Pakistan government says committed to ensuring ‘safety’ as millions return to school

A worker sprays disinfectant at a government school building in Islamabad on September 14, 2020 following the government's announcement to reopen educational institutes starting from September 15, nearly six months after the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2020

Pakistan government says committed to ensuring ‘safety’ as millions return to school

  • Government announced last week it would be allowing the “phased” reopening of all educational institutions from September 15 
  • Health experts warn against reopening schools based on a high number of positive coronavirus cases among school staff in Karachi 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday welcomed millions of children back to school as educational institutions begin to open tomorrow, Tuesday, after being shuttered in March to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government announced last week that it would be allowing the “phased” reopening of all educational institutions from September 15 as the number of daily coronavirus infections and deaths has registered a steady decline in the South Asian nation since mid-June in the country.
All higher educational institutions including universities, intermediate and professional colleges, are to reopen from September 15, while grades six through eighth grade will reopen on September 23 and primary schools will resume classes from September 30.
“Tomorrow we will welcome millions of children back to school,” Khan said in a tweet. “It is our priority & collective responsibility to ensure that every child can go to school safely to learn. We have worked to ensure that school operations are aligned with public health safety rules on #COVID19.”
The government has decided to carry on with its decision to reopen schools and universities despite health practitioners’ warning that rapid tests conducted through Find My Doctor, an online health service in Karachi, showed a “very high and alarming” rate of positive cases among school staff.
“We have found up to 18 percent positivity rate in school staff through a rapid test, which shows we are heading toward a disaster by reopening educational institutions,” Saad Siddiqui, founder and chief executive officer of Find My Doctor, told Arab News on Sunday.
According to data on a government portal, Pakistan’s COVID-19 recovery rate had jumped to 96 percent on Monday and the death rate remained at 2.1 percent. Around 289,806 people have recovered from the virus since it was first reported in March, government data shows.


Pakistan to establish 18 markets on Afghanistan, Iran borders to boost trade, curb smuggling

Updated 18 September 2020

Pakistan to establish 18 markets on Afghanistan, Iran borders to boost trade, curb smuggling

  • Under the plan, the government will set up 12 markets along the border with Afghanistan and six along the Iran frontier
  • Prime minister approves setting up two border markets in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by February next year

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has decided to set up markets along its borders with neighboring Afghanistan and Iran to boost trade opportunities, foster peace and check smuggling, the commerce ministry said on Friday.
Main crossing point into Pakistan for both goods and people from Iran and Afghan also serve as major smuggling routes.
“The border markets will help create job opportunities and establish a peaceful relationship with the neighboring countries,” Aisha Humera Moriani, joint-secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, told Arab News.
Under the plan, the government is establishing 18 markets: 12 along the border with Afghanistan and six along the Iran frontier.
In a meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan approved setting up two border markets in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as a pilot project, to be functional by February next year.
Moriani said the markets would contribute to local development and help the government address “smuggling and boost legal trade across the border.”
Pakistan is fencing its borders with Afghanistan and Iran to check cross-border militancy, illegal movement of people and smuggling, which is a major source of income for people living along border towns and villages.
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai, President Balochistan Economic Forum, said the government should have built “common markets” along the Afghanistan and Iran borders with the mutual consent of the neighboring governments to maximize benefits for people on both sides of the borders.
“The government has not released a feasibility report, if there is any, of these markets as to how are they going to help the local population,” he told Arab News.
Popalzai said Balochistan border areas were sparsely populated and establishment of a few shopping terminals would “hardly make any difference in the lives of the people.”
He said cross-border smuggling was a major source of income for people living in the frontier areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, so “this requires a lot more effort than mere setting up of markets to check this undocumented economy.”
Zubair Motiwala, chairman of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the government should establish cold storages and warehouses in the border markets to boost the export of perishable and other items to the neighboring countries.
“The taxation system on the exports and imports of different items through the land routes should be well defined to encourage businessmen and locals to boost the legal trade with Afghanistan and Iran,” he said.