming a report first published by Spiegel Online. The FFP2 masks, which filter out more than 90% of particles, were ordered by German customs authorities. They and the armed forces procurement office have been helping the health ministry to get hold of urgently needed protective gear. The shipment was due in Germany on March 20 but never arrived after disappearing at the end of last week at an airport in Kenya. It was unclear why the masks, produced by a German firm, had been in Kenya. “What exactly happened, whether this a matter of theft or a provider who isn’t serious, is being cleared up by customs,” said a government source. Kenya’s health ministry declined to comment and a Kenyan Airports Authority (KAA) spokeswoman said the company was still assessing the situation. Spiegel Online reported that Germany has placed orders worth 241 million euros with suppliers for protective and sanitary equipment to fight the coronavirus. The defense ministry spokeswoman said there was no financial impact from the loss of the masks as no money had been paid. Germany is preparing its hospitals and health workers for a big increase in admissions of patients with the virus. It has 27,436 confirmed coronavirus cases and 114 people have died, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said.

Un seeks total ceasefire in syria, prisoner releases, to combat coronavirus GENEVA AGENCIES

The UN Special Envoy for Syria called on Tuesday for an immediate nationwide ceasefire across Syria to enable an “all-out-effort” to stamp out COVID-19. In a statement, Geir Pedersen also appealed on humanitarian grounds for “large-scale releases of detainees and abductees” in Syria and access for medical workers to detention facilities to help ensure that adequate medical care is provided to inmates. The spread of coronavirus to Syria brings the prospect of a deadly outbreak to a population devastated by nine years of war, with ravaged hospitals and tightly packed camps likely to accelerate infection, doctors and aid workers said on Monday. The Assad government announced on Sunday its first case after unconfirmed reports suggested the virus had been detected but covered up, a charge officials denied. AGENCIES

avirus patients that will have a total of 5,500 beds. The elderly are especially vulnerable in the global pandemic and officials around the world are increasingly calling

for extreme measures to safeguard them. Retirement homes are “an absolute priority for the government”, Health Minister Salvador Illa told a press conference.

Woody Allen memoir released by new publisher after protests NEW YORK

germany loses six million coronavirus face masks in kenya

filmmaker for decades. The director of “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” was cleared of the charges, first leveled by his then-partner Mia Farrow, and has consistently denied the abuse. But Dylan, now 34, maintains she was molested. The unexpected announcement of the book’s release Monday comes about two weeks ahead of its originally scheduled April 7 launch from Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing subsidiary. Ronan Farrow, a high-profile investigative journalist and best-selling author, led the backlash to the book. He has long defended Dylan, who renewed her accusations against Allen in early 2018 in the wake of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. Dozens of Hachette employees in New York walked out in protest at its original plan to publish the memoir. But some had criticized Hachette’s withdrawal as censorship, including best-

CMYK

selling author Stephen King. “The Hachette decision to drop the Woody Allen book makes me very uneasy. It’s not him; I don’t give a damn about Mr Allen. It’s who gets muzzled next that worries me,” he said on Twitter. Seaver said that “while we respect Hachette’s decision to choose not to publish Woody Allen’s book, we choose not to take sides but rather, firmly believe in upholding the right to Freedom of Speech.” “We find it critical to hear more than one side of a story and more importantly, not to squelch a writer’s right to be heard,” she said. According to The New York Times, the book contains a post-script from Allen accusing Hachette of “cowering.” “Hachette read the book and loved it and despite me being a toxic pariah and menace to society, they vowed to stand firm should things hit the fan,” he wrote.

sixty-four migrants die in the back of truck in mozambique MAPUTO AGENCIES

Sixty-four people believed to be migrants from Ethiopia have been found dead in a container attached to a truck in Mozambique, provincial migration authorities and the police said on Tuesday. Police and immigration authorities stopped the truck en route from Malawi in the early hours of the morning in the province of Tete, bordered by Malawi on one side and Zimbabwe on the other, they said. Amelia Direito, spokeswoman for Tete migration services, said the officials checked the container after hearing banging coming from inside. They found 14 people alive among the bodies of 64 who had died from suspected asphyxiation. The survivors were now being held at an immigration facility, she added. Many poor migrants travel via Mozambique on their way into South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized economy, where they usually hope to find better work. The driver of the truck told a local TV station that he had been approached in Malawi by an individual who offered him money to take the migrants into Mozambique. “Two people were detained in connection to the incident, the driver and a middleman, who contracted the driver to ferry these people,” police spokesman Orlando Mudumane said.


