ISLAMABAD                  -                Pakistan yesterday said the International Atomic Energy Agency will provide nuclear-derived equipment for testing of COVID-19 as the country battles the pandemic. Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said the embassy of Pakistan in Vienna was coordinating with IAEA  for an early shipment. “IAEA will provide Pakistan a Polymerase Chain Reaction PCR machine, bio-hazard safety cabinets, test kits and related consumer goods to help fight the novel coronavirus through the nuclear derived technique,” Aisha Farooqui said.

The spokesperson said the provision of equipment would augment Pakistan’s national capacity to conduct COVID-19 tests, which was crucial in containing the spread of the disease.

“Pakistan deeply values the contribution of IAEA and its leadership for helping the members’ states in their efforts to fight COVID-19 pandemic,” Aisha Farooqui said.

“We also acknowledge the generous contribution of the IAEA member states to boost scientific and technical capacities of other countries in combating this global crisis,” she said.

The FO spokesperson said Pakistan had a longstanding relationship with IAEA and as its founding member, would continue to benefit from its technical assistance from various fields including health, agriculture and energy besides contributing to Agency’s work of promoting peaceful use of nuclear technology.

Aisha Farooqui said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its embassies and missions had launched a robust and round-the-clock outreach initiative to provide the overseas communities relief and assistance including food rations.

She said approximately 43,000 Pakistanis in different countries desired to be brought back to Pakistan for which a comprehensive and phase repatriation plan from different countries was under way.

“So far 2,287 stranded Pakistanis have been repatriated through 12 special PIA flights from Doha, Dubai, Bangkok, Istanbul, London, Baku, Tashkent, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur,” she said.

The second phase initiated from April 14-18 through nine more special flights will bring back 2,000 Pakistani nationals including 474 from Saudi Arabia mostly Umrah pilgrims, 271 from Oman and 634 from United Arab Emirates, 270 from Japan and Thailand, 225 from Indonesia.

The special flights will land at the airports of Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Faisalabad.

The spokesperson thanked the collaborating agencies of host governments for their cooperation in safe and smooth return of Pakistani nationals. Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan strongly condemned illegal and unilateral actions of Indian security forces in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, adding that continuation of atrocities was “regrettable” as the region and world fought the pandemic of coronavirus.

“Pakistan is concerned over continued restrictions of movement in IOJK despite growing number of corona patients and fatalities,’ she said.

The spokesperson said blockage in IOJK compromising the supply of medicine and medical equipment was a serious point of concern.

She strongly rejected the allegations made by Indian Army Chief MM Naravane this morning and said the attempt was to malign Pakistan and divert attention from human rights abuse in held Kashmir. She mentioned that Indian occupation forces recently committed 765 ceasefire violations resulting in several casualties. In 2019, India violated 3,351 times through indiscriminate firings at Line of Control and Working Boundary.

“Pakistan continues to respond to India’s belligerence. We remind India once again to respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement,” she said. Aisha Farooqui says Pakistan had always wanted good relations with all neighboring countries. “The illegal and unilateral Indian action of August 5, 2019 and the continuing restrictions and human rights violations in Kashmir have further vitiated the environment. India needs to create enabling environment for a meaningful engagement that could lead to resolution of the Kashmir dispute,” she contended.

Earlier, Indian army chief General MM Naravane following the footsteps of Hindu RSS ideology had alleged that while India was busy in the coronavirus crisis, Pakistan was only “exporting terror”.

The spokesperson said Kartarpur border point had been closed till April 24, 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic. “Reopening of the Corridor depends on the situation with regards to the global health emergency,” she said.

Pakistan Army, she said, had shot down the Indian Quadcopter which violates the Line of Control.

Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan welcomed the joint communiqué of G20 finance ministers and their efforts for global economic recovery as the world fought challenged during the pandemic.

She said on April 12, Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed for global initiative of relief, underlying that global recession could be overcome with coordinated efforts. She said the statement issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom claiming denial of food aid to Pakistani minorities was not based on facts and seems to have relied on inaccurate sources.

The spokesperson said in response to the unprecedented challenge posed by COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Pakistan is protecting all of its citizens without any discrimination.

“For the Government, all citizens regardless of their faith are equal. Under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, which is the official social protection programme of the Government, every eligible citizen has an equal opportunity to seek financial assistance. Out of the 6.5 million beneficiaries that have received cash assistance in Category-I, 400,000 (6.15%) are non-Muslims,” she maintained,

She said The Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan was called to the Ministry of Foreign affairs on April 9 and “our views were conveyed with regard to the arrest of ISIS-K leader, Aslam Farooqi, by the Afghan authorities on April 5, 2020”

Aisha Farooqui says the dates for the next Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity meeting were being worked out between both sides.

To a question, she said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation and General Austin Scott Miller, Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan visited Pakistan this week and called on the Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

On military sales to India by the US, she said the sale of missile systems, along with technical assistance and logistic support at the time when there was a global effort to fight the pandemic was particularly disturbing.

She said total number of stranded Pakistanis stand at 43,067 - including 30,000 from UAE. “Total repatriated till now are 2287,” she added. Pakistan and China, she said were “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners.” Both countries have the finest traditions to stand by each other particularly in challenging times, she added.

Aisha Farooqui expressed its fullest support to Chinese brothers after the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan and also donated PPEs to help China fight the Coronavirus. President Dr. Arif Alvi visited China to express Pakistan’s solidarity with its “iron brother”. Similarly, China donated medical supplies as well as a team of medical experts visited Pakistan to help fight the pandemic, she added.

The spokesperson said the Covid-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge to the world. It has infected more than 2 million people around the world with the loss of thousands of precious lives.

“WHO is at the forefront of international efforts to contain the pandemic. The virus knows no borders. The international community will have to work together in a coordinated manner to defeat the Coronavirus,” she stressed.