Bill Gates names Pakistani among seven 'unsung heroes' of coronavirus pandemic

Microsoft principle founder Bill Gates participates in a discussion during a luncheon of the Economic Club of Washington June 24, 2019 in Washington DC. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 September 2020

Bill Gates names Pakistani among seven 'unsung heroes' of coronavirus pandemic

  • Bizenjo founded organization that supplied food to remote villages in Balochistan and PPE suits to health workers
  • Now utilizing leftover resources to invigorate over 25 free libraries in different districts of Balochistan

RAWALPINDI: Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has named a Pakistani, Sikander Bizenjo from the southwestern Balochistan province, as an ‘unsung hero’ of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a blog post written on September 8 and called “7 unsung heroes of the pandemic,” the American business magnet listed seven “incredible people” who had cared for others after the coronavirus outbreak.

Bill Gates shares a video honoring seven people around the world, including Pakistan's Sikander Bizenjo, as "unsung heroes" of the coronavirus pandemic on his official Twitter account on September 12, 2020. 

Writing about Bizenjo, Gates said he had founded a group called the Balochistan Youth Against Corona, “which raises funds for monthly food rations for 10,000 households in Balochistan as well of personal protective equipment, masks, face shields and hand sanitizers for frontline health workers.”
“I am overwhelmed,” Bizenjo, 29, told Arab News over the phone on Tuesday when questioned about the recognition from Gates. “It is not just about me or my team, but to see Balochistan in headlines for something positive makes me feel incredibly proud.”
“Everyone knows who Bill Gates is,” he said, laughing. “Even people in my village and other remote areas of the province have been excited about this.” 




Balochistan Youth Against Corona Volunteers pack food products before delivering them around Balochistan on August 10, 2020. (Picture courtesy: Khaula Jamil for Gates Blog)

Bizenjo comes from Naal in Khuzdar district but lives and works in Karachi. He cofounded BYAC with Banari Mengal, with Khalid Ismail and Dr. Yasir Baloch as core team members.
“We began when the pandemic started,” said Bizenjo. “I was getting concerned about certain areas in Balochistan, thinking they would either get overlooked or be extremely hard to reach for aid workers and even the government.”
BYAC first started campaigning for donations to help feed and keep 10,000 families in the province healthy through food rations and home supplies.
“We started with food supplies because we wanted to make the lockdown successful,” Bizenjo said. “However, that would have required people to stay indoors to prevent the virus from spreading. This would only have been possible if they had enough food. Unfortunately, many people in these villages don’t have food for four days, let alone a whole month.”




Bizenjo and volunteers educate people about how to wash hands near Naal village in Khuzdar, Balochistan, on August 8, 2020. (Picture courtesy: Khaula Jamil for Gates Blog)

Bizenjo and his team, joined by hundreds of volunteers, began serving far flung villages inaccessible due to poor road infrastructure and provided enough rations, including soap bars, to keep families satiated for at least a month.
Soon after its operations began, Bizenjo’s organization shifted gears and also started providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face shields and N95 masks, to local hospitals. This was done at a time when Quetta was in the news as several doctors and paramedics in the provincial capital of Balochistan became infected with the coronavirus.
Now that infection numbers have dropped, BYAC is utilizing its leftover resources and collecting new donations to invigorate over 25 free libraries in different districts of Balochistan, Bizenjo said.


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.