Wendnesday, 25 March, 2020

10 FOREIGN NEWS

VirUs sparks 'Unprecedented collapse' in eUrozone economy PARIS

t

AGENCIES

HERE has been “an unprecedented collapse” in business across the eurozone this month as EU countries impose severe restrictions on movement to slow the coronavirus, according to indicators released Tuesday. The PMI survey by analysis company IHS Markit confirmed what economists and governments had been bracing for: a dramatically abrupt tumble into a certain recession. But the figures were even worse than many had expected. The provisional data showed a slump in activity in the 19-nation eurozone in March “far exceeding that seen even at the height of the global financial crisis,” IHS Markit said in a statement. Its PMI index for this month dived to 31.4 points — the lowest since it started its survey in 1998. A reading below 50 points indicates a contraction. In February, the index had stood at 51.6. Major economies Italy, France, Germany and Spain are all deeply affected and have implemented severe social and business restrictions to try to slow the virus’s spread, by keeping potential carriers at home. The eurozone’s economic struggle was worsened by some EU member states closing off their borders to neighbours, limiting the flow of goods and people within the single market. EU countries are starting to deploy massive state spending and loan guarantees to prop up businesses and employment, with the EU dropping its strict rules on budget deficits. But that mitigation effort is yet to be felt. PESSIMISM: The IHS Markit survey showed the services sector was being pummelled the worst, sliding to well below where it was at during the 2009 global financial crisis. Manufacturing was also hit, supply

Video conferencing complicates eU coordination BRUSSELS The European Union’s decision-making process is being sorely tested by video conferencing during the coronavirus pandemic, EU officials say, with one calling it a “catastrophe”. A virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday was punctuated by technical problems, speakers who were unsure if they could be heard and a lack of translators. “These video conferences don’t work very well, there are tech problems and the ‘Hello, can you hear me?’ interruptions,” said a senior diplomat present

at Monday’s video link. “So people read out their prepared notes mostly. There is little scope for actual negotiations.” Strong coordination among the EU’s 27 member states is vital. But lockdowns and travel bans have made it harder than usual for the EU, and many organizations are unable to bring representatives together in person for meetings. “In the video conferences, it’s a catastrophe, the images are lost, the voices are lost,” the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, who has participated in virtual talks with Asian and European ministers, told reporters on Friday. He said he preferred telephone calls.

chains were being badly degraded, and there was “a record fall in export business as cross-border trade flows seized up”. Employees are being let go at the fastest rate since June 2009. IHS Markit noted “record degrees of

pessimism about the year ahead seen in both manufacturing and services”. “Clearly there’s scope for the downturn to intensify further as even more draconian policies to deal with the virus are potentially implemented in coming

AGENCIES

months,” its chief economist Chris Williamson said. Economic analysis firm Capital Economics said the PMI collapse was “so sharp that at any other time it would look like a spreadsheet error”. It said “April’s data could be even worse”, predicting the eurozone’s 2020 first-quarter GDP could plunge by at least three percent from the last three months of 2019. “That would be similar to the sharpest quarterly fall in GDP during the global financial crisis,” it said. The startlingly bad PMI indicator heaped more pressure on eurozone finance ministers, who were to meet via videolink later Tuesday to consider coordinated ways to blunt the economic fallout from the pandemic. GROUND TO A HALT Analysts at bank ING said the IHS Markit survey “paints a picture of an economy that has ground to a halt”. But while it demonstrated the wide and sudden impact of the coronavirus, it “doesn’t tell us much about the depth of the decline”. ING added: “It’s still anyone’s guess how deep this actually is. “The question is how much policy makers can soften the blow. Perhaps most relevant is how much unemployment and bankruptcies can be avoided to determine the possible steepness of a recovery.” Berenberg Economics chimed in by saying that “the short-term hit to GDP from the coronavirus recession will most likely be more severe than the initial phase of the financial crisis”. It noted a similar dive in Britain, which was never part of the eurozone and is no longer an EU member, whose PMI index slumped from 53.0 last month to 37.1 this month. It also said the eurozone collapse echoed what was seen in China last month when the pandemic that started there bit deepest. China’s economy, it noted, was showing tentative signs of recovery.

