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Pakistan has expressed deep concern over the discriminatory and anti-Muslim policies and practices of the RSS-inspired BJP government in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at her weekly media briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said that it is deeply disconcerting that the discriminatory and anti-Muslim policies and practices of the RSS-inspired BJP Government persist even as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds.

She said that a systematic campaign is unfortunately underway to demonize Muslims, who face increased exclusion as well as the threat of mob violence.

Farooqui said that the OIC in its recent statement expressed deep concern following the media accounts of rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia within political and media circles as well as on social media platforms, where Indian Muslim minority community is being blamed for the spread of the coronavirus in India.

She also expressed Pakistan's deep concerns at the increasing persecution of journalists in IOJ&K, including Masarrat Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq and renowned journalist and political commentator, Gowhar Geelani on concocted and baseless charges.

Farooqui said that for the last 263 days, the people of IoK are facing the continued oppression and communication blackout faced since India's illegal and unilateral action on 5 August 2019.

"It needs to be reminded once again, that IOJK is an internationally-disputed territory and any violations of international laws, killing, use of brute force, arresting people and blocking of communication services and internet constitutes violation of international law," she added.

Referring to the telephonic conversation between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, she said that the two leaders exchanged views on the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on global economy as well as discussed regional issues and ways to further strengthen cooperation between our two countries.

She said that the prime minister also thanked President Trump on the US support in the IMF and other multilateral fora that would assist Pakistan in mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to another question, she said that as per unofficial estimate a total of 138 Pakistanis or Pakistani origin people in different countries of the world have died due to Covid-19.

About the hardships of the overseas Pakistanis in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak, she said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistan's missions abroad continue to provide our overseas communities with relief and assistance wherever required.

In the past few days as part of the third phase of repatriation plan that commenced from 20-28 April, she said that 81 nationals were repatriated from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, this also included 31 Tablighi members.

From UAE, she said that 1,453 nationals have been repatriated through six flights on 20th April including 100 prisoners.

From Maldives, nine stranded Pakistani nationals were brought home safely on 22 April. So far, the total number of our nationals brought back home in the current third phase of the plan stands at 5,079, she added.

In the last few days, Farooqui added that 41 stranded Pakistanis were brought back from India through the Wagha border; 195 truck drivers came through Afghanistan on 17 April, as well as over 1,000 other stranded Pakistanis came home through the Pakistan Afghanistan border.

That brings a total of 1,254 nationals that came home through our land borders in the last few days, she added.

To a question, Farooqui said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his recent telephonic conversation with Hanif Atmar, Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan discussed a number of issues including the APAPPS.

The dates are for the APAPPS next meeting are being worked out, she added.

Farooqui further said that the foreign minister also raised the matter of handing over Daesh leader Farooqi.

"We hope the two sides coordinate actions against the menace of terrorism, including through established mechanism," she added.

To another query, Farooqui said that Pakistan participated in video conference organized on 15 March 2020 as a gesture of solidarity with other SAARC member states and commitment to SAARC, which provides important platform for regional cooperation. Pakistan also participated in an expert level meeting on 26 March 2020, she said.

However, she added that Pakistan did not attend trade officials' meeting on 8 April 2020 as SAARC Secretariat was not part of the same.

"Pakistan by utilizing the SAARC platform hosted a video conference of health ministers of SAARC member states on 23 April 2020, where we proposed cooperation in multiple areas to control the pandemic," she said.

Farooqui pointed out that Pakistan has also pledged $3 million to SAARC COVID-19 Fund, while conveying that funds be administered by SAARC Secretariat.

Being a founding member, she added that Pakistan considers SAARC an important platform for regional cooperation.

"Pakistan remains committed to the SAARC process and will continue working with the member states to strengthen regional cooperation," she added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020