Battle against corona will be hard fought: PM Country facing dilemma of starvation amid lockdown

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STAFF REPORTER
LAHORE Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday expressed the confidence that despite the many challenges to Pakistan from the coronavirus outbreak, it can emerge as a stronger nation and become the truly welfare state it was envisioned to be. “When we emerge from this challenge, we will be a totally different nation. We will be the nation which was envisioned. “It was a big vision which we have forgotten,” said the premier, during a ceremony organised for the Corona Relief Fund in Lahore. He said that the “primary reason why our respect in the world has diminished and we face so many difficulties is because we left the vision far behind, the promise that was Pakistan”. Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the coronavirus will not spare anyone. He added that social media reports that coronavirus would not affect Pakistanis too much were false and advised people to not be “foolish” and take the necessary precautions. Imran Khan said that coronavirus is a very big challenge for the country but when the nation overcomes it, it will become stronger. He said businessmen, in his experience, face greater losses not when there are hard times, but when in those times they try to take “shortcuts” or commit fraud. “Those who take such times as a test and face it head on as a challenge, come out stronger.” Urging patience on the part of all Pakistanis, the premier said the greatest quality one can possess is to exercise patience during tough times. “Those who are patient go far in life. Those who throw their hands in the air and give up, they rank among the many who fail.” He said one has to admit these are difficult times without having any pretense of the situation being otherwise. “It is difficult because no one has the experience to deal with such a crisis.” Citing the example of giant economies which have far greater resources and institutions, with health systems which have more funding that what Pakistan spends on its entire population. “The US has prepared a $2,000bn relief package whereas we can barely manage a $8bn one.” He said that despite their resources, there is “a breakdown of their systems”. “If this is what can happen to them, our situation was dire to begin with.” He said that around 50- 60 million people are already below the poverty line and cannot afford to have two meals a day. “Above these people are 50-60 million others, who are right at the border. If one misfortune befalls them they are pushed below the poverty line.” He said those with means must contribute and the government’s “historic” package will continue to be expanded alongside. The prime minister said the nation’s entire efforts right now are geared towards protecting the most vulnerable sector right now — the daily wage workers. “The small shop owner, the rickshaw driver […]those in construction, the painter, the welder, they are all sitting at home right now. “ He said there is a fine balance to strike between stemming the spread of the virus and taking care of the poor. “One the one hand we closed all places were people could gather but on the other we have to run our affairs in a manner that we do not let these vulnerable segments feel the financial crunch that comes from such measures. “We have opened the construction industry,” said the prime minister which will provide “the most jobs” in cities. He said in villages the agriculture sector had been allowed to function as usual as it is one upon which rural residents depend on for income. “Everyday we sit down and think about which other such industries we can open to strike this balance.” He said so far 600,000 volunteers have applied to the Corona Relief Tigers force who will lead the fight against the pandemic. “No one should be under the false impression that Pakistanis will remain safe,” said the premier, while warning the nation the fight against the coronavirus will be “a long war”.

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