Pakistan calls for enforcement of coronavirus health rules to avoid ‘crisis-like situation’

A balloon vendor walks past a shuttered market in Lahore, Pakistan, on April 11, 2021, as a lockdown was imposed to control the spread of the Covid-19. (AFP)
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Updated 12 April 2021

Pakistan calls for enforcement of coronavirus health rules to avoid ‘crisis-like situation’

  • Planning minister says hospitals filing up, “weak” adherence to coronavirus standard operating procedures
  • Pakistan in the midst of third wave of coronavirus, recorded 4,584 new infections in last 24 hours with 58 deaths

ISLAMABAD: Planning minister Asad Umar, who also heads the government’s pandemic response authority, the NCOC, said on Monday hospitals in Pakistan were filling up and infections were rising, calling on the administration to enforce coronavirus standard operating procedures.
Pakistan is in the midst of a third wave of the coronavirus and recorded 4,584 new infections in the last 24 hours, with 58 deaths. Health officials said on Sunday Pakistan had lost over 650 people to COVID-19 in the last week. 
“Reviewed situation of disease spread, fill up of hospitals & SOP compliance status in the NCOC meeting today. SOP compliance remains very weak & pressure on hospitals is increasing,” Umar wrote on Twitter. “Administration has been asked to ramp up compliance enforcement to avoid a crises like situation.”

On April 6, less than a week ago, Umar had said the coronavirus situation was improving:
“Increased restrictions, broader lockdowns & stronger sop [standard operating procedures] enforcement starting to have effect,” he said on Twitter. “Initial signs of positivity slowing. However, due to momentum of last 2 weeks patients on critical care & mortality will stay at high levels for some time.”

Pakistan recently re-imposed a number of restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including closing schools, disallowing indoor dining and large gatherings like weddings and making masks mandatory in public places. 
Earlier this month, Pakistan announced new health guidelines for Ramadan which begins in the South Asian nation on April 14, including banning the entry of people older than 50 years and ado­lescents in mosques and shrines during the holy month.
Mosques around the country will remain open during Ramadan with strict adherence to COVID-19 standard operating procedures, the government has said. 
Last year after the coronavirus first broke out, a restriction on congregation provoked a backlash in Pakistan, with attacks on police as they attempted to halt prayers at mosques.
Health experts have repeatedly warned that congregations pose the biggest threat to Pakistan’s limited health care resources and infrastructure, which will crumble under the weight of a wide-spread outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Rows of the praying individuals should be aligned so that there is a distance of 6 feet between individuals,” the National Command And Operation Center said in published guidelines, saying people should perform ablutions at home. “It is obligatory that mask is worn before coming to mosque or imambargah and not to shake hands or hug anyone in the mosque.”
Unlike in the past, the government said sehr and iftar, the meals to keep and break the fast respectively, should not be held at mosques or shrines. Typically, mass sehr and iftars are held for poor people at mosques in Muslim countries. The ban will also apply to the seclusion of Itikaf when Muslims spend the last 10 days of the month in mosques to pray and meditate, with the government asking people to seclude at home. 
“If during Ramzan, the government feels that these precautionary measures are not being observed or the number of affectees has risen to a dangerous level, then the government will revise its policy related to mosques and imambargahs, as for other departments,” the NCOC said. “The government has also the right to change the orders and policy regarding severely affected specific areas.”


Proud to plant Pakistan's flag atop Mount Everest — Shehroze Kashif

Updated 12 May 2021

Proud to plant Pakistan's flag atop Mount Everest — Shehroze Kashif

  • Shehroze Kashif, 19, on Tuesday became the youngest Pakistani to climb the world’s highest peak
  • Kashif started climbing difficult mountainous terrains when he was just 11 years old

KHAPLU, GHANCHE: Shehroze Kashif, the youngest Pakistani to summit Mount Everest, says it was his duty to plant his country’s green flag at the top of the world.

The 19-year-old from Lahore reached the peak of the world’s highest mountain located in Nepal on Tuesday, as a part of Seven Summit Treks Everest Expedition 2021.

“It’s our duty to fly our flag wherever we can, whether it’s a mountain or other place,” Kashif told Arab News over the phone from Everest base camp on Wednesday. “Wherever you can, fly your green flag high.”

In this undated photo, Shehroze Kashif, a 19-year-old climber from Lahore, is seen holding a flag of Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Alpine Adventure Guides)

With members of his expedition, the young climber known as “The Broad Boy” after summiting 8,047-meter Broad Peak in the Karakoram two years ago, Kashif climbed Mount Everest (8,849 meters) in four days.

Having already scaled a number of tall and difficult peaks, Kashif started climbing difficult mountainous terrains when he was just 11 years old.

In his first video message after the Everest summit, he said: “Alhamdulillah, Pakistan is on Everest. Without the support from Pakistan, this project was not possible. Thanks all of you for your support. I am coming soon to Pakistan.”

He thanked his family, friends and everyone who helped him for “the love, prayers and support” he had received.

Kashif’s achievement was welcomed by Pakistanis, including President Arif Alvi who took to Twitter to congratulate him on becoming the youngest Pakistani to scale the world’s highest peak.

“We are proud of you. I remember your passionate intention to do so when you visited me in Presidency in Feb. I wish you good luck in the future, now that you have Mt Everest in the bag,” the president said.

