The Foreign Office has expressed the confidence that Pakistan would be able to complete the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in time, and would counterbalance “short-term” impact by coronavirus outbreak.
Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui, while responding to media queries sent to her via e-mail for the weekly media briefing due to Covid-19 outbreak, said that the CPEC comprises long-term projects whose completion, in many cases, was spread over years.
“We are quite confident that we will be able to complete the CPEC projects in time, and going forward, the short-term impact by the spread of Covid-19 will be counterbalanced by effective and swift mobilisation of resources for timely completion of the CPEC,” she said.
Referring to the situations in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the reported cases of coronavirus from the occupied valley, Farooqui said that Pakistan condemned the inhuman and brutal repression of the people of the IOJK by India security forces.
“We call upon the Indian government to lift the communication blackout, especially in view of the outbreak of Covid-19 and reported cases of affected people in IOJK. Pakistan urges India to lift the blockade in the region in order to obtain full information on affected people and provision of essential items and medical supplies to the affected people,” she said.
To a question whether China offered any help to deal with coronavirus during the recent visit of President Dr Arif Alvi, she said that Pakistan and China have always stood by each other particularly in challenging times. During the recent visit of President Dr Arif Alvi, she said that letters of exchange were signed between the two countries, which aim at building capacity and address the challenges posed by Covid-19 in Pakistan.
To another query, Farooqui said that as of now, visa services had not been suspended by any Pakistani missions abroad. All missions are providing essential consular services to overseas Pakistanis, she said, adding that our community members have been advised to obtain consular services through online mechanisms and to try and avoid all non-essential travel, and visit the embassies/consulates only in emergency situations after obtaining appointment.
In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, she said that the government and all departments at the federal level and in all the provinces are undertaking a series of measures to prevent and contain its spread. It is a rapidly evolving situation, she said, adding that the government and all stakeholders were monitoring, evaluating and coordinating all mechanisms and systems to ensure safety of the citizens.
She said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also established a Crisis Management Unit for coordination on Covid-19 under the supervision of Special Secretary (Administration) to liaise with the diplomatic corps in Pakistan as well as with Pakistan’s missions abroad and their respective outreach to our diaspora communities worldwide.
Farooqui said that Pakistan embassies and consulates had established 24/7 hotlines and nominated focal persons to facilitate our overseas communities in their respective countries.
All these contacts details are available on our social media platforms and on the website of the ministry, she added. “We advise our diaspora communities to exercise caution and personal responsibility for their personal health as well as of those in their family and communities in line with the advisories of local authorities wherever they may be,” she said.
The spokesperson also advised Pakistani community members abroad to avoid all non- essential travel as well as avoid public places and points of congregation and practice “social distancing” in a responsible manner for their own safety, and the safety of all around.
To another question, she said that Italy was home to about 150,000 Pakistani nationals, concentrated mostly in the north of Italy (Lombardy region with its capital as Milan). Farooqui said that Pakistan embassy in Rome and the consulate general in Milan were in constant contact with the Pakistani community.
“Our embassy and consulate general are also coordinating with educational institutes where Pakistani students (1,500-2,000) are studying. So far, we know about the unfortunate death of one Pakistani origin person who lived near Milan, Mr Imtiaz Ahmed,” she added. Responding to another query, she said that Pakistan had always supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.