Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Survey Finds Overwhelming Majority in Pakistan Satisfied With Imran Khan's Handling of Coronavirus Crisis

An overwhelming 81% majority of Pakistanis are satisfied with Federal Government performance in responding to coronavirus pandemic, way up from 61% who expressed satisfaction in March, according to a recent Gallup Pakistan survey. These numbers reflect Pakistan's much flatter disease curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has also launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners. Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.

Bilal Gilani of Gallup Pakistan tweeted his reaction to the poll result in the following words: "These are very unusual numbers ! But not without parallels from around the world. Crisis brings good in govt and ppls expectations set changes!"

The unprecedented crisis has indeed brought out the best in Prime Minister Imran Khan's government. After some initial criticism about the slow response to the pandemic back in March, the government in Islamabad has acted quickly to deal with it. Here are some of the key actions by Prime Minister Imran Khan in March and April:

1. Nation-wide lockdown ordered to slow the spread of the disease in Pakistan. The lockdown was started by the Sindh government where the cases began to spike after the return of hundreds of Pakistani Shia pilgrims from Iran, a known COVID hotspot.  The lockdown has resulted in flattening the curve of the disease and reduced load on the developing nation's weak healthcare system.

Gallup Pakistan Coronavirus Survey
2. Prime Minister Imran Khan launched an $8 billion economic stimulus package, including funds for low-income families to be disbursed through $75 grants.
Comparison of COVID19 Cases in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

3. All international flights into and out of the country were stopped and all passengers  who arrived before the ban went into effect were checked and those with symptoms quarantined.  This action stranded thousands of foreigners in Pakistan and several thousand Pakistanis overseas. Some flights have since been allowed to help those stranded.

4. All passenger train service was halted in Pakistan. Pakistan Railways operates 142 trains daily on its 1,885-km-long tracks to ferry some 700 million passengers every year. Coronavirus fears had already reduced ridership.

COVID19 Deaths in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

5. The launch of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program at the end of March to hand out Rs. 12,000 each to 12 million families (an estimated 67 million people) whose livelihood has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic or its aftermath. This came after Prime Minister Imran Khan told reporters that  “we don’t want to try and save people from corona but they end up dying due to hunger and poverty".

6. Prime Minister Imran Khan granted exemption from lockdown to a few select activities, the area of forestry among them. These exemptions are subject to safe practices described in Stabdard Operating Procedures (SOPs) described by the government. Many workers idled by the coronavirus lockdown have been hired to plant millions trees as part of the Prime Minister's "10 Billion Tree Tsunami" program to deal with climate change. This is being described as "Green Stimulus".

7. Ramping up of tests and availability of  personal protection equipment (PPE), including masks and protective suits for the healthcare workers. Critics in Pakistan argue that more needs to be done to dramatically increase testing and reduce PPE shortages. This criticism is no different from that seen in other countries, including highly developed nations the United States and the United Kingdom.

Clearly, the results show that Pakistan's actions have slowed down the spread of disease caused by coronavirus in the country. The effect can be seen in Pakistan's much flatter curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners.  Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.  It is these results that have produced overwhelming approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Let's hope the government in Pakistan will handle the aftermath of the crisis even better.

Here's a World Economic Forum video of Pakistan's tree-planting campaign during the pandemic:

Related Links:


Shams N. said...

Approve of Imran? WTF!

Suhail H. said...

This would be the correct representation. Going by the worldwide information on Corona, Pakistan's handling is much more effective than most, particularly America, Europe and the Middle East, while trailing only to the Asian chapta countries, such as China, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam etc. This is despite the fact that we have the stupidest of all muslim populations and most exploitative of the religious clergy. While banned elsewhere, Pakistanis are carrying on zealously with Jumma prayers, bajamaat prayers in mosques, tarawihs, tablighi gatherings etc etc. Had Pakistanis got the sense to stay away from these totally dispensable activities, haraam as per fatwas elsewhere in the muslim world, the situation would have been even better. With continuing Ramazan zeal, the outbreak can spread fast any time.

Iftekhar H. said...

Imran Khan is also handling the radical religious leaders very well. For a leader to be successful he must also
be practicing Muslim and that surely is IK.

His international reputation is also very good as compared to Modi of India,

Riaz Haq said...

#UK #Coronavirus #mortality data shows Black people 4 times, #Indian men 1.4 times, #Bangladeshi and #Pakistani males 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males. #SouthAsia #Caribbean

Black people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, according to stark official figures exposing a dramatic divergence in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in England and Wales.

The Office of National Statistics found that the difference in the virus’s impact was caused not only by pre-existing differences in communities’ wealth, health, education and living arrangements.

It discovered that after taking into account age, measures of self-reported health and disability and other socio-demographic characteristics, black people were still almost twice as likely as white people to die a Covid-19-related death.

Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males, after other pre-existing factors had been accounted for, and females from those ethnic groups were 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts.

The risk of Covid-19 death for people from Chinese and mixed ethnic groups was found to be similar to that for white people.

“These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in Covid-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,” the ONS said.

Guardian research last month confirmed suspicions that minority groups faced the greatest risk from the coronavirus and showed that areas with high ethnic minority populations in England and Wales tended to have higher mortality rates in the pandemic.

Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, described the findings as alarming. “We cannot ignore how important racial discrimination and racial inequalities, for example, in housing, are, even among poorer socio-economic groups,” she said. “These factors are important but are not taken into account in most statistical modelling of Covid-19 risk factors.”

While only 2% of white British households experienced overcrowding from 2014 to 2017, 30% of Bangladeshi households, 16% of Pakistani households and 12% of black households experienced this, according to a study of the English Housing Survey.

These groups are more likely to work in frontline roles in the NHS in England: nearly 21% of staff are from ethnic minorities, compared with about 14% of the population of England and Wales. Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations have been shown to face higher levels of unemployment and child poverty than white groups.

Helen Barnard, the acting director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the findings were “a stark reminder that although we are all weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same boat”.

Riaz Haq said...

$900 million in #COVID19 cash payments to protect #Pakistan's poor. Vouchers generated up to $1.50 of indirect market benefits for each $1; and unconditional cash transfer program generated over $2 of indirect market benefits for each $1. #Ehsaas via @wef

A cash payment programme will provide financial support to over 80 million people in Pakistan during the coronavirus crisis.
Unconditional cash transfers have been found to be effective and efficient ways to provide humanitarian assistance.
Initial reports indicate that the cash has provided some security to these vulnerable families.
With a population of over 210 million, Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world. With nearly one third of the population subsisting from daily and piece-rate wages, the COVID-19 response has necessitated an urgent and immediate strategy to protect those living in extreme poverty.

For this reason, at the same time as our government launched its efforts to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it also allocated $900 million to deliver emergency cash to the extremely poor. This programme is administered through Ehsaas, the federal government’s new poverty alleviation programme, in partnership with all the federating units of Pakistan – provinces and territories.

The programme delivers one-time financial assistance to the 12 million families, which given the household size in Pakistan, represents over 80 million people in the country. Each eligible family receives approximately $75, which is enough to provide subsistence nutrition for four months. Within two weeks of launch, the programme has already reached 7 million of the nation’s poorest people, representing the largest and most extensive social protection intervention in the history of the country.

