ISLAMABAD                   -                  Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday while defending his government’s decision about reopening of mosques in the holy month of Ramazan said that Pakistan is an “independent nation” and the people could not be stopped from visiting worship places.

The PM, however, urged the people to stay indoors and offer prayers preferably at home. “I felt very bad when I saw police beating up people. Ramazan is a month of worship; people want to go to mosques”, said the Prime Minister, in a televised address to the nation.

“Do we forcefully tell them to not go to mosques? And if they go, will the police put worshippers in jail? This does not happen in an independent society”, he said.

In an independent society people come together. In an independent society, people use their independent minds and then decide what is better for the country and what is not,” Imran Khan said. He reiterated that the nation was “fighting against the coronavirus together.” The prime minister also clarified the government will be forced to review its decision if worshippers failed to follow the 20-point strategy agreed upon by the religious scholars.

He said a meeting was held with religious figures and Ulema had agreed on all twenty precautionary points for opening of mosques. He said if precautionary measures are not taken by people in mosques and there are reports of spread of virus, the decision can be reviewed by the government. “If these points are not followed and if this virus spreads through any mosque in Ramazan then we will have no choice but to take action and close the mosques.”

Prime Minister reiterated that war against corona pandemic can be won with the collective resolve and action of the nation. He said whole world is facing the negative impacts of corona pandemic, adding that the countries facing higher number of mortalities due to corona are now also debating the economic impact of lockdown.

He said everywhere now there are discussions of relaxing the lockdown to restart economic activity.

Imran Khan said 192 persons lost their lives in Pakistan so far. In USA, Britain, Italy and Spain, thousands of people have died by this killer bug. He said lockdown cannot remain in force in any country for indefinite period as no one knows when the Corona pandemic will end.

Imran Khan said Pakistan is facing the dual challenge of overcoming corona pandemic and saving the people from hunger. He said our government decided to relax lockdown gradually by opening the cement sector first and then construction industry. He said the industries that are being opened will have to follow SOPs given by the government.

Imran Khan said undue criticism is being made by certain quarters against Tiger Force. He said Corona Tiger Force comprises volunteers and is working without any remuneration or political affiliation. They will disseminate information as well as deliver ration to people at their doorstep.

He said whole country is fighting against Corona virus with unity. He said, “We are a free country and cannot stop people by using police from going to mosques for prayers.”

The Prime Minister urged people to offer maximum prayers but preferably at home. Planning Minister Asad Umar said a consensus had been developed between all provinces for testing, tracing, and isolation and pilot tests will be held in one or two districts of each province. He said smart lockdown will be implemented in high risk areas.

Focal Person on Corona Dr Faisal said Pakistan is relatively in better position than many developed countries of the world. However, we need to keep this by following the precautionary measures strictly.

Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar said more than 60 billion rupees were disbursed among needy and deserving people under Ehsaas Emergency Cash program.

She expressed optimism that program will be able to reach 10 million families. She said Prime Minister inaugurated Ehsaas Ration Portal Tuesday in which charities and philanthropic organizations can register themselves.

This program will help such people get ration who are daily wagers and unable to work due to lockdown.

Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar said a large package will be presented in meeting of National Coordination Committee tomorrow. After its approval by NCC and cabinet, it will be advertised on media. This package aims at helping people who have lost their jobs due to lockdown.

He said another package is being brought for electricity and will be launched later this month. He said small and medium businesses with commercial meters will benefit from this package.

Hammad Azhar said we are working with Ministry of Finance and State Bank of Pakistan to introduce a scheme of loans for people who do not have any collateral to offer.

Special Assistant on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf said Torkham and Chaman crossings were opened and a specified number of Pakistanis started returning from Afghanistan. He said border with India is closed and some Pakistanis have returned. He said as soon as border with India opens, more Pakistanis will be able to return back.