ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s planning minister, Asad Umar, hinted on Saturday the UK government was playing politics instead of following data, a day after London put Pakistan on its ‘red list’ of countries and banned the entry of Pakistani citizens unless they are British or Irish nationals, or have residency rights.
British Pakistanis form one of the largest expat communities in the UK, with numbers for population ranging at around 1.17 million. Days before the start of Ramadan, when many British Pakistanis travel to be with their families for the holy month and Eid, travelers from Pakistan have been told they will be denied entry and have to pay for expensive 10-day UK hotel quarantine at designated sites.
The UK announcement came as Pakistan’s National Command and Control Center (NCOC) for Covid-19 reported 5,234 new cases in the last 24 hours, with 83 deaths.
“Every country has a right to take decisions to safeguard the health of their citizens. However the recent decision by UK government to add some countries including Pakistan on the red list raises legitimate questions whether choice of countries is based on science or foreign policy,” Umar tweeted Saturday morning, alongside a copy of a letter written by a British Pakistani parliamentarian to the UK foreign minister.
In the letter, MP Naz Shah said the UK government was “knowingly and consciously discriminating against Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora community,” whereas other countries, like France, Germany and India had far higher numbers of infections per 100,000 people.
Bangladesh, Kenya and the Philippines have also been put on the UK’s red list of countries.
Last month, in a series of tweets, the British Pakistan Foundation had suggested that there was “a potential risk” of Pakistan being placed on the quarantine list.
“At present, Pakistan accounts for about 10% of all passengers coming into the UK with an alarmingly high number testing positive for coronavirus on arrival,” the Foundation said.
A spokesman for the UK’s transport department that reviews this list said: “The decision to add and remove countries from the red list is made by ministers informed by the latest scientific data and public health advice from a range of world-leading experts.”