To avoid a potential sharp spike in COVID-19 positive cases despite partial lockdowns in some provinces, the federal government Monday called in the military in aid of the civil administration nationwide.
Coronavirus positive cases are doubling with every passing day, which has compelled the Interior Ministry to issue a notification, authorising deployment of armed forces in all four provinces, Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, in aid of the civil administration. Separate notifications have been issued by the Interior Ministry, approving the request made by the administrations of all the provinces and territories.
The decision has been made under Section 245 (functions of armed forces) of the Constitution and Section 131(A) (power to use military force for public security and maintenance of law and order) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The military will be deployed throughout the country as the cases surpassed 800 with six reported deaths.
"The competent authority, in exercise of the powers conferred under Article 245 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Section I31-A of CrPC is pleased to authorize deployment of sufficient strength of troops of Pakistan Army in Punjab province depending upon the requirement to be worked out by the provincial government in liaison with the army authorities in connection with the prevailing situation related to the spread of COVID-19 and matters ancillary thereto, subject to laws enforced in Pakistan," said a notification issued by the Interior Ministry for Punjab. Similar notifications were issued for Sindh, Balochistan, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir, Islamabad Capital Territory, and Gilgit-Baltistan. On Sunday, the provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan had sought assistance of Pakistan Army against deadly coronavirus. Balochistan government had written a letter to the federal government for giving civil authority to the army under Article 245 in order to curb the spread of the virus.
On the other hand, the Sindh government had requested the Centre to send the military to help the civil administration under the CrPC in imposing lockdown. Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had also decided to contact Pakistan Army for assistance and vowed to use all resources for saving the lives of the people from coronavirus.
Late Sunday night, while presiding over a Special Corps Commanders' Conference in Rawalpindi, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed single-point agenda of COVID-19. The corps commanders participated through a video link from respective Corps Headquarters.
The forum reviewed countrywide spread of the COVID-19 and deliberated army's readiness to assist the civil administration to contain the pandemic. The army chief said Pakistan Army being part of the national effort, shall serve and protect the nation as a sacred duty.
According to the ISPR, all available troops of the Pakistan Army and its medical resources across the country have been tasked to be ready to assist activities in concert with the civil administration on short notice.
Earlier in the day, speaking at a presser, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved provincial governments' requests of seeking military in aid of civil power.
Awan said that the prime minister had already allowed the provincial governments to enforce partial lockdown on a need-base under Article 245-A of the Constitution. "The option of partial lockdown is left upon provinces and a notification in this regard will be issued after the federal cabinet approves the move," said Awan, hours after the Interior Ministry issued the notification of army deployment all over the country.
Taking a jibe at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President, Shahbaz Sharif, she said some political leaders were using coronavirus as a political tool and they should abstain from using COVID-19 for their political survival.