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Pakistan hopes UK will review red list decision after reservations ‘removed’ on COVID-19 data

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chauhdry addressing a post-cabinet media briefing in Islamabad, on September 7, 2021. — YouTube/HumNewsLive
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chauhdry addressing a post-cabinet media briefing in Islamabad, on September 7, 2021. — YouTube/HumNewsLive

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said Tuesday the  federal government had “removed”   several reservations of the United Kingdom on Pakistan’s coronavirus data.

Chaudhry, addressing a a post-cabinet meeting media briefing, said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had spoken at length about Pakistan’s coronavirus testing mechanism with Britain’s chief medical scientist. 

“We hope the British government will review its policy,” Fawad said.

Pakistan was retained on the red list, in the latest review of the country’s travel ban, despite a diplomatic offensive by several top government officials.

The British government said that it had decided to keep Pakistan on the travel ban red list because the true number of COVID-19 cases are likely much higher than reported across the country, a leaked letter written by Britain’s health minister revealed.

The cinema industry

A proposal was presented to the federal cabinet for non-Indian Punjabi films to be screened in Pakistan for the cinema industry’s revival, the information minister said.

The federal cabinet, giving its feedback, determined that permission to import all foreign movies except Indian should be given, the information minister said, adding that his ministry would present an amended proposal soon.

“In the proposal, we will seek permission to allow foreign movies in Pakistan. In the 70’s we had 780 cinemas which have been cut down to 78, so if we don’t take immediate steps for the film and cinema industry’s revival, it will collapse.”

The information minister said practical steps had been taken and a package for the film and cinema industry would be announced next week.

Remdesivir’s price reduced

Briefing the media about other decisions taken during the cabinet meeting, he said the price of Remdesivir — a drug used to treat patients with COVID-19 — had been lowered from Rs5,680 to Rs3,967.

Fawad slams Opposition

Chaudhry said a detailed discussion was held on electoral reforms, with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz, and Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Amin ul Haq giving detailed briefings to the cabinet in this regard.

The information minister reiterated the claim that “no sitting government” had proposed electoral reforms, and PTI is the “first” to do so. “Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N has never won an election without rigging, which is why they are not interested in changing the system.”

If the system fails and becomes neutral then the Sharif family has “no future” in politics, he added.

“[PML-N Vice-President] Maryam Nawaz and [PPP Chairman] Bilawal Bhutto Zardari can become the prime ministers in case Pakistan’s fortunes take a turn for the worst or there is intense rigging — there is no other way for them to become prime ministers,” he said.

The information minister said no Opposition member has held talks with the government over electronic voting machines, nor have they reviewed the bills in this regard.

“Sitting at their homes, they reject all electoral reforms saying ‘we don’t accept it’,” he lamented, adding such an “inept” and “incompetent” Opposition had “never existed” in Pakistan.

The information minister said PML-N and PPP leaders’ politics revolved around getting extensions in the hearings of their cases, so the court does not decide against them, as he continued to slam them for not paying heed to reforms and policymaking.

“The entire globe is talking about Afghanistan, but you will not hear PPP and PML-N give their stance on how to handle the refugee crisis,” he said, adding: “It is unfortunate that Benazir Bhutto’s party is now in the hands of jokers.”

Chaudhry, responding to another question, claimed the Opposition was unaware of society’s problems as they are “not well-versed with technology”.

“If you aren’t in sync with the changing world, then you will be left behind, that is why reforms are necessary […] for moon sighting and counting votes,” the information minister said.

Responding to a question about PML-N leader Javed Latif, Chaudhry said he was a “political joker and an attention seeker, as he keeps making attempts to get the army’s support”.

He belongs to a party whose “unfortunate policy is to sit outside GHQ’s gate and seek the attention of institutions”, the information minister added.

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