The system is simple to access and employs a “rule-based” analytic system to determine eligibility. Those individuals and families wishing to benefit from an emergency cash grant were asked to send an SMS with their identity card number to a special call line. This ID number – linked to the National Socioeconomic Database, the National Database Registration Authority, and also used for travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership, government employment status, amongst other things – is used to ascertain poverty and wealth status. Those meeting pre-determined eligibility criteria receive a confirmatory SMS. Payments are conducted through two commercial banks that competed through a tender process in 2019 to service Ehsaas’ biometrically-enabled cash transfer programmes. Both banks have branchless banking retail agents in small shops. The ATM machines used also have a biometric verification system. In the majority of the cases to date, cash has been delivered to the women in the family.

Ehsaas Emergency Cash disbursement presented unprecedented challenges, in terms of its scale, the needed speed of deployment, and the milieu in which disbursement was to happen. The government was in lockdown, markets where retailers operated were closed, and bank staff were meant to work from home.

With lockdowns in effect and physical distancing measures mandatory, there were concerns about the spread of COVID-19, given the fact that people would have to queue for disbursement and use biometric identification (fingerprints on machines). Other concerns included the availability of liquidity, connectivity (as thumb impressions are verified in real-time by banks), cybersecurity, limitations of data-driven messaging (such as authorizing payment to someone who is deceased, if records are not updated), and the potential for overloading helpline numbers.

For the beneficiary there were concerns that they might be victims of crime leaving the point of service with cash. There were also concerns regarding low levels of financial and digital literacy, and that people might need transportation in some cities to reach a payment site, while intercity transport is shut down.

Riaz Haq said...

#COVID19 has hurt India the most among the world’s top 10 economies. #Indian #manufacturing/services sectors saw the sharpest decline among top 10 #economies #India's #PMI for #services was 5.4 last month. Purchasing index below 50 means contraction. #Modi

In April 2020, India’s manufacturing and services sectors recorded the sharpest contraction among the world’s top 10 economies.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for services, a popular reading released by London-based IHS Markit, stood at 5.4 last month, down from 49.3 in March. A PMI reading below 50 means contraction.

The steep drop in services activity, which accounts for 52% of India’s GDP, is particularly worrying.

“Historical comparisons with GDP data suggest that India’s economy contracted at an annual rate of 15% in April. It is clear that the economic damage of the Covid-19 pandemic has so far been deep and far-reaching in India,” said Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit.

India is under a stringent lockdown to tackle the outbreak. Almost all services, with few exceptions like banking and post, have been curtailed.

The composite PMI Index, which combines services and manufacturing activities, dropped to a record low of 7.2 in April, compared with 50.6 in March.

The survey found record contractions in output, new orders, and a drop in employment in the manufacturing sector. Also, “there was evidence of unprecedented supply-side disruption, with input delivery times lengthening to the greatest extent since data collection began in March 2005,” according to Hayes.

Riaz Haq said...

What is the best way for #Pakistan to reopen its #economy after #coronavirus #lockdown? Which sectors are low-risk? Outdoor activities in #Agriculture & #Construction sectors? #Retail with curbside pickup? Des Pardes with Faraz Dervesh | via @YouTube

Riaz Haq said...

With hunters in #COVID19 #lockdown, there's a boon for migratory birds in #Pakistan. Millions of migratory birds from Siberia coming to #Pakistan and enjoying warm waters. #migratorybirds #coronavirus #wildlife

The abrupt silence caused by restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus may have hit economies hard, leaving people jobless, but it has come as a boon for migratory birds, especially in Pakistan.

With hunters and those dealing engaging in the sale of exotic birds have been forced to stay at home, migratory birds are making hay in Pakistan’s warm waters. To avoid a stinging winter of Siberia, every year millions of birds travel large distances to stay in warm Indian waters.

But on their way back from March-April, while overflying and taking rest in Pakistan they become easy targets of hunters and bird traders.

"Thousands of migratory birds are not only hunted but also caged for sale during this period every year. The ongoing lockdown has helped them return to their homeland safely," said Muhammad Moazzam Khan, the technical adviser of the Pakistan-chapter of World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Pakistan has been under lockdown since March and will continue until May 9 as the country has reported 22,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 526 deaths so far, according to data compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

"Returning to home was equally risky for the migratory birds. Thousands of them would fall prey to hunters, and poachers during migration, during their repatriation," Khan told Anadolu Agency.

The country’s southern Sindh province, which hosts a majority of migratory birds has reported a significant decrease in hunting compared to the last year.

"The ongoing shutdown has provided relief to the overall wildlife. It has also saved thousands of migratory birds, including endangered species, which otherwise are hunted during the process of back-migration," Javed Mahar the chief conservator of wildlife department told Anadolu Agency.

Every year over one million birds migrate from Siberia covering a grueling distance of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) in search of moderate waters. Although their ultimate destination is in India, they make stopovers at various lakes and water reservoirs in Pakistan, mainly in Sindh province.

A hunting ground for Arab sheikhs

These birds include houbara bustards, cranes, teals, pintails, mallards, geese, spoonbills, waders, and pelicans.

The sprawling deserts of Thar and Cholistan are the favorite hunting grounds for the Arab hunters. Some argue the hunting safaris of wealthy Arab sheikhs create jobs and help improve the local infrastructure.

Climate change and the uncontrolled hunting of several rare species have forced the migratory birds -- also known as guest birds -- to look for other peaceful sites in South Asia in recent years, say environmentalists.

The unchecked exercise has endangered several rare species, mainly the houbara bustard, which is constantly being hunted by Arab royals despite opposition from both environmentalists and locals.

The prolonged lockdown has also halted the illegal wildlife trade in the country, at least for now.

"Almost all the legal and illegal pet markets across the country are closed following the suspension of road, and air links, which has contained the wildlife trafficking," Shabina Faraz, a Karachi-based expert, who frequently writes on environment and wildlife, said while speaking to Anadolu Agency.

Even the business of amateur poachers, who would cage birds like house sparrow and parrots, for the roadside sale, has dried up because of restrictions on public movement.

Many in Pakistan buy and set free these caged birds considering it an act of benevolence or to cast away evil.

Fresh lease of life to wildlife

Another species trafficked from Pakistan include freshwater and marine turtles, tortoises, raptors particularly falcons, pangolins, snakes, and other reptiles.

Riaz Haq said...

#Asia’s Lesson for Corralling Coronavirus? ‘Act Fast’. Western #Europe & #US have 75% of 3.7 million #COVID19 cases. #Asia has about a third of the world’s population but just one of every 15 infections. #coronavirus #pandemic


Western Europe and the U.S. represent around three-quarters of the 3.7 million confirmed cases. East Asia, where the virus first emerged, and Southeast Asia—together accounting for about a third of the world’s population—represent just roughly one of every 15 infections, though some Asian nations have tested only a fraction of their populations.

Hong Kong this week cleared 14 days without any local infections, while Taiwan recently hit three weeks without a domestic case. South Korea, one of the hardest-hit countries early on, relaxed social-distancing measures Wednesday, after ending the month of April with fewer new infections than its one-day peak of 909 cases. Thailand and Vietnam have evaded major outbreaks.

