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National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser Monday said that a committee has been constituted to evolve a strategy and work out standard operating procedures (SOPs) after discussion and consultation with the representatives of the government and opposition for holding Budget 2020-21 session of the Parliament.

Addressing a joint news conference with Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri and State Minister for Safron Shehryar Khan Afridi after 2nd meeting of the Special Committee for the Affectees of Coronavirus, the speaker said that the committee would suggest a way out for holding budget session of the Parliament after consultation with the leaderships of the parliamentary parties of the government and opposition. "The committee will discuss the proposals, which will be presented by the representatives of the parliament, and evolve a strategy for holding coming budget session of the National Assembly," he said.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, Minister of State for Safron Sheryar Khan Afridi and secretaries of ministries of Interior, Health, Foreign Affairs and the Aviation Division.

The speaker said that the committee diligently discussed the problems of Tablighi Jamaat and zaireen (pilgrims) with their representatives, collected certified data, and shared it with concerned departments.

Minister for Religious Affairs Qadri said that the entire country would have a uniform policy regarding the holy month of Ramzan this year, as coronavirus cases had surged past 5,400 in Pakistan.

The religious affairs minister said that speaker of the National Assembly would approach all the religious parties on the issue.

He said that "the parties will lay out a comprehensive strategy for the holy month in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted daily life and businesses."

Qadri said that the government would approach Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Sirajul Haq, Sajid Mir, Sajid Naqvi and other religious leaders for policy-making consultations.

The minister for foreign affairs said that as per data collected by the Foreign Office though its missions abroad; the total number of Pakistanis stranded abroad was 39,748 with bulk in Middle Eastern countries. He said that the number of Pakistanis stranded abroad belonging to Tablighi Jamaat was 2,248.

Qureshi said that the government had arranged specials flights to bring stranded Pakistanis back home, quarantined, and later sent home after receipt of tests reports.

He said that the government was committed to bringing all the stranded Pakistanis back through special flights.

He further informed that next phase of special flights would be started from 14th April, 2020 and nine flights would fly to bring 2,000 people.

He said that the flights in the next phase would arrive in Lahore, Karachi, Multan, Peshawar, and Faisalabad.

Minister for Aviation and the Minister for Religious Affairs extended their fullest support in the fight against coronavirus.

The Minister for Safron/Convener of the Sub-Committee of the Special Committee presented the report of the Sub-Committee.

He said that representatives of Tablighi Jamaat and zaireen were taken on board and their verified data was collected.

He said that data of Pakistanis stranded abroad and registered with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and prisoners released by Oman and the UAE was also acquired from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He said that as per data received from Tablighi Jamaat, a total number of Jamaat members stranded abroad and in Pakistan were 2,054 and 16,900, respectively, whereas 275 zaireen were stranded in Iran, and 727 in Pakistan, in various quarantine facilities. He further informed that zaireen who successfully returned to their destination were 1,326. He informed that 660 prisoners were released and 36,000 Pakistanis were stranded in Dubai, Qatar and Oman.

He informed that the sub-committee was in contact with relevant quarters and would oversee the safe return of everyone to their respective destinations. While discussing the follow-up progress report of the earlier directions of the committee, the secretary of Ministry of Interior apprised the committee that the ministry had directed the deputy commissioners of the concerned districts to make logistic arrangements for the people who have been tested negative to take them safely back to their home towns as per the SOPs developed by the Health Department, and the provinces.

The secretary Aviation Division apprised the committee about the flight operation.

He said that only Islamabad Airport was operational and catering the incoming and outgoing passenger traffic through special flight operation.

He said that the Aviation Division had made arrangements through the PIA to take and bring the stranded Pakistanis and foreign nationals. He said that in the next phase other major airports would be made operational.

The executive director National Institute of Health apprised the committee about the testing of coronavirus at the National Institute of Health (NIH). He informed that the NIH was conducting tests currently with capacity of 13,000 to 14,000, which would be enhanced to 30,000 tests per day in the next few days.

He said that presently 41 laboratories were conducting corona tests and the number of the laboratories would also be increased.

He said that the tests conducted by the NIH were of world-class standard and reports of the tests were delivered within 24 to 48 hours.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020