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LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that with the blessing of Almighty Allah, the nation not only successfully overcame economic problems, but also helped contain the spread of this deadly virus during its first wave. Talking to media persons here, the premier said that Pakistan successfully fought off the virus earlier and urged people to strictly follow the safety measures. He warned that pressure on hospitals as well as on country’s economy will mount if SOPs are not followed in letter and spirit.

He added that Pakistan was the only Muslim country in the world that did not shut down its mosques, as Ulema played a pivotal role in the implementation of SOPs in mosques. He urged people to wear face masks, which is the easiest way to prevent the spread of virus.

The PM maintained that the mortality rate is now increasing alarmingly across the country. He said, pressure on doctors, nurses and hospitals would also increase, if SOPs are not followed. He said the economic conditions might deteriorate if the nation does not adhere to the precautionary measures.

Terming the Ravi River project in Lahore and the Bundal Island project in Karachi as "very important for Pakistan", the PM said the Bundal Island project will save the mangroves while water treatment plants will be installed to clean polluted water so fishermen do not have to go deep into the waters in search of fish.

About the Ravi River project, the PM said: "In Lahore, the water supply is dwindling. In the last 20 years, Lahore has grown 1.5 times. And 70% of the city's green cover has been depleted during this time which has led to increased pollution."

He said that where the Ravi River project is being constructed, the city would have expanded in five to six years to that point anyway.

The PM Imran said that both the projects will focus on vertical expansion, as is done elsewhere in the world, so green areas can be protected — versus being demolished for expansion — and the threat to food security is addressed effectively.

Talking about Pakistan's foreign policy, the PM said it is the government's biggest success. He said, "Pakistan never had the kind of acceptability it has today. "It is only because of our government's international lobbying efforts and exposing India for what it is doing in Kashmir [...] ask anyone, any diplomats, they will tell you whether we had this standing 50 years ago."

The PM said that Afghanistan used to consider Pakistan its opponent and was closer to India and the United States would believe we are playing some sort of a double game. "Today, Pakistan is seen as the country that is bringing peace to Afghanistan," he said, adding: "No one is asking us to 'do more' any longer, whereas in the past we were being blamed for other people's wars and their failures."

He said that Pakistan has friendly relations with Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. "We are under no pressure to recognise Israel," he said.

"The Quaid-e-Azam said in 1948 that Pakistan will never recognise Israel until Palestinians are given their due rights and that is what Pakistan continues to firmly believe in," he said.

He further said that the government has decided not to shut factories and other sources of earning in order to save people's lives and livelihoods. “Today Faisalabad's textile industry is running with full capacity and contributing to growing Pakistan's exports,” he added.

Asked whether the government will allow the Opposition to continue to hold public meetings, the PM said that no such activity must take place that causes the virus to spread rapidly. “They (Opposition) will not get any NRO by organizing mass gatherings and they should refrain from jeopardizing people's lives,” he said.

"We must never allow any such activities which cause people to gather; we know that when people have close contact, the virus spreads at a very fast rate. We had put off our own rally; and I had said that until the situation is brought under control, no rally will take place," he said. The premier reminded everyone that an Islamabad High Court order is also in effect which prohibits large gatherings from being held. "These people are endangering the lives of people," he said.

He urged the nation to strictly follow the SOPs and precautionary measures to prevent spread of Covid-19 pandemic. Due to spike in corona cases, the authorities were worried about increasing pressure on hospitals and medical staff. But he ruled out a lockdown. He said the government does not want people to die due to hunger while protecting them from coronavirus.

He added that the country's exports had finally picked up and the government does not want to hurt them again by shutting down factories and businesses.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and apprised him about the Punjab government’s affairs, the Covid-19 situation and other issues of important nature, including development projects.

Both discussed ongoing development projects in the province and also deliberated upon the political situation and administrative affairs.

On the occasion, PM Imran directed the concerned authorities to take strict action against the illegal profiteers. The PM was also briefed over the progress on the River Ravi Project.

Moreover, in a tweet, the PM has directed the commerce and industries ministries to ensure all necessary support to the textile sector.

The PM pointed out that Faisalabad textile industry is seeing a massive rise in demand and export orders. He said that his instructions to the relevant ministries are aimed at helping the textile industry meet their growing demands. Imran Khan said the textile sector is one of a number of positive developments in our economy despite Covid-19.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020