Asad for joint efforts to combat coronavirus, natural calamities


LAHORE, Jul 07 (APP): Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umer on Wednesday stressed the need for making joint efforts to cope with the challenges of pandemics like COVID-19 and natural calamities.

He was addressing online to the inaugural session of a two-day national conference on ‘Challenges of Governance in Pakistan Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic’ organized by Punjab University’s Department of Political Science.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Mr. Nong Rong also attended the session online while PU Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Niaz Ahmad Akhtar, former caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Prof Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, Founding Director Center for Public Policy and Governance F.C College Lahore Dr Saeed Shafqat, Dean Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences Prof Dr Umbreen Javed, Chairperson Department of Political Science Prof Dr Iram Khalid, researchers, senior faculty members and a large number of students participated in the conference.

In his address, Asad Umer said that during COVID-19, the government also faced multiple challenges of saving the economy along with the health of people, due to which, the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) and National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) were set up to deal with the challenges and portray a true picture of the situation to people.

He said the government and the military leadership together in the NCOC made the best decisions in the national interest. He said the NCOC decided to enforce lockdown, hotspot lockdown and smart lockdown based on daily data so that people’s health and economic condition could not be affected.

The Minister added that he made all the decisions keeping in view the situation of his country after learning from other countries. He said the process of vaccination had started and a uniform policy was applied to the rich and the poor and even the President and the Prime Minister had received their vaccines by their turn.

He said that keeping in view the lack of resources and poor health facilities to deal with the pandemic, the government had to increase the facilities at hospitals.

Asad Umer said the use of technology through various applications had made it easier to calculate the number of patients in hospitals to ensure timely availability of oxygen and other equipments besides assessment of the condition of beds for critical cases. He said that through artificial intelligence, the government was formulating a comprehensive plan for future so that an effective and integrated strategy could be formulated to tackle challenges like corona.

He said all institutions including judiciary, religious scholars, doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and media played a vital role during the pandemic.

The Minister appreciated the Chinese government for supporting Pakistan in difficult time. He also praised the efforts of the organizers in organizing a meaningful event.

Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong said that since the onset of corona pandemic, the Chinese government mobilized its people under the best possible strategy and provided awareness to meet the challenge.

He said that scientific research and medical training were promoted on priority basis. He added that the Chinese government, realizing its global responsibilities, had supplied 450 million doses of vaccines to various countries and provided other medical supplies in large quantities.

He said that long-standing friendly relations with Pakistan were further enhanced during the pandemic.

He thanked the Pakistan Government for sending medical supplies to China at the beginning of pandemic.

He added that as a true friend of Pakistan, the Chinese government had so far provided 3.25 million doses of vaccines and other medical devices to Pakistan. Mr Nong Rong praised the successful strategy of the Pakistani government and the NCOC against corona, saying that effective planning in Pakistan not only prevented the spread of pandemic but also maintained its socio-economic stability.

PU VC Prof Niaz Ahmed said that the steps taken by the government to contain the spread of corona and to improve the economy were commendable. He said that during the pandemic situation when all the universities were closed, the Punjab University played its leading role and arranged online classes and examinations so that education of the students would not be hampered.

He said that students were allowed to take physical and online exams and fee was reduced appropriately. The VC said the PU did not fire any of its employees and even salaries and other benefits were also paid on time.

He said that after taking over the post of Vice Chancellor Punjab University, with just three years of hard work, Punjab University’s world ranking had improved by 16%, Asian ranking by 54% and for the first time in the history of Punjab University, 13 faculties have been ranked.

Dr Hassan Askari said that last year was a year of immense learning in human history. He said that such challenges may be faced in future for which permanent planning was required.

He said that to prevent the spread of corona, the government took a number of steps, including enforcing the uniform law everywhere in the lockdown, for which the NCOC, led by Asad Umer, made the best decisions. He said that in view of the deteriorating economic condition of the people, the government helped them through the Ehsas cash
programme, reduced interest rates on loans and also played a vital role in meeting the living needs of the

He said that during the pandemic, the state and society realized that mutual help was needed to deal with such a situation. Dr Saeed said that the issue of governance during the pandemic was faced globally.

He said that corona has had economic, political, social and cultural implications. He said that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan would be effective for Pakistan and Tajikistan.

He was of the view that the future of education and health depends on technology to create new sources of employment. Dr. Umbreen Javed and Dr Iram also addressed the moot.