COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan
The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have reached Pakistan on 26 February 2020, when a student in Karachi tested positive upon returning from Iran. By 18 March, cases had been registered in all four provinces, the two autonomous territories, and the federal territory of Islamabad.
- I also call upon my Christian brethren who would want to come to churches on Friday and Sunday to avoid large gatherings. In the end, the Almighty will reward you for your intentions. If we can't go to a church, mosque or temple, we can pray or worship at home with our families, God shall hear us. We, the people of all faiths, should pray to God to save us from this plague.
- Cardinal Joseph Coutts of the Catholic Church, as quoted in "Virus-hit Pakistan province reaches out to Catholic community" by Zahid Hussain Khan, 17 March 2020, Union of Catholic Asian News
- Shocking news: Amid Covid-19 outbreak, Hindus of Karachi are denied food supplies.... This is against the basic Human Rights principle, minorities would die of hunger in Pakistan. PM Imran Khan is requested to ensure the well-being of Hindus and Sikhs during the crisis of Coronavirus.
- Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, as quoted in "Pakistan Denying Hindus Food Amid Coronavirus Outbreak? Sirsa Slams 'human Rights' Abuse", 30 March 2020, Republic World
- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is troubled by the reports of food aid being denied to Hindus and Christians amid the spread of COVID-19 in Pakistan. "These actions are simply reprehensible," stated USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava. "As COVID-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger and to keep their families safe and healthy. Food aid must not be denied because of one's faith. We urge the Pakistani government to ensure that food aid from distributing organizations is shared equally with Hindus, Christians, and other religions minorities." In Karachi, for example, there have been reports that the Saylani Welfare International Trust, a non-government organization established to assist the homeless and seasonal workers, has been refusing food assistance to Hindus and Christians, arguing that the aid is reserved for Muslims alone.
- United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), 14 April 2020, "USCIRF Troubled by Denial of Food Aid to Pakistani Hindus and Christians", quoted in "Denial of food to Hindus, Christians in Pakistan 'reprehensible': US government" by Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, The Economic Times
- The Pakistani government does not seem willing to shift its spending priorities despite the burgeoning COVID-19 challenges. Pakistan has emerged as one of the countries with the fastest rate of coronavirus infections in recent weeks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The country reported its first coronavirus case on February 26 and is now among the top 15 most-affected countries. More than 4,000 people have lost their lives to the disease in Pakistan since the beginning of the outbreak. Moreover, there is a significant shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators in the country. Despite all this, Islamabad allocated $7.85bn for defence and merely $151m for health in the budget for the financial year 2020-2021. This represents a 12 percent rise in Pakistan's defence spending compared with the last financial year. The single-line figure presented in the budget does not give a full picture of the amount actually being spent on defence either.
- DIRE. That’s the word the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan uses to describe the state of human rights in our country. Its annual report, released last week, makes for a distressing read, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. One wonders, given how widespread rights violations are, when this brutalised body politic will reach its breaking point. The PTI government has cited concerns of riots fuelled by starvation as a reason to impose light-touch lockdowns. But the HRCP’s report reminds us that the state's fear of its citizenry is rooted in a deeper knowledge of systemic fissures in our country; fissures produced by the disgraceful treatment of an underclass — including women, children, dissenters, religious minorities, labour, prisoners, and more — often by state institutions themselves.
- Our country's healthcare spending is less than one per cent of GDP, even though the WHO recommends 6pc. And only 4pc of Pakistani children receive a 'minimally acceptable diet'. These poor healthcare and nutrition standards expose the flaws of the prime minister's reasoning that our youthful demography will protect us against the worst of the pandemic; malnourishment can hardly boost immunity.
- In light of the pandemic, the plight of prisoners is particularly relevant. Pakistan's prisons are appallingly overcrowded, with an occupancy rate of 133.8pc. More than 62pc of this population comprises pre-trial detainees and those on remand. Jam-packed prisoners are more vulnerable to diseases, including hepatitis, HIV and now Covid-19.
- Only up to 3pc of Pakistan's labour force is unionised, and there are few opportunities for collective bargaining for fair wages or safe working conditions. [...] The disregard for labour rights will take on new dimensions during a pandemic, when workers should have ample rights to demand safe working conditions and job protection in the event of sickness.