Even in Singapore and Japan, where clusters unexpectedly formed last month, the problem hasn’t spiraled out of control or roared across the population, in large part because of rehearsed responses tracking the disease and a voluntary drop in mobility by citizens.

China appears to have contained the coronavirus, with six confirmed infections since Sunday, though its apparent success required more draconian steps, including one of the biggest mass quarantines in human history.

All these places face the risk of further waves of infections, especially as countries relax quarantines and open up to more activity. Some countries in the region, such as Indonesia, still see caseloads climbing.

Many Asian nations share characteristics that experts say may have helped them fare relatively well up to now, including a tendency to react more quickly at the earliest sign of disease danger, with broader popular support for social-control measures.

“Act fast. That’s the biggest lesson,” said Guy Thwaites, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam.

The precise steps taken by Asian nations vary widely. Some relied on lockdowns or contact-tracing tactics involving surveillance that would be unpalatable in some Western nations. Others prioritized testing and quarantines.

But most had centralized contingency plans in place well before the pandemic, and residents who knew the drill, from past encounters with diseases such as bird flu, H1N1 influenza and SARS.

The day Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, criticized for a slow response, declared a nationwide state of emergency on April 16, many residents had already been wearing face masks for weeks. Protests against government restrictions on public behavior, like ones now seen in some U.S. states, have been less common in Asia.

Being close to China may have also provided an unexpected advantage. Given their proximity to the pandemic’s original outbreak, many Asian nations were inclined to move faster to shut down flights from China, limiting some spread. Other countries blocked Asian travelers, reducing the likelihood a citizen contracted the virus elsewhere and then brought it back home.

South Korea’s rapid response was enhanced by lessons from a deadly outbreak five years ago of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, that left it unprepared. When cases snowballed in mid-February, the government was able to unroll a system to produce mass tests, separate the seriously ill from those with mild symptoms and share information that sounded the alarm.

The country’s response relied on citizens like 23-year-old Kim Su-min, who heeded the call to stay indoors in part because she worried her whereabouts would be made public as part of the government’s aggressive contact-tracing program. She stopped meeting friends altogether, largely remaining inside her Seoul home.

Riaz Haq said...

The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor
Zachary Barnett-Howell∗ Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak†

Social distancing is the primary policy prescription for combating the COVID-19 pandemic,
and has been widely adopted in Europe and North America. We estimate the value of disease
avoidance using an epidemiological model that projects the spread of COVID-19 across rich and
poor countries. Social distancing measures that “flatten the curve" of the disease to bring demand within the capacity of healthcare systems are predicted to save many lives in high-income
countries, such that practically any economic cost is worth bearing. These social distancing
policies are estimated to be less effective in poor countries with younger populations less susceptible to COVID-19, and more limited healthcare systems, which were overwhelmed before
the pandemic. Moreover, social distancing lowers disease risk by limiting people’s economic
opportunities. Poorer people are less willing to make those economic sacrifices. They place
relatively greater value on their livelihood concerns compared to contracting COVID-19. Not
only are the epidemiological and economic benefits of social distancing much smaller in poorer
countries, such policies may exact a heavy toll on the poorest and most vulnerable. Workers in
the informal sector lack the resources and social protections to isolate themselves and sacrifice
economic opportunities until the virus passes. By limiting their ability to earn a living, social
distancing can lead to an increase in hunger, deprivation, and related mortality and morbidity.
Rather than a blanket adoption of social distancing measures, we advocate for the exploration of
alternative harm-reduction strategies, including universal mask adoption and increased hygiene


The cost of leaving COVID-19 uncontrolled in the United States is
unambiguously large. This is due to higher predicted mortality rates in the United States relative to
other countries and the higher base VSL. In comparison to U.S. losses, the dollar costs of uncontrolled
COVID-19 in large countries such as Pakistan or Nigeria look minuscule. The more relevant question
for any country-specific policy is the total cost of COVID-19 mortality under each scenario relative
to that country’s own GDP.


Although the value of intervention is more comparable by this metric, without mitigation efforts
COVID-19 still imposes a large welfare cost—above 130% of GDP in rich countries like the United
States and Japan. In contrast, in the unmitigated scenario the losses in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan,
Nigeria, Nepal are about 50-60% of their own annual GDP. T

Riaz Haq said...

Lives not worth saving

By Khurram Husain

The study in question is called The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor Countries, and it is authored by Zachary Barnett-Howell and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, both highly credentialled and published economists at Yale. It begins by asking whether “shuttering the economy for weeks or months and mass unemployment are reasonable costs to pay?” in return for “flattening the curve” of Covid-19 cases. In order to answer their own question, the authors have to first render both the costs and benefits of a lockdown into a comparable unit. The economic costs are measured in dollars, whereas the health benefits of a lockdown are measured in lives saved. So the question arises: how to compare these two quantities — lives and money — with each other?


To do so, the authors deploy a widely used model in the economics literature called the Value of Statistical Life model. What VSL does, quite literally, is tell us the dollar value of human life in different contexts. It was used originally in more limited contexts to help policymakers with complex judgements in cases where a particular policy imposed an economic cost in return for a vague health benefit. One example might be setting air quality standards.

But with the passage of time, the VSL model began to be used in contexts far more complicated and more pressing than any in the past. One example is climate change, where a number of economists from prestigious universities have used the model to argue that the benefits from the mitigation efforts to curb carbon emissions that scientists are calling for are not worth the economic costs that they will impose. Simply put, they argued that the likelihood of climate change turning out to be a catastrophic event was small, and making massive investments in foregone output today to avert an event that was probabilistically miniscule was not worth the cost.

The VSL at stake did not justify the massive investments required to curb greenhouse gas emissions to a two per cent increase by century end. This debate was sparked in 2006 when the Stern Review, put out by the eminent UK economist and public servant Nicholas Stern, argued that such an investment was now a matter of existential importance for mankind to make. Those who opposed him either took issue with his projections of the economic losses that climate change would impose, or invoked the VSL model to argue that the foregone economic output was larger than what was purportedly being saved.

It took 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to cut through the Gordian technicalities into which the ensuing conversation fell. “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she exclaimed in her famous address to the UN in September 2019. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Today, the economists are back, armed with their VSL model, telling us that the dollar value of the lives saved as a result of the lockdown are worth less than the foregone output in developing countries, and they specifically mention Pakistan as one example.

For the US, for example, they say 1.76 million lives will be saved through aggressive interventions, and put the total value of these lives at $7.9 trillion. This easily justifies a $2tr stimulus along with whatever economic losses result from a closure of the economy.

Riaz Haq said...

BASED on the remarks of two key officials at the helm of pandemic control in the country, it appears that the federal government is pursuing an unannounced policy of ‘herd immunity’.

The first indication of this came from SAPM Dr Zafar Mirza, who in an interview with DawnNews earlier this week conceded that “it will be better for the future if coronavirus spreads at a certain level so people can become immune”.

