'Unmistakable' signs of rising coronavirus in Pakistan, planning minister warns 

Men wearing protective masks walk along a market amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Karachi on Oct. 14, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 15 October 2020

'Unmistakable' signs of rising coronavirus in Pakistan, planning minister warns 

  • Asad Umar says national positivity rate was 2.37% on Wednesday, the highest in over 50 days
  • Government would be forced to take “restrictive actions” if people did not follow health guidelines, Umar warns

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s minister for planning, who also oversees the country’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, on Thursday warned about the “unmistakable” rise once again of the coronavirus in Pakistan, urging people to follow health guidelines or face “restrictive actions.”
According to official data, 321,218 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Pakistan so far, and there have been 6,614 deaths. Cases have declined steadily after peaking in June. 
In August, the government announced that virtually all sectors in Pakistan shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus would be reopened that month, other than schools and marriage halls, which opened in September. Since then, there has been a slow uptick in infection numbers.
In a tweet on Thursday, Asad Umar said the national positivity rate had reached 2.37% on Wednesday, the highest in more than 50 days. 
“Last time this level was seen on aug 23,” he said. “First 4 days of this week covid deaths average is 11 per day..highest since week of Aug 10th. Unmistakable signs of rise of corona.”

Umar said the COVID-19 positivity ratio was “extremely high” in Muzaffarabad, the capital city of the Azad Kashmir region, high in Karachi and was rising in Lahore and Islamabad.
He urged the public to take coronavirus standard operating procedures seriously again: “Otherwise, unfortunately we may have to take restrictive actions which have negative effects on people’s livelihoods.”

Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which synergizes government efforts against COVID-19, said on Thursday 13 people had died because of the virus in the past 24 hours.
Early this week, the NCOC issued new guidelines banning public gatherings in cities where the coronavirus positivity rate was over six percent.


Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

Updated 31 October 2020

Pakistan's support for Kashmiri cause unwavering, Raheel Sharif says in Riyadh

  • Pakistani embassy in Riyadh held a seminar on the human rights situation in Kashmiri territory to mark Kashmir Black Day
  • Kashmiri self-determination is not only a moral and legally justified right, former Saudi ambassador to Pakistan says

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said that Pakistan supports the Kashmiri cause with an "unflinching resolve."

The general's comment came during a seminar, "Human Rights Situation in Kashmir: Implications for Regional Peace and Stability," organized by the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday.

"Let it be known that every citizen of Pakistan stands united with the people of Kashmir and supports their struggle for freedom with an unflinching resolve," said Gen. Raheel Sharif, who now leads the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a counterterrorist alliance of Muslim countries, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

"The issue of Kashmir is very close to every Pakistani’s heart as we fully understand the cause and dynamics of this struggle right from the beginning. We have closely witnessed the sufferings of our Kashmiri brethren and appreciate their resolve and valor in pursuit of their goal and fundamental human rights."

Former Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

Kashmiri territory is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim the region in its entirety. Crackdowns in the Indian-administered part have been escalating since August 2019, when New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which gave Kashmiris limited autonomy and protected their domicile and employment rights.

If not reversed, the Indian regime's August move, Sharif said, will cause "further unrest in the region."

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, who was one of speakers in the seminar, said that last year's change in Kashmir's status "through annexation and division of the internationally recognized disputed region," as well as subsequent lockdown and "enforced demographic shift currently underway" have aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region.

"Kashmiri people are facing a more dangerous situation now as every passing day is marginalizing their political status and socio-economic space," he said during the seminar, as he recalled serving in Pakistan and leading Saudi relief efforts after an earthquake that devastated Kashmir in 2005.  

Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Pakistan, Ali Awadh Asseri, participates in a seminar organized in Riyadh by the Pakistani embassy to observe Kashmir Black Day on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (Pakistan Embassy Riyadh via AN)

He said the relief could not reach the Indian-administered part of the territory, as New Delhi did not grant access. "We remember that Kashmir on the other side of LOC also faced devastating effects of the earthquake but could not do much due to lack of access by the Indian authorities."

"Kashmiri people want to live their lives according to their free will and India has denied this basic right and instead chosen the path of repression," Asseri added.

"The Kashmiri demand of self-determination is not only the moral right but also legally justified under UN security council resolutions."

India on Wednesday notified new laws that allow non-Kashmiris to buy land in the disputed region, rising concerns that the new regulation would dilute the Muslim-majority character of the region.

"Contrary to Indian claims of bringing development to the Kashmir valley, the real motive remains altering the demographics of the Muslim-majority territory," Islamabad's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Raja Ali Ejaz, told Arab News after the seminar.

He added that the Pakistani government remains "fully committed to the Kashmir cause."