Imran Khan
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced to set up 'corona relief fund' and 'tiger youth force' to combat COVID-19 spread in the country. Image Credit:

Dubai: Pakistan government has pledged to give incentives to private companies who will not fire employees during the coravirus pandemic.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has also announced to set up ‘Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for COVID-19’ and formation of ‘tiger youth force’ as part of measures he is taking to combat the economic impact of COVID-19 spread in the country.

Addressing the nation on Monday night, Prime Minister Imran once again ruled out a complete lockdown or curfew in the country to prevent spread of coronavirus. However, he hinted at lockdowns of the areas with highest concentration of coronavirus cases and this is going to happen in coming days.

Registration for ‘tiger force’ has started on Tuesday. Those who register to be part of the tiger force will be used to distribute food and create awareness in the lockdown areas.

25 deaths in Pakistan

Imran announced new measures as the COVID-19 cases in Pakistan jumped to 1,872 on Tuesday afternoon. Number of deaths have also risen to 25 on Tuesday while 58 patients have recovered. Punjab has become the new epicentre of coronavirus in the country with 658 cases, Sindh 625, Balochistan 158, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 221, Gilgit-Baltistan 148, Islamabad 58 and six cases in Pakistan Administered Kashmir.

Tiger youth force

“God forbids, if coronavirus spreads, this youth force in coordination with army and administration will reach out to the poor people,” he said and added that this force besides supplying food and other essential items to the poor, would also help create awareness among people about self-quarantine and other safety measures.

The Prime Minister said the youth from all segments of society including young doctors, nurses and others could join the Corona Tiger Force. The whole operation of the force would be organised and coordinated by a data cell from the PM Office.

Incentives for private sector

Prime Minister Iman said that the State Bank of Pakistan had decided to offer soft loans to those industries and factories who would not lay off their employees and labourers in this situation.

He said that his biggest worry is 25 per cent of population of Pakistan who are below the poverty level and will die of hunger if not the coronavirus in case a complete lockdown is imposed. He said that he will not announce lockdown unless all the measures in place.

Relief Fund

The relief fund account number is “NBPAPKKAMBR-4162786786” and has been opened at the main branch of National Bank of Pakistan Karachi and would be operative from April 1, according to APP.

Those who donate for the ‘relief fund; will not be asked any question about the source of their funds, rather they would be given tax incentives. He said the money raised through this fund would be used for giving financial assistance to the poor people hit by the COVID-19 at their doorsteps, through Ehsas Programme.

The prime minister further said the philanthropists engaged in the charity work in the wake of Coronavirus should get themselves registered at Ehsas Programme, so that a coordinated effort could be made without any duplication and neglecting any segment.

“We have a serious problem as 25 per cent of our population is living below the poverty line with further 20 per cent population hovering around this line, which means a total of 80-90 million population can head towards complete hunger in that case,” he added.

No complete lockdown

Imran declared that no lockdown could be successful in Pakistan by neglecting the same segments of society and mentioned the Katchi abadis (poor localities), where clusters of poor families and daily wagers, comprising eight to nine members had been living.

The rich countries could not fight it alone despite having huge resources, he said and referred to the neighbouring country, India where Prime Minister Modi had to tender apology to the nation over the lockdown issue. The people were on roads as they were facing hunger and death.

US$8 billion package

Terming his relief package worth US$8 billion which he announced last week as the biggest one in the country’s history, the prime minister also compared it with that of US government which had committed a huge sum of US$2000 billion because they had rich resources.

Hoarders warned

The Prime Minister also warned the hoarders and profiteers from creation of artificial shortage of edible items which gave rise to panic and price hike, thus directly impacting the poor people.

Reiterating that country had no shortage of grains, he said that he wanted to remind the hoarders who often wanted to mint money out of such situation, that state would take the strict action leading to exemplary punishment.

Pakistan’s strength

“Pakistan has two main strengths in this fight — faith and youth,” he said. “This war cannot be won with resources alone,” Imran added. Quoting an example of China, the prime minister said Pakistan had to fight the war against coronavirus with wisdom as the country had no ample resources like China and the United States to impose complete lockdown/curfew and feed people at their homes.

Coronavirus cases update

Total confirmed cases: 1,876

Deaths: 25

Recovered: 58

Sindh: 625

Punjab: 658

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 221

Balochistan: 158

Islamabad Capital Territory: 58

Gilgit-Baltistan: 148

AJK: 6