The second, albeit less categorical, message came from federal minister and NCOC chair Asad Umar during a talk show. Although he said it is not a policy decision, he justified it by saying that the logical conclusion of the pandemic is either a vaccine or a situation where 70pc of the population contracts the virus and achieves herd immunity. That these remarks have come as the government prepares to ease lockdown restrictions — despite the spike in death and infection curves — is extremely troubling.

Riaz Haq said...

The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and Poor
Zachary Barnett-Howell∗ Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak†

The prediction of significantly lower incidence of COVID-19 deaths in poor countries is primarily
based on the younger average age of their population. The model accounts for the fact that poor
countries have fewer hospital beds and lower ICU capacity, and will be entirely unable to meet
peak demand. The lower marginal benefits of implementing suppression policies in poor countries
arises from the fact that by the time suppression is triggered, the model predicts that COVID-19
will have already spread significantly, overwhelming countries with low healthcare capacity. Older
people in low-income countries are also more likely to become infected by COVID-19 as they have
higher contact with other individuals inside and outside the household, but the large demographic
differences between rich and poor countries outweighs this factor.
The model, however, does not presently account for the higher burden of infectious diseases and
chronic illness in low-income countries, particularly in children, basing its estimate of healthcare
demand and overall mortality on data from China. This could lead to an under-estimate of mortality
in low-income countries (Walker et al., 2020). On the other hand, the model presumes equally
effective implementation of mitigation or suppression policies in poor and rich countries. Recent
experience in India with the large and slow exodus of migrant workers from cities following lockdown suggests that suppression policies imperfectly implemented in low-capacity settings may have
counter-productive effects on containing COVID-19.

1.3 Differences in the Economic Value of Interventions in Rich and Poor Countries
The COVID-19 mitigation strategies considered in our model are all based on reducing contact
rates. However, lower contact comes at the cost of reduced economic activity and lower earnings.
We measure the economic value of avoided mortality from mitigation policies in each country using
Viscusi and Masterman (2017)’s country-specific value of statistical life (VSL) estimates. The VSL
is based on how people trade off the risk of harm and economic reward. Individuals face mortality

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's #Pharmaceutical Firm Ferozsons partners with #Gilead Sciences to manufacture for domestic use and export #Remdesivir to treat #COVIDー19 in . #coronavirus via @Profitpk

The Ferozsons Laboratories Limited has announced that its subsidiary Biosciences Limited (BFBL) is in negotiations to enter into a non-exclusive license agreement with Gilead Sciences, Inc for the manufacture and sale of remdesivir to supply Pakistan and 126 other countries under Gilead’s Global Patient Solutions Programme serving the developing world, informed the company in a statement to the Pakistan Stock Exchange on Monday.

There is no obligation at this time for any party to execute any transaction, the statement added.

“Remdesivir has been granted emergency use authorisation (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 disease. The optimal duration of treatment is still being studied in ongoing clinical trials. Under the EUA, both 5-day and 10-day treatment durations are suggested, based on the severity of disease.

If an agreement is executed by Gilead and BFBL, once production starts, the company believes it will have sufficient quantities over time to serve the needs of the patients in Pakistan. However, at the moment, the management is uncertain as to the timelines for first launch as an agreement remains to be executed, and thereafter local regulatory approvals and sourcing of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for manufacturing remdesivir may take some time.

The BFBL management is actively taking up the matter with the relevant stakeholders so that remdesivir is made available to patients in Pakistan on an urgent basis”, the statement added.

Riaz Haq said...

#Lockdown-Free #Sweden Had It Right, Says World Health Organization. Dr. Giesecke speaks out against draconic measures, which so far are not evidence-based. #WHO #ProtectTheVulnerable #HerdImmunity #COVID19 #coronavirus from @aier

The world has watched in amazement as Sweden eschewed draconian lockdowns and instead trusted its citizens to manage this virus for themselves. Now the head of the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization, epidemiologist Michael J. Ryan, M.D., has praised the approach: Sweden “relied on the relationship with the citizens, and on the citizens’ ability and willingness to implement physical distancing and self-regulation… I believe that if we are to reach a new normal situation, Sweden can in many ways represent a model for the future.”


Dr. Giesecke speaks out against draconic measures, which so far are not evidence-based, elaborating on how the Swedes have done things differently and how they could have done even better.

Q: There’s been a lot of confused thinking and a lot of confusion about what the correct response to a threat such as COVID-19 and should be – and I just wanted to begin by getting your, kind of summary, thoughts of – of you know, how Sweden is differing from other countries and why you think that is.

A: The main reason is that we, or the Swedish government, decided early in January that the measures we should take against the pandemic should be evidence-based. And when you start looking around for the measures that are being taken now by different countries you find that very few of them have the shred of evidence base. But one we know, that’s known for a hundred and fifty years or more, and that is washing your hands is good for you and good for others when you’re in an epidemic. But the rest – like border closures, school closures, social distancing – there’s almost no science behind most of these.

Q: So what is the current policy in Sweden? Social distancing is part of the policy, isn’t it? What is the regime that Sweden has gone with?

A: The main difference to other countries is that there is no – you’re not locked up in your home. If you go out to buy food, or groceries, or drugs – I mean medicines – there’s no police to stop you in the street and ask you what you’re doing here. That’s one thing. People are asked to stay inside, but there is no reinforcement or enforcement of that. People do it anyway. So that’s one. We have the rule that the crowd cannot be bigger than 50 people.

Q: So I can still have an event for 49 people? (Although I won’t.)

A: Yes, you could. The schools – the upper schools are closed; secondary education and universities closed; schools up to age 15, 16 schools are open. What more do we have? Don’t – the nursing homes, or houses for old people, are closed to visitors.

Q: So it sounds like it’s a moderate social distancing regime then, at the moment?

A: Yes, it is. Sorry it’s very similar to the one that the UK had before there was a famous paper in – by – the Imperial College, by the modelers who made models for infectious diseases that came out on the day after you made a u-turn in England.

Q: Yes, tell us the original strategy in the UK and became known as a kind of herd immunity strategy, that’s what it was called. Before we get on to talk about the Imperial model – which I would like to talk about – is it correct to call it herd immunity and, and is that the Swedish strategy?

A: It’s not a strategy, but it’s a by-product of the strategy. But the strategy is to protect the old and the frail; try to minimize their risk of becoming infected, and taking care of them if they get infected. If you do that – the way we’re doing it – you would probably get herd immunity and then – but that’s a byproduct order, it’s not the main reason to do it.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: #COVID19 drug production to start "within weeks," says CEO of Ferozsons Ltd, which will produce the drug. Pakistan will be among the first 3 countries in the world to produce #remdesevir for domestic use & export to 127 nations. #pharmaceutical

Pakistan will soon start production of the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has shown promise in treating the novel coronavirus, the country's top health official and a pharmaceutical company's chief executive announced on Friday.

Production should start "within weeks," said Osman Khalid Waheed, the chief executive of Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd, which will produce the drug. He spoke at a news conference alongside Pakistan's de facto health minister, Zafar Mirza.

"Pakistan will be among the first three countries in the world where it will not only be produced but will also be exported to the whole world," Mirza said. It will be exported to 127 countries, he said.

Remdesivir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences, has grabbed attention as one of the most promising treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 300,000 people.

