Thursday Apr 23, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared on the Ehsaas Telethon on Thursday to help collect funds for the coronavirus affectees. After the end of the marathon session, it was revealed that the government had been able to collect Rs550 million from the transmission.
The telethon was held at the Prime Minister House with journalists Mohammad Malick, Hamid Mir Nadeem Malik, Kashif Abbasi and Mansoor Ali Khan participating. Muniba Mazari and Shiffa Yousafzai hosted the transmission.
Speaking about the coronavirus, the prime minister said that the entire nation will have to take part in the battle against the infection. "No single government can battle the pandemic. The entire nation needs to join hands to fight this virus, keeping in mind the times that are ahead," he said.
PM Imran urged people to adopt safety precautions against the coronavirus. "The virus spreads at a very fast rate," he said. "There have been viruses and people have been infected with the flu before. But this is unprecedented," he added.
Speaking about his experience of collecting donations for the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, the prime minister said that he had encountered various people from around the country while building the hospital.
"I always tell this to my children and to others as well. Whenever you spend in the way of Allah, it brings you a lot of other rewards, such as the feeling of contentment," he said, adding that one's bank balance should not be the measure of his wealth. "True wealth is what you feel inside," he added.
He praised the Ehsaas Cash Emergency Programme, saying that the initiative was based on merit and computerized. PM Imran said that he was proud of the programme and praised Dr Sania Nishtar for playing a pivotal role in ensuring that it became a success.
"The most amount of cash distributed has been in Sindh, where our party is not in power," he said, adding that this was reflective of the programme's transparency.
The balance in the Prime Minister's Relief Fund for COVID-19 has amounted to Rs2,765,980,593.
Speaking about the lockdown, the prime minister said that the country will have to move towards a "smart lockdown" as a balance had to be struck between keeping people safe and ensuring the coronavirus does not spread too much.
He cited the example of the United States where more than 40,000 people have died yet the government is considering moving towards reopening shops and businesses. "No one knows for how long this [coronavirus situation] will last," he said, adding that the Prime Minister's Coronavirus Relief Fund will be used to help people who were suffering till their businesses were shut.
"I spoke to Trump. Even he is concerned with the economy collapsing, despite their resources. Everyone agrees it is unsustainable," he said.
Speaking about the criticism he had faced due to his decision to refrain from ordering a complete lockdown, the prime minister said that previous decisions were made keeping in mind the country's elite.
He urged critics to go to impoverished areas of the country and in katchi abadis to see for themselves the living conditions of people. "If this [coronavirus] spreads in slums, it will not stay there. It will spread to defence [and other posh areas]," he said.
The prime minister says that it was his wish that the interest rate was further lowered so that the business community and Pakistanis will be able to benefit from it. He said that every crisis was an opportunity.
"I gave a tremendous package to the construction sector," he said. "This is an opportunity as we were not able to do this in the past. If our construction sector gets going, then 40 other industries related to it will also progress," he added.
In response to a question, the prime minister said that Pakistan had only been included among the 70 nations of the world that were provided debt relief.
"We haven't gotten any relief as of yet. Further negotiations will be held in future," he said.
PM Imran reacted to the doctors' press conference from yesterday, saying that their concerns were valid but a lockdown could not be sustained in the long-term.
"We are a responsible nation. Shouldn't the public behave responsibility? When I am asking people to pray at home, I am not asking it for myself," he said. "It is understood that if you go to mosques to pray, there is a risk [of getting the infection]".
In response to a question about whether he planned to join hands with the opposition to collect funds for the coronavirus, PM Imran responded cheekily by saying: "I'm afraid if I include them in this [coronavirus fund drive] the donations will drop," he said, laughing.
The prime minister said that it was only possible to work with his political rivals only if they brought back billions of rupees from abroad to Pakistan.
In response to another question, he said that followers of all political parties should join hands with the government during the crisis. PM Imran said that the largest distributions of the Ehsaas Cash Emergency Cash programme had taken place in Sindh.
"This was because Sindh is the poorest province," he said, adding that the system was transparent and designed to help the poor only.
Maulana Tariq Jameel joined the transmission towards the end to conclude it with a prayer. In his dua, he urged God to forgive mankind's sins and help humans vanquish the pandemic.