Spanish soldiers find bodies in retirement homes BARCELONA AGENCIES

Spanish soldiers deployed to help fight the new coronavirus outbreak have found elderly patients abandoned, and sometimes dead, at retirement homes, as an ice rink inside a Madrid shopping mall was turned into a temporary morgue to cope with a surge in cases. The army has been charged with helping to disinfect retirement homes in Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic. Dozens of deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded at facilities across the country. “We are going to be strict and inflexible when dealing with the way old people are treated in these residences,” Defence Minister Margarita Robles said in an interview with private television channel Telecinco. “The army, during certain visits, found some old people completely abandoned, sometimes even dead in their

beds,” she added. An investigation has been launched, the general prosecutor announced. The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged to 2,182 on Monday after 462 people died within 24 hours, according to health ministry figures. Meanwhile, the ice rink at the Palacio de Hielo, or Ice Palace, shopping centre in Madrid was turned into a temporary morgue to deal with a surge in deaths in the capital, a spokeswoman for Madrid city hall told AFP. Earlier, the city hall said the city’s 14 public cemeteries would stop accepting more bodies because staff there did not have adequate protective gear. The improvised morgue would start to be used “in the coming hours,” the regional government of Madrid said. “This is a temporary and exceptional measure which aims to mitigate the pain of the family members of the victims and the situation hospitals in Madrid are facing.” A nearby congress centre has been converted into a field hospital for coron-

AGENCIES

Woody Allen’s controversial autobiography was released in the United States Monday, swiftly finding a new home after its original publisher pulled out after protests over abuse allegations against the filmmaker. New York-based Arcade Publishing announced it has acquired world rights to “Apropos of Nothing,” saying it would not “bow to the politically correct pressures of the modern world.” “We as publishers prefer to give voice to a respected writer and filmmaker,” editor Jeannette Seaver said in a statement to AFP. Earlier this month giant publisher Hachette scrapped plans to release the book penned by Allen, 84, who has long been accused of molesting his daughter, and returned all rights to the author. Hachette had canceled the launch

after Allen’s son Ronan Farrow, who is extremely critical of his father, denounced the book group, and staff staged a walkout. Allegations that Allen molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven years old in the early 1990s have dogged the Oscar-winning

BERLIN AGENCIES

German customs officials are attempting to track down about 6 million face masks ordered to protect health workers from the coronavirus which went missing at an airport in Kenya. “The authorities are trying to find out what happened,” said a defense ministry spokeswoman, confirming a report first published by Spiegel Online. The FFP2 masks, which filter out more than 90% of particles, were ordered by German customs authorities. They and the armed forces procurement office have been helping the health ministry to get hold of urgently needed protective gear. The shipment was due in Germany on March 20 but never arrived after disappearing at the end of last week at an airport in Kenya. It was unclear why the masks, produced by a German firm, had been in Kenya. “What exactly happened, whether this a matter of theft or a provider who isn’t serious, is being cleared up by customs,” said a government source. Kenya’s health ministry declined to comment and a Kenyan Airports Authority (KAA) spokeswoman said the company was still assessing the situation. Spiegel Online reported that Germany has placed orders worth 241 million euros with suppliers for protective and sanitary equipment to fight the coronavirus. The defense ministry spokeswoman said there was no financial impact from the loss of the masks as no money had been paid. Germany is preparing its hospitals and health workers for a big increase in admissions of patients with the virus. It has 27,436 confirmed coronavirus cases and 114 people have died, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said.

Un seeks total ceasefire in syria, prisoner releases, to combat coronavirus GENEVA AGENCIES

The UN Special Envoy for Syria called on Tuesday for an immediate nationwide ceasefire across Syria to enable an “all-out-effort” to stamp out COVID-19. In a statement, Geir Pedersen also appealed on humanitarian grounds for “large-scale releases of detainees and abductees” in Syria and access for medical workers to detention facilities to help ensure that adequate medical care is provided to inmates. The spread of coronavirus to Syria brings the prospect of a deadly outbreak to a population devastated by nine years of war, with ravaged hospitals and tightly packed camps likely to accelerate infection, doctors and aid workers said on Monday. The Assad government announced on Sunday its first case after unconfirmed reports suggested the virus had been detected but covered up, a charge officials denied. AGENCIES

avirus patients that will have a total of 5,500 beds. The elderly are especially vulnerable in the global pandemic and officials around the world are increasingly calling

for extreme measures to safeguard them. Retirement homes are “an absolute priority for the government”, Health Minister Salvador Illa told a press conference.