To expand its access, Gilead said it signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.

"It is a commitment by us and Gilead that this medicine could be produced at minimum cost and make it most accessible," Waheed said.

Pakistan has recorded 37,218 COVID-19 cases and 803 deaths. Lockdowns to curb the disease's spread are forecast to will cause the country's economy to shrink 1% to 1.5% in 2020.

Despite a rising rate of infection, Pakistan began lifting those lockdowns last week, primarily to avert an economic meltdown.

Riaz Haq said...

Cash-strapped #India's stimulus unlikely to soften #coronavirus blow. Actual spending announced by #Modi is only about a tenth of the package. It is not enough of a boost to prevent a likely 5% contraction in #GDP. Business leaders are unimpressed by it

India's $266 billion economic rescue package rests mostly on boosting company credit but contains scant new public spending, tax breaks or cash support to revive demand and prevent firms from collapsing, business leaders and economists say.

Businesses from airlines to small stores are reeling from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nearly two-month lockdown of India's 1.3 billion people aimed at limiting the spread of the new coronavirus. Many firms say they won't survive unless they are b ..

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #MigrantCrisis: The ugly face of #Indian #MiddleClass. #Modi and the States act like #migrants are sub-human. They are accorded no dignity and treated with contempt as die walking long distances to their villages.

Vir Sanghvi
Hindustan Times, Delhi

As of this writing, I have no clue when the lockdown will finally end. The economy is in trouble. The government’s estimates of when we would flatten the Covid curve have been shattered --- we should have turned things around by the middle of May—but the number of infections keeps rising.

And yet, we are not doing so badly. Our mortality rate is low compared to many advanced countries. All governments (States and Centre) have done their best and we must remember that we are much better off than say the UK or the US.

My learnings from the Pandemic have not been about the disease (scientists are still figuring out how Covid functions) but about us as a people. Here are some of them.

Migrants: Does the urban middle class realise how much cities depend on migrants from the villages of India? I don’t think many of us had any idea till the exodus began in the early days of the lockdown.

Clearly the Centre had no clue how much of an issue migrant labour would become. Nobody announces a complete lockdown with just four hours notice, if the migrant issue has been factored in before taking the decision. So did the government not know? Or did it just not care?

Even when we finally came to terms with the dimension of the migrant tragedy, too few of us showed any empathy. The sight of migrants walking home, on the road for hundreds of miles, each with his or her possessions in one little bag should have left a nation heartbroken.

Instead the horrors piled up. The returning migrants were lathi charged. They were told they could not go home. They were denied transport. They were rounded up like cattle and sprayed with poisonous bleach.Dead bodies of migrants were piled on blocks of ice in open trucks . When the ice melted, the corpses rotted.

Even now, the Centre and the States act like migrants are sub-human. They are accorded no dignity and treated with contempt. Some people say that this is because migrants are not in their villages at election time and are not registered voters in the cities where they work.

No idea if this true. But it would explain a lot.

Domestic Help: The ugly side of the urban middle class is the one that domestic staff see. We are happy making domestic help work in our homes but at the slightest sign of adversity, we say “they are just servants” and treat them like dirt.

I have lost count of the number of colonies and housing societies that refused to let servants in on the grounds that they were poor, so they must be dirty, so they must be carriers of Covid. Many of their employers promptly turned their backs on them and refused to pay their salaries.

RWAs: The villains of the piece, at least when it came to domestic staff and other matters, were the Residents Welfare Associations. These are bodies that often do good work (my RWA has done some commendable things) but which, all too often, fall into the hands of little Hitlers.

Most of us are too busy earning a living to take much interest in RWA elections but these can sometimes rival Lok Sabha elections in their ferocity and viciousness. Nearly always, the winners are people with nothing else to do who treat their colonies as empires and run them like mini-Neros.

Riaz Haq said...

Dr Wajiha Javed May 24, 2020

So far, a total of 2,174 people, across various industries’ head offices, banks, restaurants and hospitals, have been screened by Getz Pharma, including all of its own workers. The total positive cases were 8.6% in the general population. Most of these were ongoing infections at 7%, and only 1.5% had recovered.
In the high-risk frontline hospital workers, the seroprevalence of Covid-19 was assessed to be 11% (Getz Pharma plans to test 25,000 doctors and their families free of cost on a rolling basis). Families of positives contacts were also traced and their seroprevalence was found out to be 19%, making our secondary household attack rate at 19%, which is similar to what was found in studies in China, Taiwan and Spain.

Based on the study findings and keeping in view its target age group (18-65 years), the urban setting and a sample revolving around office/factory workers, the following conclusions can be drawn:

The 8% prevalence can be extrapolated to the 1 million registered working population of Karachi, meaning at least 80,000 infected cases in Karachi alone, with 70,000 being currently infected, unaware and spreading infection to those around them. If the assumptions hold true for the rest of Pakistan, of its 61.7 million registered workers, at least 4.9 million could already be exposed and infected.


The writer is an epidemiologist and head of public health and research at Getz Pharma


After Karachi's 8% positive covid infection shown by Getz study we have 6% positive Lahore infection proven through random testing of covid

Confirms the hypothesis to a large extent that virus spread in general population in Urban Pakistan adult population is around 5 million !

Riaz Haq said...

#UN #SDGs: #Pakistan has achieved ‘Climate Action’ goal 10 years ahead of the deadline, a recognition of Pakistan’s commitment to fighting #climatechange, but also an endorsement of the success of #ImranKhan govt's initiatives. #ClimateAction #PTI |

According to the Sustainable Development Report 2020, an annual global assessment of countries’ progress towards achieving the United Nations led Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Pakistan has achieved the ‘Climate Action’ SDG ten years ahead of the deadline. This is not only a recognition of Pakistan’s renewed commitment to fighting climate change, but also an endorsement of the success of numerous environmental protection initiatives launched by the government.

Traditionally, climate change has not been a key agenda item in Pakistan’s public discourse which over time has resulted in a gross underestimation of the gravity of the situation. Therefore, it is important to begin by recognising that climate change is a very real threat to Pakistan’s long-term prosperity and survival. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan was the 5th most affected country by the impact of climate change during the twenty-year period from 1999-2018. The Index used a weighted score, based on climate change mediated death toll and loss to the economy (in purchasing power parity terms), to calculate a Climate Risk Index (CRI) score which was then used to rank countries.

With rising Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and a dwindling forest cover, Pakistan’s annual mean temperature is estimated to rise by three to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Already, cities such as Turbat and Nawabshah are witnessing record high temperatures, confirming the worst fears of climate change scientists. The rising temperatures will over time result in rapid melting of the glaciers that feed Pakistan’s rivers, as well as in a projected 60 cm rise in the sea level by the year 2100. Coupled with a high variability in precipitation, these changes are expected to lead to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical storms, jeopardising Pakistan’s agriculture, economy, water and food security, as well as the health of the country’s inhabitants.