Previously, Samina Baig was the youngest Pakistani who summited the world’s tallest peak. 

A high-altitude climber, Baig became the first Pakistani woman to climb Everest in 2013 when she was only 21 years old.
 


‘We stand with Palestine,’ PM Khan says as Israel escalates airstrikes on Gaza

Updated 12 May 2021

‘We stand with Palestine,’ PM Khan says as Israel escalates airstrikes on Gaza

  • More than 48 people, including 14 children, have been killed by Israeli missiles in the Gaza Strip
  • Tensions follow Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and attempts to expel Palestinians from their houses in Jerusalem

ISLAMABAD: “We stand with Palestine,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday, as Israel has intensified airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

More than 48 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed and 304 wounded by Israeli missiles fired on the Gaza Strip since Monday, according to Gaza health authorities. In response to the airstrikes, Hamas, which controls Gaza, fired rockets into Israel.

The violence escalated after Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for a third consecutive day on Monday, firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades at Palestinian worshippers gathered at the third holiest site in Islam in the final days of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Pakistan has since condemned the Israeli attacks on Gaza and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On Wednesday morning, Khan took to Twitter to say: “I am PM of Pakistan and #WeStandWithGaza #WeStandWithPalestine.”

Tensions in Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories follow recent attempts by Israeli forces to forcibly expel Palestinians from their houses in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and hand over their properties to ultra-extreme Jewish settlers.


Eid Al-Fitr: Pakistan’s moonsighting committee to meet in Islamabad today

Updated 12 May 2021

Eid Al-Fitr: Pakistan’s moonsighting committee to meet in Islamabad today

  • The country’s Ruet-e-Hilal Committee will be working with the science ministry and use its data to sight the Shawwal crescent
  • Saudi Arabia has already announced that Thursday will be the first day of Eid Al-Fitr in the kingdom

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, which announces the sighting of the new moon, will meet in the federal capital on Wednesday to determine the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr in the country. 
Last year, the committee’s newly appointed chairman Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad agreed with the government for the first time to work together with the science ministry and use its data for the sighting of the moon.
The beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan along with Eid holidays and Shiite mourning month of Muharram are determined by moonsighting in Pakistan for which the country has set up a committee of religious scholars.
The use of technology to determine the beginning of Muslim months according to the Islamic lunar calendar has largely remained a contentious issue among conservative clerics who emphasize the necessity of physical sighting of the moon.
The Saudi Royal Court has already announced that Eid Al-Fitr will be celebrated in the kingdom on Thursday. 
It is likely that Pakistan will begin its Eid celebrations on Friday.


Pakistan reports lowest number of coronavirus cases since March 16

Updated 12 May 2021

Pakistan reports lowest number of coronavirus cases since March 16

  • The country’s National Command and Operation Center has requested people to organize Eid prayers in open spaces to prevent the spread of the virus
  • PM Khan has also urged people to take all necessary precautions during Eid holidays to contain the third wave of the pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported less than 3,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, its lowest single-day number since March 16.
According to the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees Pakistan’s response to the pandemic, the country had 2,869 new COVID-19 cases and 104 related deaths in the last 24 hours.


Pakistan has reported 867,438 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic emerged in the country in February 2020 and lost 19,210 lives to COVID-19.
The country announced a new set of restrictions earlier this month which included closure of all tourist resorts between May 8 and 16 to mitigate the impact of the third wave of the contagion.
Meanwhile, the NCOC urged people on Tuesday to organize Eid prayers in open spaces and follow strict health safety protocols.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also appealed to the nation to take all necessary precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus during the Eid holidays.
“I request you to follow the standard operating procedures and particularly use face masks,” he said in a statement. “Take care of your elderly to avoid lockdown.”


Pakistan, OIC strongly condemn Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

Updated 12 May 2021

Pakistan, OIC strongly condemn Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

  • Urge the international community to put an end to ‘flagrant violation of human rights’ of Palestinians
  • More than 38 Palestinians, including children, have been killed in the attacks by Israeli troops in recent days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have condemned Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 35 people, including children, and left dozens injured since Monday.
The violence escalated after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – attacking Palestinian worshippers using rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas over the weekend.
“This is yet another reprehensible action during the holy month of Ramadan, following the increased restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of Palestinians and the attacks in and outside Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday night.
It added that the indiscriminate use of force by Israeli forces against defenseless Palestinians “defies all humanitarian norms and human rights laws.” 
“Pakistan calls upon the international community to put an end to the blatant use of force and flagrant violation of human rights of the Palestinian people,” the statement said.
It added that establishing a “viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine,” based on internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, is the “only sustainable guarantee for peace in the region.”
Tensions escalated in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem over the weekend after Israeli forces tried to evict an entire Palestinian community and hand over their properties to ultra-extreme Jewish settlers.
After convening a virtual emergency session on Tuesday to discuss the “aggression by Israel,” the OIC said that it “condemns in the strongest terms the repeated attacks by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people.”
It also condemned “the Israeli occupation forces’ continuation of their colonial programs – building settlements, attempting to confiscate Palestinian properties, forceful eviction of Palestinians from their land.” 
The OIC also demanded that “relevant international actors,” including the United Nations General Assembly, should implement resolutions and recommendations and “activate the necessary mechanisms to stop these violations.”