RAWALPINDI: The Pakistani government has authorized the army to take over if the business community and religious clerics violate the locking measures put in place to check the spread of the corona virus.

For Muslim communities around the world, the month of Ramazan is considered the holiest but after the coronavirus pandemic, it turned out to be a problem for Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The Khan government has imposed strict locking instructions but hardliners and clerics and the fundamental business community are not ready to obey orders, but instead they have stated to continue their activities as routine.

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Khan, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG-ISI Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, several Cabinet ministers and advisers held a meeting at ISI Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday (April 23) and discussed the prevailing situation and various measures to counter each strange situation.

According to information sources familiar with this issue, it was agreed in principle at the meeting that the police, forest guards and even troops could be used to maintain law and order if the business community and religious clerics tried to cross their boundaries and violated locking instructions.

Hundreds of violators were reportedly arrested in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and other cities on Saturday, the first day of the holy month of Ramazan. “The situation will soon get worse if the government will not reduce its restrictions because the poor are very frustrated because they do not get food and other basic facilities,” the source said, adding “the government system is ineffective”.

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The source said that the participants received comprehensive guidance on internal and external challenges faced by the country including the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The business community in Karachi has threatened to disregard government orders, open their shops and conduct business as a routine, while religious clerics lead prayers at mosques as usual.

Contrary to their tough attitude, doctors and nurses support strict strict locking instructions. They have been on a hunger strike in Lahore demanding adequate protective equipment for frontline staff caring for coronavirus patients. Protests also continued in Karachi. “The overall situation is not lacking in civil disobedience if the government does not relax strict measures to maintain the lockdown effectively, it will face a difficult position,” the source said.

Health workers have complained for weeks that hospitals in the country suffer from a chronic shortage of safety equipment, prompting the arrest of more than 50 doctors who requested more supplies in the city of Quetta earlier this month.

Front-line staff have become vulnerable, with more than 150 medical workers tested positive for the virus nationwide, according to the Association of Young Doctors (YDA) in Punjab which was the most severely hit. “The situation is very grim,” said a YDA spokesman.

The State Minister for Health, Zafar Mirza, on Saturday night said 79 percent of the country’s corona virus cases were now transmitted locally when the national COVID-19 number of patients reached 12,723 with 269 deaths.

Apart from health problems, sources further said, the tense situation on the country’s eastern and western borders was also discussed during the meeting and a military spokesman submitted the results in this regard.


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