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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan was facing the fourth wave of lethal coronavirus, but the government does not want to ruin the national economy by imposing a complete lockdown.

Interacting with the public over telephone in a live TV programme, "Aapka Wazir-e-Azam Aap Ke Saath" on Sunday, he urged the nation to fully adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ward off the looming threat of most contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The prime minister in the backdrop of the Sindh government's decision to impose a province-wide lockdown said that opting for such a measure means people going hungry.

We do not want to damage our economy by imposing a lockdown. We took the right decision by imposing smart lockdowns, he said.

Smart lockdown most viable solution to save economy from destruction: PM Imran

He said that imposing a complete lockdown in the country is not the solution, and cited the example of India, where the situation worsened for the poor people.

The Indian government only thought of the upper and elite classes, he said, adding: Therefore, smart lockdown is the most viable solution. We cannot destroy our economy by imposing a complete lockdown."

Regarding the Sindh government's decision of a complete lockdown, the prime minister expressed the hope that the provincial government would fully consider its implications over the weaker segments of society especially the daily wagers.

He said enforcing lockdown was a good decision as it would reduce the spread of virus but the issue which should be considered was whether such a decision could save the country, its people, and the economy.

He observed that imposing a complete lockdown would increase hunger. "Never go for lockdown unless you have answers for these issues," he maintained.

The prime minister said that the only way to curb the spread of coronavirus was for the people to get vaccinated, as he highlighted that the government had successfully administered 30 million jabs, so far.

He said that the World Economic Forum had ranked Pakistan as the third country in the world, which had taken timely steps to save lives of its people and its economy.

Imran Khan underlined that to cope with the emerging situation of Delta virus spread, vaccination was the only solution.

He said through prudent decisions, the government had saved 220 million people from the debilitating effects of previous coronavirus waves with scientific decisions and valuable guidance and input provided by the NCOC.

The prime minister also thanked the nation for extending cooperation during the pandemic.

Mosques in the country were kept opened during the Ramazan-ul-Mubarak and the religious scholars cooperated in implementation of SOPs, adding that wearing of masks could reduce coronavirus spread by 60 to 70 per cent.

He said, so far, 30 million people have been vaccinated and the government is making vigorous efforts to get rest of the population immunised at the earliest.

He said the government will ensure that there is no dearth of vaccine in the country.

He, however, made it clear that the government would continue its strategy of smart lockdown instead of going for imposing a blanket lockdown to protect the economy and employment of the people.

Replying to a caller, Imran Khan said Ehsaas Program is being expanded and the data of entire Pakistan has been compiled for the purpose and direct subsidy would be provided to 40 percent low income people by December this year.

Regarding a question about gruesome murder of Noor Mukadam, the prime minister said he is personally following this matter and assured the nation that culprits will not be allowed to escape the law.

He termed the incident as tragic saying that irrespective of the citizenship or influence of the culprit, he will have to face the law.

Responding another question, the Prime Minister, stressing the importance of electronic voting machines (EVMs), said former US president Donald Trump could not prove rigging in the elections as America uses EVMs.

About the issue load-shedding, he acknowledged it had caused trouble to the people, adding that the country's power supply was affected due to water shortages as the dams received 35% less water this year.

Responding to a question, the prime minister said that the taxes on cars had been reduced during the financial year 2021-22, and that he would look into why the rates had not decreased so far.

"We had reduced tax on 1,000cc cars, so they can be bought at a lower price as common citizens can use them, but if the rates haven't been reduced, I will check them," the prime minister said.

The prime minister forwarded a question related to "own money" - a premium paid to dealers to get the car sooner - to Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, to which he said: "Mr Prime Minister, we have notified the reduced prices to the dealers, but the person has asked about own money, which is a black market menace, as the demand is greater than the supply."

He said that car manufacturers were increasing production to meet the growing demand.

He said production of Toyota and Honda motorcycles was reaching high levels.

New entrants such as KIA, Hyundai, MG, and Photon will also help to catch up with the demand, he added.

"I believe the gap between supply and demand will end as supply will catch up. It is a good thing that the demand for cars is increasing as it shows that there is economic prosperity," the prime minister said, adding that the authorities would crack down on the black market.

The prime minister said, answering to another question, that a society where corruption was rife could not prosper, adding the nations which had controlled the menace had prospered.

He said that a country's economy would go devastated not when there was corruption at the lower levels, but when the nation's prime ministers and ministers were involved in the menace.

The prime minister noted the divide between the rich and poor in the developing countries was widening with time, as corrupt rulers were stashing away their "stolen" wealth in the developed countries.

To a caller, he said due focus will be given to promote sports culture in the country in the next two years of his government.

Responding to a call made by a senior journalist, the prime minister said that the government believed in freedom of expression, as constructive criticism was a blessing for a vibrant society.

Talking about adverse impact of climate change, he advised the people to plant at least one sapling in this monsoon season.

The prime minister said the government has launched the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami project to provide a healthy environment to our future generations.

He said that no attention was given to prepare master plans of cities; instead we ruined the only planned city of Pakistan, the federal capital of the country.

He said now we are focusing on vertical construction to protect the environment and to contain unplanned spread of cities. He said the idea of Ravi Urban City is aimed at protecting the River Ravi and green areas.

He said the government is working on setting up three treatment plants to provide clean water to the residents of Lahore.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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