ISLAMABAD                  -             Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday ordered deployment of “all available” troops and medical resources of armed forces throughout the country to fight further spread of coronavirus.

Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Babar Iftikhar while giving a press briefing said that army chief had issued instructions to deploy troops in the country “as per need” despite full and heavy deployment of Pakistan Army along Line of Control (LoC) and western borders.

“Government of Pakistan, under Article 245 (of the Constitution), has requisitioned armed forces in aid of civil power,” he said.

The announcement of the armed forces’ spokesperson came hours after the federal government decided to deployed army in all four provinces, Islamabad Capital Territory, Gilgit Baltistan, and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) on their request to contain further spread of Covid-19.

“Under the steps taken by federal and provincial governments, only hospitals, shops selling eatables, factories making eatables and medical equipment and medical stores would remain open,” DG ISPR said.  He further said that all schools would remain closed and all public gathering are banned. All shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, marriage halls, swimming polls would also remain closed, he said adding that unnecessary movement would be banned.

Explaining other preventive measure, Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar in his short briefing said that inter-city transport would only be used for food supply chain. In cities, every kind of public transport would remain dysfunctional.

“All (domestic) airports for international flights will remain closed till April 4.” He further said that petrol pumps and whole sale markets (fruit, vegetables and grain markets) would be opened only on notified days by provincial governments concerned. In this regard, provincial governments will issue more guidelines and their compliance would be ensured along with civil institutions, he remarked.

DG ISPR stressed that borders have been closed under protective measures but “actual border is between human beings and coronavirus and we have to take control of it.” “This is the time to take tough and difficult decisions on an individual, familial and societal basis,” he said adding that individual discipline and cooperation with one another would succeed efforts of all institutions.

“The armed forces are fully aware of their responsibility and will utilize every effort and all resources in this regard.” He told that a special Corps Commanders Conference especially held on Sunday to tackle coronavirus has overviewed preparedness of armed forces to help civil institutions and their plan of action.

“The best defense against corona is cooperation more than isolation. The task at hand is enormous and very difficult,” said the spokesman of Pakistan Armed Forced. At the same time, he reminded that the world has witnessed resilience of this nation in 2005 earthquake, 2010 floods and war against terrorism. “The present challenge has again tested our nationhood but this time the threat is very much different in nature. The likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes,” he said. To overcome this threat, armed forces fully stand by nation, he added.

Maj Gen Iftikhar advised that keeping in view word best practices, the effective safety was to limit the movement but at the same time, screening and testing was also important. Armed forces with all other institutions are ensuring this procedure at all entry points. Screening of more than one million passengers has been ensured, and more than 12000 screening tests have been conducted during last 24 hours, he informed. He also said that security and other preventive measures have been ensured in all quarantine camps. “I have no doubt that brave Pakistani nation along with armed forces would cross this challenge.”

He told the media that COAS has donated his one moth salary, while officers from Lt. Gen to brigadier would give their three days salary, up to officers of colonel two days and soldiers and JCOs have decided to give their one-day salary to fight this disease.

“I would advise all to act upon all instructions, as responsible citizens, of government of Pakistan, health ministry and doctors for your own safety, your family and specially elders,” he advised.   “Limit yourself and your loved ones to your homes so that we can fight this pandemic,” he again recommended and added that full cooperation with Pakistan army, law enforcement agencies, and government would help winning this war. Panic and fear could be avoided by acting upon the instruction, he said and added, “Individual safety ensures collective safety.”

To mark the Pakistan Day, the armed forces’ spokesperson said 80 years ago, our elders, the same, had chosen a destination that was achieved by a nation through unity. Paying tributes to these elders, he said that now their heirs facing a challenge of a natural tragedy. He said that March 23 was the day to remember Kashmiri brothers and sisters who despite their helpless due to worst state terrorism and this pandemic have become an example of resistance. “The people of Kashmir shall succeed in this struggle,” DG ISPR said.

Earlier on Monday, Interior ministry deployed armed forces across the country following Prime Minister Imran Khan formally approved requests of all four provincial governments, ICT, GB and AJK seeking deployment of military in aid of civil power.

The ministry issued separate notifications under Article 245 (functions of armed forces) of the Constitution and Section 131(A) (power to use military force for public security and maintenance of law and order) of the CrPC. Each notification says that government has “authorized deployment of sufficient strength of troops of Pakistan army” in province or territory concerned depending upon the requirement to be worked by the provincial government or territory in liaison with the Army authorities with the prevailing situation related to the spread of Covid-19.

Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar also said that the coronavirus was a danger that “we have never seen in our lifetimes” and the Pakistan Army was fully aware of its duty and would counter the pandemic with the nation’s help.