Woody Allen memoir released by new publisher after protests NEW YORK

germany loses six million coronavirus face masks in kenya

filmmaker for decades. The director of “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” was cleared of the charges, first leveled by his then-partner Mia Farrow, and has consistently denied the abuse. But Dylan, now 34, maintains she was molested. The unexpected announcement of the book’s release Monday comes about two weeks ahead of its originally scheduled April 7 launch from Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing subsidiary. Ronan Farrow, a high-profile investigative journalist and best-selling author, led the backlash to the book. He has long defended Dylan, who renewed her accusations against Allen in early 2018 in the wake of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. Dozens of Hachette employees in New York walked out in protest at its original plan to publish the memoir. But some had criticized Hachette’s withdrawal as censorship, including best-

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selling author Stephen King. “The Hachette decision to drop the Woody Allen book makes me very uneasy. It’s not him; I don’t give a damn about Mr Allen. It’s who gets muzzled next that worries me,” he said on Twitter. Seaver said that “while we respect Hachette’s decision to choose not to publish Woody Allen’s book, we choose not to take sides but rather, firmly believe in upholding the right to Freedom of Speech.” “We find it critical to hear more than one side of a story and more importantly, not to squelch a writer’s right to be heard,” she said. According to The New York Times, the book contains a post-script from Allen accusing Hachette of “cowering.” “Hachette read the book and loved it and despite me being a toxic pariah and menace to society, they vowed to stand firm should things hit the fan,” he wrote.

sixty-four migrants die in the back of truck in mozambique MAPUTO AGENCIES

Sixty-four people believed to be migrants from Ethiopia have been found dead in a container attached to a truck in Mozambique, provincial migration authorities and the police said on Tuesday. Police and immigration authorities stopped the truck en route from Malawi in the early hours of the morning in the province of Tete, bordered by Malawi on one side and Zimbabwe on the other, they said. Amelia Direito, spokeswoman for Tete migration services, said the officials checked the container after hearing banging coming from inside. They found 14 people alive among the bodies of 64 who had died from suspected asphyxiation. The survivors were now being held at an immigration facility, she added. Many poor migrants travel via Mozambique on their way into South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized economy, where they usually hope to find better work. The driver of the truck told a local TV station that he had been approached in Malawi by an individual who offered him money to take the migrants into Mozambique. “Two people were detained in connection to the incident, the driver and a middleman, who contracted the driver to ferry these people,” police spokesman Orlando Mudumane said.


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

Tokyo oLyMpics posTponed To 2021 due To coronAvirus pAndeMic

TOKYO

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AGENCIES

HE Tokyo Olympics are to be postponed until 2021 after talks between Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach. Abe said they had established that cancelling the Games was out of the question, and that Bach had agreed “100%” that a postponement was the most appropriate response to the global disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “We agreed that a postponement would be the best way to ensure that the athletes are in peak condition when they compete and to guarantee the safety of the spectators,” Abe told reporters shortly after his conference

call with Bach, adding that the Games would be held by the summer of 2021. The Games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community”, the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said later in a joint statement. The Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will continue to be called the “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020” even if they are held next year, and the Olympic flame will stay in Japan “as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times”. Until just a few days ago the IOC, along with the Tokyo organising committee

and the Japanese government, had insisted there were no plans to delay the Olympics given they were not due to open for another four months but Japan’s NHK public television reported on Tuesday that Abe wanted the one-year delay. Tokyo 2020’s fate was in effect sealed this week when Canada and Australia said they would not send athletes to Japan in July, while the British and French governments urged the IOC to make a quick decision. The US Olympic and Paralympic committee followed suit, citing the “enormous” disruption the pandemic had caused to training and the qualification processWorld Athletics, the Olympic committees of Brazil, Slovenia and Germany, USA Swimming and USA Track and Field had joined the growing chorus of calls for a new date

for the event. The postponement is a blow to the host country, which has spent more than $12bn on the event, while huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters. Goldman Sachs estimated this month that Japan would lose $4.5bn (550bn yen) in inbound and domestic consumption in 2020 if the Olympics did not take place as planned. The Nikkei, a Japanese business daily, claimed on Monday that G7 leaders had agreed to a postponement during their teleconference last week, after Abe persuaded them that cancellation was not an option. Abe told the group that he was determined to hold the Games “in their complete form” – with the full quota of athletes and spectators – as a symbol of the world’s triumph over coronavirus, the Nikkei said. Boris Johnson reportedly responded with a thumbs-up, while other leaders nodded their approval. But Abe then hinted that postponement was a possibility. “If the IOC’s decision means it becomes impossible to hold the Olympics in their complete form, then a decision may have to be made to postpone them,” he told parliament on Monday. The host nation greeted the IOC’s decision to postpone the Games by up to a year with a mixture of disappointment and resignation. Opinion polls taken before the announcement indicated that the Japanese public had already accepted that Tokyo 2020 would be sport’s biggest victims of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Kyodo news poll last week, almost 70% of respondents said they did not expect the Games to go ahead this summer. One Twitter user reacted with humour, posting an image of the “new” Tokyo 2020 logo with the zero crossed out in traditional Japanese style, its replacement numeral verified by the personal seals of the organising committee head Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and Abe. Others voiced disappointment that they would have to wait another year to watch their favourite athletes compete in Tokyo. “I’ve been looking forward to the Olympics and feel like crying,” one user tweeted.