Despite the seriousness of the threat, Pakistan’s fight against climate change did not really take off until 2013. The origins of the new-found fervor can be traced back to the Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP), popularly known as Billion Tree Tsunami. Through BTAP, over a five-year period the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa restored 350,000 hectares of forestland employing a combination of natural regeneration and planned afforestation. As a result, the province’s forest cover increased by about five per cent and half a million green jobs were created. The initiative received global acclaim after a third-party audit by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) confirmed nearly 85% average survival of the plantations. It exceeded the province’s Bonn Challenge commitment and was hailed as a “true conservation success story” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Not only did the successful execution of BTAP make climate change a significant issue of public interest in Pakistan, it also served to put the country on the map in the global fight against climate change.

Since 2018, Pakistan’s fight against climate change has picked up further pace. There has been a discernible shift in the government’s priorities with the emergence of an overarching “Green Growth Agenda” that has informed several initiatives across the country. With an aim to replicate the success of BTAP on a national level, ...

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan PM #ImranKhan is the ninth most followed leader on Twitter, according to a study by Twiplomacy. The data shows a growth of 22% in the following of PM Khan on Twitter in recent weeks. #COVID19

The recent popularity study shows Prime Minister Imran Khan has become the ninth most followed world leader on microblogging site Twitter. A study by Twiplomacy revealed the date on Tuesday. The data shows a growth of 22% in the following of PM Khan on Twitter

A surge in the incumbent PM’s popularity
Hence, the expansion in the following of Imran Khan on Twitter marks a surge in his popularity. But does it also implies for the success of his policies in the fight against COVID-19?

Meanwhile, the study also shows Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is the second most followed foreign minister across the world. Shah Mehmood Qureshi registered a 23% growth in his followers on Twitter that has now reached up to 3.1 million.

Communication agency, Burson Cohn and Wolfe Worldwide conducted the study. The study analyzed the activity of world leaders during the pandemic coronavirus. It reviews the tweets from their accounts during the coronavirus, their followers, content, reaches, and other factors.

Popularity of world leaders as per Twitter stats

The study concluded US President Donald Trump the most followed world leader on Twitter. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ranked second in the list. Meanwhile, Pope Francis landed on the third spot.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was ranked seventh in the list with 17% growth in the following. Turkish President Erdogan now records 16.1 million followers on Twitter.

Riaz Haq said...

#COVID19 Lessons for #Pakistan #Climate Advisor: For every $ invested in nature, you get 9 dollars back.
Imbalances between humans & natural world have led to zoonotic #pandemics. Pakistan's billion tree project has helped the economy and the community.

Pakistan's climate minister and advisor Malik Amin Aslam says nature has taught us two key things during the coronavirus pandemic.

Firstly, if you treat it badly, it will strike back. And secondly, if you treat it well, there are many benefits.

The minister for climate change, who also advises Pakistan's prime minister, was speaking on the first day of the World Economic Forum's Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

"When you start investing in nature, nature always pays you back," he said, referring to Pakistan's billion tree planting project, which has reaped dividends by creating jobs, engaging the community and helping develop a new economy.

He said his country's experience proved that for every dollar you invest in nature, you get nine dollars back.

"We don't have to come out of this pandemic on the same pathway that got us in there. You've seen the different world during this pandemic when humans have retreated. What has happened? You've seen the blue skies, the clean air that we've all built," he said, describing this as a positive opportunity.

Hanging in the balance

On the other hand, treating nature badly could lead to more difficulties down the line, the minister warned.

"The stark warning that nature has given to all of the world is that there are boundaries and nature works within certain limits and certain balances. And if we tried to tilt that balance, nature will strike back," he said.

The minister pointed to the fact that we are living in the middle of a zoonotic pandemic because humans have invaded the territory of animals as evidence of nature striking back.

Zoonotic diseases are those that jump from animals to humans. Rats, bats, monkeys and apes are among those more likely to spread zoonotic germs. Other illnesses and diseases that have been spread this way include Ebola, HIV, SARS and MERS, and Zika.

The UNEP has warned that human activity including urbanization and industrialized agriculture has laid the foundations for pandemics by causing biodiversity loss and environmental damage.

The coronavirus is now present in more than 200 countries, with more than 31 million global cases and almost one million global death, according to figures compiled by the Johns Hopkins University.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Plants 500 Million New #Trees in Drive Against Climate Change. The #PTI government's countrywide $760 million reforestation drive is on track to plant more than three billion trees by mid-2023 to mitigate the effects of #ClimateChange.

Aslam noted the tree plantation program is also generating tens of thousands of new employment opportunities and is expected to create about 1.5 million jobs over the next three years when the government will have hit the target of nearly 3.3 billion trees.

“For every dollar you invest in nature, you get nine dollars back. So, you get jobs, you get local employment, you get (a) green economy going,” the minister told VOA.

“Even during the COVID era, we created 84,000 jobs for people who were out of jobs,” he added, referring to the coronavirus pandemic that hit Pakistan in February.

The outbreak prompted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to introduce nationwide lockdowns to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has infected at least 315,000 Pakistanis, and resulted in more than 6,500 deaths. New infections, however, have dramatically and steadily declined to several hundred a day since June, encouraging the government to lift all lockdowns.

Khan spearheaded a reforestation campaign, known as Billion Tree Tsunami, in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, which his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party has been governing since 2013.

The four-year program restored 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land, surpassing its 348,400 hectares commitment to the Bonn Challenge and winning Khan international praise for his climate change efforts.

The Bonn Challenge, established in 2011, calls for the restoration of 350 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2030.

Billion Tree Tsunami program

The Billion Tree Tsunami program generated about 500,000 green jobs for men and women in poverty-stricken remote areas of the scenic Pakistani province. It has established a network of private tree nurseries and boosted local incomes.

The World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan (WWF-P), which monitored and audited the tree-planting effort in KP, reported that the project has been an environmental, economic and social success, with one of the highest survival rates of trees in the world, ranging from 75% to more than 80%.

Officials at the International Union for Conservation of Nature-Pakistan (ICUN-P) hailed the initiative as “a true conservation success story.”

Khan launched the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami program after his party won the July 2018 national election and he became prime minister.

Third-party audit

Last week, the Pakistani government signed an agreement with a consortium of three international organizations for a third-party monitoring and evaluation of the “Ten Billion Tree Tsunami” program from 2020 to 2024.

The consortium comprises WWF-P, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and ICUN-P.

FAO deputy representative Farrukh Toirovi described the program as a historic undertaking by Pakistan.

“This is a project which will benefit not only today the people of Pakistan, but also it will be benefiting the people all around the world and the region, and also for the people of the generations to come,” Toirovi said. "We from FAO are interested in this project so that we can take these lessons from Pakistan and try to use it also in other countries.”

Hammad Khan Naqi, director general of the WWF-Pakistan, explained that his organization will evaluate 30% of the plantation sites, 30% for wildlife conservation and 100% percent of the protected areas across the country.

Pakistani officials say the unprecedented third-party monitoring of a government project will ensure impartial “verification, transparency and accountability” of the massive reforestation drive and of the public funds being spent on it.

Riaz Haq said...

A 10 Billion-Tree Plan Is Restoring #Pakistan’s Lost #Forests. Pakistan is planting #trees that need relatively little water like a fast-growing mahogany commonly known as the neem tree. The tree drive has created thousand of jobs . #climatechange

Pakistan’s arid climate and rocky deserts may seem an unlikely place to look for a green revolution, but the nation of more than 200 million people has begun one of the world’s largest reforestation programs.

