ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday urged India to lift blockade in occupied Kashmir as the coronavirus infections multiplied in the sub-continent. Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui several cases had been reported in occupied Kashmir.“In view of the outbreak of COVID-19 and reported cases of affected people, 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 added.

She said the lockdown in Kashmir had entered the 228th day. “Pakistan condemned the inhuman and brutal repression of the people of held Kashmir by Indian security forces,” she asserted. The news briefing was held without journalists as part of social-distancing to contain spread of COVID-19. The questions were taken online.

Aisha Farooqui advised the Pakistani community abroad to avoid all non-essential travel, stay clear from points of congregation and practice social-distancing in a responsible manner for the safety of their own and of all around. “We advise our diaspora 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 maintained.

Pak, China always stand by each other;

Alvi’s visit expression of solidarity with ‘iron brother;’ Islamabad supports Afghan owned peace process

The spokesperson said the role of media in building public awareness on safety and precaution during the difficult time, was crucial and deeply valued. This challenge can only be tackled through collective action, she added. Farooqui said COVID-19 was a rapidly evolving situation and the government and other stakeholders were monitoring, evaluating and coordinating all mechanisms and systems to ensure safety of the citizens.

She mentioned that ministry of foreign affairs had also decided to take precautionary measures against any potential public exposure and had therefore suspended all walk-in Consular Services except the attestation of Power of Attorney. “Attestation of documents can be carried out through courier companies during this period. Walk in Consular Services would remain suspended from 18 March till 3 April, and would be reviewed subsequently,” she said.

The spokesperson said the foreign ministry 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 the missions abroad.

She said given the depth and breadth of Pakistan-China ties and the finest traditions of both countries to always stand by each other, particularly in challenging times, President Dr Arif Alvi’s first visit to Beijing was a singular expression of Pakistan’s solidarity with its “iron brother.”

She mentioned that the two sides reaffirmed their resolve to further strengthen China-Pakistan All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership aimed at building a Community of Shared Future in the New Era. During the recent visit of President Alvi, she said, letters of exchange were signed between the two countries, which aim at building capacity and address the challenges posed by COVID-19 in Pakistan.

She said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor comprised long-term projects whose completion, in many a cases, was spread over years. “We are quite confident that we will be able to complete CPEC projects in time and, going forward, the short-term impact by the spread of Covid -19 will be counterbalanced by effective and swift mobilization of resources for timely completion of CPEC,” she added.

To a question, Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan had always supported an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process. “We hope after the Peace agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020 all sides will move towards Intra-afghan negotiations to establish long-lasting peace in Afghanistan,” she said.

The spokesperson said the dates for next meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity were still under discussion. “We hope to see implementation of the US-Taliban Peace Agreement and hope that leads to the Intra-Afghan negotiations,” she elaborated.

To a question about suspension of visa services in various countries by the Pakistani missions, she said the “visa services had not been suspended by any Pakistani Missions abroad.”




She added: “All missions are providing essential consular services to overseas Pakistanis. 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.”

Aisha Farooqui Pakistani overseas communities including students had been advised to comply with advisories by local authorities and take necessary precautions.

The spokesperson said Italy was home to about 150,000 Pakistani nationals, concentrated mostly in the North of Italy - Lombardy region with its capital as Milan.

“Our embassy in Rome and Consulate General in Milan are in constant contact with the Pakistani community. The Embassy as well as Consulate General had set up 24/7 help lines to provide services and information to the Community at the start of the outbreak,” she said.

The spokesperson said Pakistan’s embassy and consulate were also coordinating with educational institutes where Pakistani 1500-2000 students  were studying. “So far we know about the death of one Pakistani origin person who lived near Milan, Imtiaz Ahmed,” she said.