European Champions Cup final postponed PARIS AGENCIES

The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup semi-finals and finals have been postponed due to the coronavirus, European rugby chiefs announced on Tuesday. The finals of the two competitions were due to have been played on the weekend of May 22/23 in the French city of Marseille. The quarter-finals had already been postponed. Tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby said it was working with leagues and unions to restructure the conclusion to the season. "EPCR remains committed to completing the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup season," it said in a statement. "And it is planned to reschedule the quarter-final and semifinal matches, as well as the Marseille finals, in line with fixtures in the professional league competitions, subject to advice from government and local authorities." Domestic competitions across Europe, which has become the epicentre of the virus, have already been put on hold.

SPORTS 11

Mission impossible: ALeague football, Australia's last active sport, pulls plug MELBOURNE AGENCIES

Australia's last active sport, the A-League soccer, pulled the plug on its season Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus, with bosses saying it had become "mission impossible". The decision follows the National Rugby League and the country's most popular spectator sport, Aussie Rules, making similar decisions over the past two days. Rugby union, cricket, basketball and other sports had already shut down. The 11-team A-League, which played to empty stadiums last weekend, only had five rounds left to complete the season. But tightened government restrictions, including state border shutdowns, made it too difficult to continue. "The decision taken was the result of the increased state and national requirements, in particular border controls that the states, and New Zealand have implemented," said Football Federation Australia chief James Johnson. "As a national competition that is played in almost all parts of Australia, also in New Zealand, mission complicated became mission impossible." FFA will review the situation over the coming weeks with a further status assessment scheduled for April 22, with the goal being to reschedule the remaining games. Two ALeague teams, Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory, were already serving mandatory 14-day quarantines after playing in New Zealand last week and failing to get back to Australia before tough new entry rules took effect. "To get so close to completing the competition, only to pull up a few weeks short, has been heartbreaking for the players, clubs and fans," added Johnson. "That said, the health and safety of our fans, players, volunteers and staff has always been the overriding consideration for us." Australia has recorded more than 1,800 cases of COVID-19 with seven deaths. Although football is set to take a significant financial hit from the suspension, Johnson insisted it would survive, in contrast to doom and gloom predictions that rugby league faces a fight for its life. "The game will survive this, of that I'm absolutely sure," he said. "But will we need to make changes, will things look different, I'd say yes."

THERE IS A LESSON IN ALL THIS

We take the game too seriously MUMBAI AGENCIES

It is not long ago that we were planning for Cheteshwar Pujara to come down to Chennai and play league cricket for us. My team, Mylapore RC, was in a relegation battle in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Division One, and Pujara's team, Saurashtra, had just won the Ranji Trophy on March 13. He wanted to come, but he was not 100% well, having fallen sick after returning from New Zealand. We managed to avoid relegation without him, but he had plans for other Saurashtra players to come down and play league cricket in Chennai because he wants Saurashtra to get even stronger when they defend the title next season. The next season seems so far away now. Life is very different now. I recently read Ian Chappell's piece on how climate change might affect cricket. We saw it in December

2015, when we were playing in Delhi, and our friends and families were stranded in man-made floods in Chennai. We are the only species that goes against the alignment of nature. And we are supposed to be the smartest. Well, even before we could face the full brunt of climate change, something else has stopped cricket and life. Right now is the time to find solutions instead of blaming this country or that country. The solution for the time being seems to be social-distancing and patience. Hopefully science finds a breakthrough soon. There is a lesson in all this: we take the game too seriously. There are far bigger things than the game that can hamper it. For a change, despite so much free time on hand, I haven't thought much about the game. For once the craving to watch something on TV that is cricket is not there. I don't know how this has happened, but it has. I have not gone on YouTube looking for old

clips either. Nor am I missing the game as such except the rigours and tensions of playing the sport, the pressure of it, just trying to compete. Every day you are looking forward to something. If you go to practise, you are looking forward to, say, the IPL, the TNPL, or club cricket. To some cricket. Tomorrow if I have to turn up at the nets, I don't know what to look forward to. There is a freshness to that, to be honest. You don't have to look forward to anything. Just turn up and enjoy the game. Need to bowl the ball or hit the ball and not worry about what is in front of you. Obviously I am not going to go out to bat or bowl in the near future, but if I do in isolation, I think it will be great. We stopped all operations at our academy, Gen-Next Cricket Institute, two weeks ago, but now we are getting questions all the time from parents who don't know what to do with their kids all day. So we are trying to work around it by creating video tutorials.

