ISLAMABAD                  -             Pakistan yesterday hoped the international financial institutions and the donor countries will reschedule debts and provide economic assistance as Pakistan battles the coronavirus.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said Prime Minister Imran Khan had already called for debt rescheduling and economic assistance for the developing countries.

“This was further underscored by the Foreign Minister (Shah Mehmood Qureshi) in his recent telephonic conversations with counterparts from France, Spain and Germany,” she added.

The spokesperson said the initiative had gathered traction in recent days, evidenced by the recent joint statement of the International Monetary Fund  and the World Bank calling for suspension of debt payments for poorer countries.

“An extraordinary G-20 meeting is also likely to take place to discuss the economic impact of Coronavirus pandemic on global economy and developing countries,” she added.

Aisha Farooqui said it had been 235 days since the lockdown of the people in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

“Over 8 million people continue to be deprived of their fundamental freedoms; their right to liberty, health, education and food,” she said.

The spokesperson said Pakistan remained deeply concerned over the continued communication blackout in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir which is depriving its people of critical information and the supply of essential medical items needed to effectively contain the Covid-19 pandemic,

“We call upon India to end the communication blackout in held Kashmir and allow medical teams and supplies to reach the Kashmiri people,” she added.

The spokesperson said Pakistan had welcomed the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in Doha on 29 February.

“We consider it a historic opportunity for Afghans to work towards lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is a matter of concern that some delays have occurred in the implementation of the peace agreement. However, we are hopeful that all Afghan groups would seize this opportunity and work towards implementation of the peace agreement in letter and spirit,” Aisha Farooqui said.

To a question, she said Pakistan was in touch with the Iranian authorities on regular basis with regards to matters pertaining to coronavirus.

“Close coordination is taking place between the two sides, both at the leadership and working level. Pakistan realizes the problems being faced by Iran in its fight against the virus due to economic sanctions,” she said. 

Aisha Farooqui said  Prime Minister Khan had already expressed his concern and called for the lifting of sanctions against Iran to enable it to combat effectively this pandemic.

“Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also spoke with his Iranian counterpart on 22 March. As regards movement of Pakistani Zaireen from Iran, we are closely coordinating with Iranian authorities to ensure that the movement takes place as per the SoPs prescribed by the Government. Every effort is being made to sort out issues, if any, through mutual coordination,” she added.

Due to prevailing situation of Covid-19, she said,  the government was exploring best possible options for the safety and repatriation of our citizens in different parts of the world.

“Travel restrictions from Wuhan are reportedly being lifted from April 8. This can pave the way for our nationals to make their further plans in light of the guidelines issued by the governments on both sides,” she maintained.

On foreign assistance regarding the coronavirus outbreak, she said the US had announced $ 1 million in assistance for Pakistan in dealing with Covid-19 situation.

China, she said, had helped Pakistan a great deal in our efforts to contain Coronavirus. “A team of medical experts is expected to arrive soon from China to assist our doctors in battling the Coronavirus. The medical team will also bring medical equipment from China to strengthen our capacity,” Aisha Farooqui said.

China’s assistance to Pakistan to fight Coronavirus, she said, included 12,000 test kits, 3,00,000 masks, 10,000 protective suits and four million US dollars to build a hospital.

“Xinjiang government has also provided 50,000 masks each to Islamabad Capital Territory as well as Sindh government. A considerable amount of donation from private sources from China is also arriving. Alibaba Foundation has donated 50,000 test kits and 5,00,000 face masks as well,” she elaborated.

Asked, if FM Qureshi has contacted his Indian counterpart on the coronavirus outbreak and restrictions in held Kashmir, she said Pakistan was persistently raising the issue of restrictions in occupied Kashmir at all relevant forums.

“Recently during the SAARC video conference, the issue of communication restrictions in held Kashmir in the wake of Coivd-19 was once again raised by Pakistan. Pakistan drew attention to the health emergency in the context of Coronavirus and underscored the need for lifting of restrictions on communications and ensuring access to medical supplies,” she explained.

Pakistan, she said, believed that the collective endeavors of South Asian nations to fight common challenges should not be allowed to become victim of self-serving propaganda.

Aisha Farooqui said in the the wake of the rising threat of COVID-19, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had established the Crisis Management Unit to monitor the overall evolving situation and coordinate with Missions abroad to facilitate and repatriate Pakistani nationals across the world.