The government is in the first phase of planting 3.25 billion trees at an estimated cost of around 105 billion rupees ($650 million), Malik Amin Aslam, minister for climate change said in an interview. Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to extend that to almost 10 billion by the time his term in office ends in 2023.

“We are trying to unleash a green economy,” Aslam said by phone.

The task is enormous. Pakistan is among the six countries that face the biggest impact from climate change, according to the United Nations, with risks of floods, melting glaciers and droughts. Its forest cover is now among the lowest in the world – about 5% of the land, compared with a global average of 31%, according to UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Unfortunately, we never cared about them,” said Khan at a tree-planting ceremony in July. “After independence from the British, we have lost forests instead of adding to them.”

Pakistan is planting trees that need relatively little water, like the azadirachta indica, a fast-growing mahogany commonly known as the neem tree. Neems typically don’t need to be watered after the first five years, while the other species that have been chosen only need extra water for the first few months, according to Tabish Hussain, a government-employed forester in Karachi.


In addition to restoring some eco-systems and absorbing planet-warming carbon emissions, the tree plantation drive has provided thousand of jobs in a country that struggles with unemployment. “I am hopeful that we can save our nation,” said Khan. “You go to Dubai, its all a desert, they don’t have trees. God has given us everything, we just need to take care of it.”

Riaz Haq said...

#WorldBank recognizes #Pakistan's #EhsaasEmergencyCash among world's largest. Pakistan is among top 5 lower middle income nations by level of #social protection spending. #Mongolia (8% of #GDP), #Zimbabwe (5%), #Bolivia (3%), #Pakistan (1.2%), Others <1%

As per World Bank’s latest report titled Social Protection and Jobs Responses to COVID-19: A Real-Time Review of Country Measures, India’s Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) program with over 206 million individuals covered, is the largest Covid-related cash transfer scheme worldwide. Such program is followed by three cash transfer interventions all reaching over a hundred million people, namely the US first stimulus check (160 million), Japan’s one-off universal program reaching about (116.5), and Pakistan’s Ehsaas (100.9).

The report stated that Pakistan was also among the top 5 lower-middle-income countries by level of social protection spending. The highest level of spending in lower-middle-income countries is observed in Mongolia (8% of GDP), Zimbabwe (5%), Bolivia (3%), Pakistan (1.2%), and with a range of others spending 1% of GDP.

As per the report, Pakistan’s provincial governments also implemented supportive fiscal measures from the onset of the shock, including cash grants to low-income households, tax relief, and additional health spending (including a salary increase for healthcare workers).

The government of Punjab implemented a PKR 10 billion cash grants program. The government of Sindh's measures included a cash grant.

The Government of Pakistan allocated Rs. 203 Billion (USD 1.23bn) to deliver one-time emergency cash assistance to 15 million families at risk of extreme poverty. This represents nearly 109 million people. Each family receives Rs. 12,000 (USD 75) for immediate subsistence.

The Economic Coordination Committee approved Rs. 75 billion among 6.2 million daily-wage earners with cash assistance for the daily wagers working in the formal industrial sector and who had been laid off because of the COVID-19 outbreak. It was part of the PM’s Relief Package of Rs 200 billion.

As part of the supportive fiscal measures, the Government of Pakistan implemented additional health spending. The government of Sindh's measures included a cash grant and ration distribution program of PKR 1.5 billion for low-income households.

The report stated that a relief package worth PKR 1.2 trillion was announced by the federal government on March 24, which has been almost fully implemented. The economic package earmarked resources for accelerated procurement of wheat (PKR 280 billion), financial support to utility stores (PKR 50 billion), a reduction in regulated fuel prices (with a benefit for end-consumers estimated at PKR 70 billion), support for health and food supplies (PKR 15 billion), electricity bill payments relief (PKR 110 billion.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet in April last year approved the deferment of monthly and quarterly fuel adjustments in the electricity bills for power consumers for the next three months (till June 2020) under the government relief package. 06 April 2020 Power Division has reportedly prepared power tariff freezing for three months aimed at minimizing the financial burden on the Coronavirus-hit consumers, estimated financial impact of which will be Rs 381 billion, stated the report.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan launches national socioeconomic registry

The World Bank (WB) also congratulated Ehsaas for completing South Asia’s first digital National Socio-Economic Registry survey.

WB Country Director Najy Benhassine, while speaking at the ceremony, said, “I congratulate the Government of Pakistan and Ehsaas on achieving this historical milestone.” He said that the bank feels proud to be the technical partner in this “game-changer survey”.

“This is not just Pakistan’s but also South Asia’s first digitally-enabled socioeconomic census. It will be really transformative that the registry will now facilitate data sharing for social protection programmes of the federal government, provinces, government departments and development agencies,” he added.

Director-General Naveed Akbar outlined the design, end-to-end digital methodology, approaches and rigorous transparency measures embedded in the execution of the survey.

UNRC Resident Coordinator Julien Harneis, Secretary Ismat Tahira, and senior representatives of government departments, Asian Development Bank (ADB), development partners and media professionals also attended the event.


Ehsaas, the flagship welfare programme of the government, successfully accomplished a countrywide National Socioeconomic Registry Survey which includes households’ information in terms of geographic data, demographics, socioeconomic status, education, health, disability, employment, energy consumption, assets, communications, agri-landholdings, WASH, livestock, etc.

Ehsaas conducted a door-to-door computer-aided survey all across the country to gather data about the socioeconomic status of households. In conclusion, this will be the most reliable dataset for the use of public sector institutions, think tanks and development agencies for designing social protection and poverty alleviation programmes.

The data sharing will be steered through the Cognitive API Architecture approach. There will be two-way data sharing; agencies with whom data will be shared will also be required to update the registry with their own information.

Addressing the launch ceremony, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Senator Dr Sania Nishtar said, “Part of Ehsaas strategy, we have just concluded a new National Socioeconomic Registry of 34.41 million households. We did various validations of the data to precisely identify the real poor.”

“With the readiness of survey, we are now transiting from static to dynamic registry to make it more targeting efficient and to avoid possible inclusion and exclusion errors occurred due to continuous change in socioeconomic status of the households especially due to demographic change,” the SAPM said. “Tehsil-level Ehsaas Registration Desks have also been opened all over the country to keep the national socioeconomic registry dynamic.”

Riaz Haq said...

Abdul Alim of #Pakistan, a #COVID survivor and #vaccine advocate, dies of natural causes at age 104. He made headlines last year when he got vaccinated, encouraging others — especially those in his region of Upper Chitral — to do the same.

Abdul Alim, one of Pakistan's oldest COVID survivors, died of natural causes on Jan. 27 at age 104.

Alim made headlines last year when he got vaccinated, encouraging others — especially those in his region of Upper Chitral in northern Pakistan — to do the same. Although vaccine hesitancy is a major issue in his country, Alim was an outspoken proponent of the vaccine.

"If a 100-above-year-old man like me can feel perfectly fine, everyone should have the courage to take it," he told NPR in May 2021. "There is no reason one should not take the vaccine."