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We are discussing that on our WhatsApp groups and on teleconference. My wife, Prithi, is involved in the planning of it. Otherwise, staying confined has been almost idyllic, almost as if it's a message from nature. When the lockdown began, I was still adjusting to the heat of Chennai after a month spent in New Zealand. And I was doing so while playing the TNCA league.

Now we have built a routine around the kids' routines. When I wake up, at 5.30-6am, my younger daughter is almost awake. We brush our teeth together, go through other morning rituals, have some green tea, and then we both take a speaker and go to our terrace, which has a gym and an organic garden. I do my cycling and weights while she listens to music.


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020

NEWS

US cUtS AfghAn Aid by $1bn After PomPeo fAilS to breAk imPASSe WASHINGTON D.C

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ageNcies

S State Secretary Mike Pompeo on Monday announced a $1 billion cut in US aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political foe to end a feud that has helped jeopardise a US-led peace effort. The United States also is prepared to cut 2021 assistance by the same amount and is conducting “a review of all of our programmes and projects to identify additional reductions, and reconsider our pledges to future donor conferences for Afghanistan,” Pompeo said in a statement. Pompeo’s statement came as he flew home from a fruitless day-long effort in Kabul to end competing for claims to the presidency by Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah and win their agreement to form “an inclusive government.” The harshly worded announcement at the end of the mission he undertook — despite the spreading global coronavirus pandemic — underscored how badly stalled the US-led effort to end America’s longest war and

Top US diplomaT SayS ‘dEEply rEgrETS’ThaT ghani and abdUllah wErE ‘UnablE To agrEE on an inclUSivE govErnmEnT’ decades of strife in Afghanistan has become. The United States “deeply regrets” that Ghani and Abdullah were “unable to agree on an inclusive government,” said Pompeo, adding that “their failure has harmed USAfghan relations and, sadly, dishonours those Afghan, Americans, and Coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure.” “We are today announcing a responsible adjustment to our spending in Afghanistan and immediately reducing assistance by $1 billion this year. We are prepared to reduce by another $1 billion in 2021,” he said. “We will also initiate a review of all of our programmes and projects to identify additional reductions.” On his way back to Washington, Pompeo landed at a military base in Qatar for a 75-minute meeting with Taliban officials, including their top negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund. Speaking to reporters after departing Qatar, Pompeo declined to detail how the $1

billion in aid cuts would be apportioned or whether he set a deadline for Ghani and Abdullah, who had served as the country’s chief executive, to settle their dispute. But he indicated that the aid cut could be cancelled if they came to an agreement. “We are hopeful, frankly, that they will get their act together and we won’t have to do it. But we’re prepared to do that,” he said. In the meantime, he said, the United States would continue backing Afghan security forces while continuing a phased “conditions-based” troop withdrawal as specified in a deal signed with the Taliban in Doha on February 29. He said that despite ongoing fighting, the Taliban largely have fulfilled a commitment to reduce violence and were working to form a team for intra-Afghan peace talks. Pompeo’s mission came nearly a month after his last visit to Doha for the signing of the February 29 deal with Taliban. Ghani’s government was not a party to the agreement. The agreement was to have been fol-

US could be next corona epicentre, warns WHO BEIJING ageNcies

China announced Tuesday an end to travel curbs at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, as governments around the world tightened lockdowns affecting 1.7 billion people in a desperate effort to slow the spread of the deadly disease. Hubei, where the novel coronavirus emerged late last year, will allow healthy residents to leave the province from midnight, officials said, two months after they were ordered to stay indoors. “We are celebrating today,” a female doctor surnamed Wu told AFP. “Every day, we saw the number of seriously ill patients decreasing, the situation improving, people being discharged from the hospital. The doctors and nurses are becoming more and more relaxed as the days

go by. I am super happy!” The relaxation of rules, which will not apply to the hardest-hit city of Wuhan until April 8, comes as Britain and New Zealand joined nations in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Asia in declaring countrywide lockdowns in a bid to staunch the flow of new infections. The extraordinary measures around the world continued to throw up horrifying tales; soldiers in Spain tasked with fighting the outbreak reported finding abandoned elderly people — some dead — at retirement homes. ITALY BATTERED: Italy reported 743 deaths on Tuesday, taking the total to 6,820. According to Reuters, Italy likely has 10 times higher than reported cases of the coronavirus from the official tally of 64,000, said the head of the agency which is collecting data on the spread of the disease.

