Dr. Arif Alvi, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, called Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, to enquire about the welfare of the people of Azad Kashmir and the state of preparedness and response for combating the coronavirus pandemic.
The AJK President thanked President Alvi for this gesture and apprised him about the statewide lockdown and the elaborate arrangements made for the tracking, tracing, quarantine and treatment of the virus. Special attention, he said, was being given to the persons who had returned from abroad or had a history of severe respiratory tract infections.
President Alvi expressed his and the people of Pakistan’s full solidarity and empathy with the people of Azad Kashmir. He expressed satisfaction that the incidence of the coronavirus in AJK was low with only one known case quarantined in Mirpur. He was, however, seriously concerned about the condition of the people of the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) who were already under a siege and a lockdown.
President Masood Khan apprised the President of Pakistan that it was difficult to get authentic data in regard to the coronavirus cases in IOJK because of the communication blockade, but reports coming out suggested that COVID 19 information blackout itself was hitting people hard. Confirmation of some positive cases had, according to these reports, created panic, and the situation had been compounded because of the restrictions on the internet which hampers timely relay of medical information and intervention. Like in the rest of India, reportedly, there is a shortage of doctors, paramedics, and the requisite facilities to deal with the pandemic.
The President of Pakistan said that Pakistan fully stands by the people of IOJK and understands their suffering. He said that because of the coronavirus, the plight of the Kashmiris and their struggle for the right to self-determination cannot be shelved or swept under the carpet. He thanked the Kashmiri leadership for sending messages of goodwill to Pakistan and its people on March 23.
Turning to the pandemic, the AJK President informed President Alvi that Rapid Response Teams (RRTs), headed by District Health Officers, have been set up in all ten districts to triage and deal with emergency cases. These teams, tasked with coordination, prevention and and monitoring were being supported by the Revenue Department, Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) was a and civil society organisation.
In addition, isolation wards had been established in 10 hospitals, while for sampling the state was relying on the Islamabad-based National Institute of Health (NIH). At the same time, it was trying to strengthen its Virology Laboratory for diagnostics.
Total suspected cases in AJK were 60 out of which results of 40 had been received, with 39 negative, only 1 positive currently and no death, Alhamdolillah.
President Masood Khan thanked the people for cooperating with the Government of AJK in the implementation of its decisions on three-week lockdown, cleanliness, social distancing and awareness raising. He especially commended the hands-on approach adopted but the National Disaster Management Authority, State Disaster Management Authority and other relevant bodies for making preparations for providing relief. The Government, he said, has rightly conveyed to the people that the lockdown is not a “curfew”, but a measure to save the entire nation from a bigger catastrophe.
The AJK President also lauded the efforts of the armed forces for training the quarantine and isolation wards’ staff and paid tribute to the Ulema for playing a constructive role in making people conscious of the need to take precautionary measures to save precious lives. “Our triumph vis-a-vis the virus would be, when we would reduce the losses from the pandemic to the minimum”, he said underlining that all this time we should continue to pray to Allah Almighty to save us and the entire humanity from this scourge.