A survivor and an advocate
In July 2020, Alim became one of the oldest survivors of coronavirus in the world.

At the time, the news of a potential COVID vaccine filled him with hope. He was afraid of getting sick again, and he wanted to get back into the world. "I wanted to benefit from it as soon as possible," he said. "I was tired of living life in isolation. I wanted to meet people, talk to them."

Alim said he was inspired to get the Sinopharm vaccine in April 2021 after he heard about it from his religious leader. "I am not very educated, so I do not understand much about it, but he told us that he had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and recommended everyone to do the same as soon as the vaccines are offered."

It was a big deal at that time for him to get a COVID shot. A survey of 1,000 people in Pakistan in January 2021 found that 50% didn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine, fearing potential side effects.

After he got vaccinated, Alim said he was excited to fill up his social calendar and celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid ul-Fitr with his community. "I feel I am unchained now," he said. "I encourage everyone to take the vaccine."

'Pray for his soul from afar'
Alim was due for his booster shot in January but had not been feeling well, says his son Sohail Ahmad. "We waited for him to feel better. We were not sure whether his body was strong enough to sustain even mild side effects."

Alim was sick for five or six days, then passed away. Ahmad says his father discouraged people – especially those from outside his village Booni in Chitral – from visiting. COVID cases in their area were again on the rise.

In most Muslim cultures, it's common practice for friends, family and neighbors to visit loved ones who are sick and dying. In a close-knit community like Chitral, people bring food to the person's house or help with house chores. After a death, visitors console the grieving family to offer their compassion and pray alongside them.

"Although my father did not like to be in isolation, he advised us to urge people not to come visit him," says Ahmad. "He even said that he will be happier if people can pray for his soul from afar instead of coming from faraway villages. My father was concerned for people's health and even in death he wanted to keep people and our family safe."

He 'enjoyed his life to the fullest'
To make sure that people abided by his father's last wishes, Ahmad wrote a message on his Facebook page, telling friends and family to express their sympathies via telephone or social media. "Calls are enough to express your condolences and it will make my father's soul happy, too," he says he told them.

Ahmad says he received more than 500 calls and messages on his phone and Facebook page.

Riaz Haq said...

#PTI led by #ImranKhanPTI rules over 160 million #Pakistanis out of 220 million people in #Pakistan. It is truly representative of the majority of the people. PTI should govern #Punjab and #KP well by delivering to the people who have put their faith in the party and its leader.

Riaz Haq said...

The Assassination Attempt on Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Could Push Pakistan to the Brink

How bad will things get? It’s the question everyone in Pakistan is asking following Thursday’s shooting of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, as the cricketing icon led a march on Islamabad to demand snap elections that could return him to power.

Khan, 70, was wounded in the shin when a gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon on his convoy of lorries and cars in the Wazirabad district in the east of Punjab province, the sound of gunfire crackling through a chorus of “Allah-Hoo,” a popular religious song, that was blaring through loudspeakers. One supporter was killed and seven more injured in the apparent assassination attempt, according to Punjab police. Khan has since undergone surgery on his leg and is said to be recovering well.

Protests have erupted across the South Asian nation of 230 million in response to the attack—which Khan blamed on a conspiracy between the government and Pakistan’s powerful military—with demonstrators blocking main roads and, in a marked escalation from previous flare-ups, even haranguing senior military figures.

“The political situation in Pakistan has been a powder keg for months,” says Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “This attack could be what causes the powder keg to explode if calmer minds don’t prevail.”

In a statement issued through Asad Umar, secretary-general of Khan’s centrist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the former Prime Minister accused Pakistan’s current leader Shahbaz Sharif alongside interior minister ​​Rana Sanaullah and director of counterintelligence Major General Faisal Naseer for orchestrating the attack. “I have prior information about the attack and I demand all three should be removed from their position. If they are not removed we will call a country-wide protest,” Umar said on Khan’s behalf, according to The Times.

Sharif of the center-right PML-N—also a brother of Khan’s longtime nemesis Nawaz Sharif—has denied involvement and released a statement on Thursday condemning the attack. The alleged assailant was apprehended at the scene and police released a video confession of a disheveled man alleging that he wanted to “kill Imran Khan because he claims prophethood by comparing himself with prophets.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Assassination Attempt on Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Could Push Pakistan to the Brink

It’s unlikely that Khan will feel the same way about his own narrow escape. The PTI has become increasingly swathed in a victim complex following Khan’s ouster in a parliamentary no confidence vote in April, after a dozen lawmakers from his party defected in part over his embrace of Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow on Feb. 23 at the outbreak of the Russian President’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Khan has since raged—without evidence—about a U.S.-sponsored plot to unseat him. Social media teems with PTI supporters alleging that Thursday’s assassination attempt was a foreign plot to destabilize Pakistan. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement condemning the attack, calling on “all parties to refrain from violence, harassment, and intimidation.”

That appears a vain hope. Pakistani politics has become increasingly nasty and vindictive, with several top PTI figures arrested and intimidated over recent months, while Khan himself has been slapped with various charges—including terrorism, over comments deemed threatening he made to the judge and senior policeman responsible for the arrest of an aide—that he claims are politically motivated. In the meantime, the nuclear-armed nation has been blighted by runaway inflation that reached 26% in October and floods that inundated one-third of the country, claimed over 1,700 lives, and caused an estimated $40 billion in damage. “It’s striking that given Pakistan’s economic crisis, given these terrible floods, the government has continued to target Khan and its supporters with retributive politics,” says Kugelman.

Still, Khan was guilty of needlessly antagonistic behavior before his own toppling, denouncing political rivals as “traitors” and taunting the powerful military—which has ruled Pakistan for half its 75-year existence—as “neutrals,” in a sardonic reference to their historical role as kingmaker. Last week, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt. Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum gave an unprecedented press conference—the first time the head of Pakistan’s spy agency has ever addressed the media—during which he accused Khan of duplicitously negotiating with the military at night while denouncing them during the day.

By feeding into Khan’s victim narrative, the attack undeniably boosts his ambitions of returning to power. Although Sharif does not constitutionally have to hold elections until August, millions taking to the street may force his hand. Khan’s party has gained seven seats in recent by-elections and has the political momentum behind him. But Pakistan’s elections commission in October also disqualified Khan from holding office for five years, amid allegations he sold state gifts and concealed personal assets—charges he denies. Even if Khan could run, who would win any such contest “really depends on who can mobilize the people,” says Samina Yasmeen, director of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies at the University of Western Australia. “At the moment, it’s heavily in favor of Imran Khan.”

Not that Pakistan’s problems would be over should Khan return to power. His first term was blighted by entrenched polarization and economic mismanagement compounded by global headwinds like the pandemic and soaring oil prices. And Khan’s injury also raises the stakes for his opponents since he would have no shortage of axes to grind were he back in office. The military, whose support was crucial to bring Khan to power in 2018, has already said that it would back Sharif’s government in case of widespread unrest. That is exactly what looks in store. “Let’s say people demonstrate a lot, there’s a lot of disturbances and political violence, would the military shoot at people?” asks Yasmeen. “The moment that happens it becomes a very different picture.”