US EPICENTRE? The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that the United States could become the global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, which finally forced reluctant organisers to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. In the US, the Federal Reserve unveiled an unprecedented bond-buying programme, in a move not seen since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago. The Fed, which has already slashed interest rates to record lows, said it will buy unlimited amounts of Treasury debt and take steps to lend directly to small and medium-sized firms hammered by state lockdowns across the country. Markets cheered the news, with Tokyo ending the day more than seven percent higher and European bourses registering strong starts to the trading day.

lowed by the opening of negotiations on a political settlement to decades of strife between the insurgents and a delegation of Afghans that would include government officials. But the process stalled over a Taliban demand for the release by Kabul of 5,000 prisoners and the feud between Ghani and Abdullah, both of whom claimed the presidency following a disputed September election marred by allegations of fraud. While in Kabul, Pompeo met with Ghani and Abdullah, both separately and together. Absent from the meetings was the chief US negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghanborn veteran diplomat. It was not immediately known why Khalilzad was not included. A senior State Department official, speaking before the meetings ended, said the purpose of Pompeo’s visit was to try to mediate a solution between the two men. “The fear is that unless this crisis gets resolved […] soon, that could affect the peace process […] our agreement with the Taliban could be put at risk,” the official said. A spokesman for Ghani declined to comment, saying details of the meetings had not yet been released. Omid Maisam, a spokesman for Abdul-

lah, said that if there were more meetings a solution was “not impossible” and that they wanted a peaceful end to the crisis. SKYPE CALL: Khalilzad, who has spent much of his time in Kabul since the deal was signed, made a plea to both sides last week to act quickly on the release of prisoners. The Taliban and Afghan government spoke for more than two hours on prisoner releases on Sunday in a Skype call facilitated by the United States and Qatar, offering some hope of progress. INFECTED NATO MEMBERS: Meanwhile, four NATO service members in Afghanistan tested positive for coronavirus shortly after entering the country, the first confirmed cases in the mission, NATO said in a statement on Tuesday. “The service members were newly arrived in country, and were in a precautionary screening facility when they became symptomatic, were moved to isolation and were tested,” the statement said, adding that the nationalities of the people would not be released. Around 1,500 NATO service members, most who had recently arrived in Afghanistan, were in screening facilities as a precautionary measure, NATO said.

Experts warns against taking chloroquine after death in US The Corona Experts Advisory Group (CEAG) of the Punjab government on Tuesday advised against the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine drugs for treatment of COVID-19 patients after a US man died following a dose of the drug. The panel constituted by the provincial government for clinical management of COVID-19 patients said in a statement that there is no evidence showing positive results of the use of both these drugs to cure the people affected by the disease. Earlier, a Phoenix-area man died and his wife was in critical condition after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks that is also found in an anti-malaria medication touted by Donald Trump as a treatment for Covid-19. News Desk

Govt imposes ban on export of surgical masks, hand sanitisers ISLAMABAD staff report

The federal government on Tuesday imposed a ban on the export of surgical masks, hand sanitisers, goggles and other seven items. According to a copy of the notification available with this scribe, "In exercise of the

powers conferred by sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1950 (XXXIX of 1950), the federal government has banned the export of surgical masks, hand sanitisers, goggles, Tyvek Suits, disposable gowns as well as gloves, face shield, N95 marks, biohazard bags and shoe cover."

