Soldiers “will go to every corner of Pakistan to ensure the protection of citizens,” military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar told reporters on Monday, adding that the primary purpose of the deployment “is to help civil institutions and law enforcement agencies.”
In this testing time, Pakistan Army will use all its capabilities to take every possible step for the protection of citizens and their lives.
According to Gen. Iftikhar, there are presently around 90,000 cases of Covid-19 in the country, with 4,300 people in critical condition, including 570 people on ventilators. Pakistan has been registering around 5,500 cases and 130 deaths per day, similar to the figures during the peak of the first wave in June 2020. Pakistan has around 220 million residents.
The rate of positive tests has risen to “dangerous levels” of more than 5% in 51 cities, and even higher in 16 cities that will receive “enhanced deployment” of troops. Among these is the capital Islamabad, as well as Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur and Gujranwala in Punjab; Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh; Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda and Swabi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Quetta in Balochistan and Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Doctors across the country hailed the move, with some even going so far as demanding arrests for those who fail to follow the prescribed measures.
“Presently, we need strict enforcement of the precautionary measures as the hospitals, it seems, would soon be overwhelmed by patients,” said Dr. Javid Ali of the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, who called the army deployment the “right step at the right time.”
The situation in Pakistan appears to mirror that of the neighboring India. Doctors like Dr. Muhammad Suhail, from the Peshawar suburb of Hayatabad, argue that’s because people in both countries aren’t following the prescribed precautions.
Dr. Jawad Khan of the Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar urged the government to “make arrests, seal shops and markets along with jail terms and heavy penalties to send a clear message that the violators of [procedures] wouldn’t get spared.” All 150 beds at his hospital were full of Covid-19 patients, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The Pakistani government has balked at imposing a nationwide lockdown, saying it would endanger the country’s poorest people, who rely on daily wages. Milder measures such as mandatory mask wearing and having non-essential shops close at 6 pm have been ignored by many residents, however.
Announcing the decision to involve the military last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed to Pakistanis to follow the health guidelines.
“If our situation becomes the same as in India, then we will have to close down cities,” Khan warned. “We can’t do that because, as we have seen already, the poor suffer the most when lockdowns are imposed.”
India also deployed the military to assist with the Covid-19 response on Monday, with 352,991 new cases and 2,812 deaths over the past 24 hours.
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