pSX finally launches Exchange-Traded Funds KARACHI MeirYUM aLi

The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) has finally launched its new product, ExchangeTraded Fund (ETF), according to a statement issued by the central bank on Tuesday. Two asset management companies (AMCs) in Pakistan, National Investment Trust Fund (NIT) and UBL Funds, will be offering the ETFs. UBL Funds will offer the UBL Pakistan Enterprise ETF, and NIT will offer the NIT Pakistan Gateway ETF. In addition to the two authorized companies, JS Global will be the authorized market maker, or the financial institution that helps create a market for investors to buy or sell securities, and provides liquidity to the product. The launch of the new product was coordinated online, with the PSX saying the decision was taken to ensure the safety of investors and market participants in the current climate of COVID-19 pandemic. Aamir Khan, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) chairman, said, “The introduction of ETFs is a big leap for the asset management industry and stock market in Pakistan as this product offers significant growth potential due to its transparent nature, low costs and embedded ability to track the index by following a passive investment strategy.” He also said that the ETF will fill the current void in the market for a low-cost exchange-traded product. PSX Managing Director Farrukh Khan said, “Globally, ETFs are an integral part of product offerings in the capital markets. It is a product with significant presence in over 47 countries. Looking at the growth trends of ETFs globally, I am confident that there is great potential for ETFs in the Pakistan market as they are an ideal, cost effective instrument for investors who wish to take advantage of the attractive valuations in the Pakistan market.” Both the CEO of UBL funds Yasir Siddiqui, and the managing director of NIT Adnan Afridi were also present.

Siddiqui said that his company’s UBL Pakistan Enterprise ETF may be a suitable product for investors who wish to enter the market without having to worry about stock picking. Afridi said that NIT was the oldest AMC in the country, and had always taken a lead in Pakistan’s capital markets. Kamran Nasir, the CEO of JS Global, said the company will provide investors with an opportunity to invest in ETFs with ease, and without human intervention in a totally automated environment. “We are now entering a new phase of derivatives products and services of which I am proud that JSGCL has been an integral part of,” he said. HISTORY OF ETF IN PAKISTAN: In the first week of January, the PSX said it will begin to offer ETF for the very first time in 2020. At the time, PSX had said the ETFs would be available anywhere between two weeks to one-and-half-month time. However, the SECP had not confirmed date, and that tentative launch date was later revised to the first week of March. In mid-February, the PSX announced 14 market participants for the ETFs, including Bank Alfalah, Bank Al-Habib, Engro Fertilizers, Engro Corporation, Fauji Fertilizers, Habib Bank, Hub Power, Lucky Cement, MCB Bank, Oil & Gas Development Company, Pakistan Oilfields, Pakistan Petroleum Limited, Pakistan State Oil, and United Bank Limited. The 14 companies and banks will become part of the ETF basket, according to the notification. The PSX had earlier set out the rules of the ETF basket in a notification in December 2019. That same month, it also had been testing operational readiness for ETFs, and also been conducting mock sessions in the afterhours with around 15 brokers, to familiarize people with the new product. Discussions for the introduction of ETFs in the country have been ongoing for the last few years. Previously, the former CEO of PSX Richard Morin had said that ETFs would be available in the second half of 2018. Then in September 2019, the SECP ap-

Published by Arif Nizami at Plot # 7, Al-Baber Centre, F/8 Markaz, Islamabad. Ph: 051-2204545. Email: newsroom@pakistantoday.com.pk

proved the necessary regulatory changes required in the PSX rule book for ETFs to operate. WHAT IS AN ETF: An ETF is an SECP-approved product offered by AMCs, which consists of a basket of securities that tracks an index. In this case, the ETFs will either be a subset of the KSE 100 index or KSE 30 index. The ETFs are available to investors on the PSX, through stockbrokers (TREC Holders), and trade like stocks with real time pricing during trading hours on an exchange. The investor can either trade ETFs like a stock by buying it at a low price and selling it at a high price to make a profit, or can receive dividends from the securities that comprise the ETF basket. ETFs are similar to mutual funds, in that an ETF owns the underlying assets (stocks or bonds) and offers investors a proportionate share in a pool of stocks, bonds, and other assets. It is a fund or portfolio of securities, divided into units (shares) of equal value. Unlike mutual funds, ETFs are ‘passive’ investment instruments, as they track a specific market index. Typically, the cost of investing in an ETF is generally lower than in a mutual fund. As per the PSX, the AMCs – in this case, NIT and UBL Funds – are the issuers of the ETFs. The funds’ role is to decide on the index criteria for the ETF based on their own research, looking at aspects such as liquidity and performance. This is different from the market maker – in this case, JS Global – which acts as an intermediary between the AMC and the market. The market maker is usually a designated broker firm, decided upon between the AMC and the PSX, whose role is to provide liquidity to the market. It does so by providing units for sale on the stock exchange at asking prices, and then posting bid prices it will purchase units at, for investors wishing to sell. According to Farrukh Khan, PSX managing director, there are 8000 ETFs globally, worth $6.5 trillion at the end of 2019. That figure is expected to grow to $7.6 trillion by the end of 2020.

Profile for Pakistan Today

epaper – March 25 ISB  

epaper – March 25 ISB