● 182 quarantine facilities established so far.
● All points of entry being manned and monitored.
● Establishment of joint check posts and joint patrolling with other Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) being carried out effectively.
Following the meeting of the National Coordination Committee on COVID-19 chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 20 and his meeting with the Prime Minister, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa communicated directives to step up Pakistan Army’s assistance to civil administration in containment of COVID-19 on March 21, 2020.
Speaking on the efforts against the pandemic, COAS stated: “Protecting oneself is the foundation for community/nation’s collective protection against pandemic. Every precautionary measure counts. Let’s be a responsible citizen at individual level first and in turn assist authorities for safety and protection at the collective level. Every Pakistani must follow guidelines given by the government and health departments to make the ongoing national effort a success. Nothing can defeat a responsible and determined nation, as displayed by China. Pakistan Army being part of the national effort shall serve and protect the nation as a sacred duty. We shall succeed by being self-disciplined, cooperating, reinforcing each other and thereby synergising various efforts, Insha Allah”.
Soon after this, the special Corps Commanders’ Conference, chaired by COAS, was held at GHQ on March 22, 2019. Exercising the advised precautions, all Corps Commanders participated in the conference through a video link from their respective Corps Headquarters. The agenda of the special forum was COVID-19 and the review of the virus’ spread, and deliberations of the army’s readiness to assist the civil administration in containment of this pandemic.
In this meeting all available troops of the Pakistan Army and its medical resources across the country were tasked to provide assistance to all activities in concert with the civil administration and do so on a short notice.
The Pakistan Armed Forces are fully geared up and committed to provide the needed assistance and are doing so in a systematic and planned manner. The action on the ground is focused on two areas: the physical domain inclusive of the action taken by the armed forces; and, the information domain i.e., strategic communication for crisis, risk communication and community engagement.
Strict measures are being undertaken by the civil-military apparatuses to stem the spread of the pandemic, and provide immediate preventative measures and aid. Our brave troops, who are standing shoulder to shoulder with other frontline workers, are manning the border between the virus and our people. In addition to the many other tasks undertaken, Pakistan Army has once again gone beyond the call of duty. Not only have they put their lives at risk but have also made donations to further strengthen the fight against COVID-19. This passion for their country thrives across all ranks of this institution. Not only have the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and COAS donated one month’s salary to this fight but the Lieutenant Generals and Brigadiers, Colonels and Officers, and junior commissioned officers have also given away 3 days, 2 days and one day’s salaries respectively to the COVID-19 relief fund.
The Pakistan Navy, Pakistan Air Force, National Command Authority and Strategic Plans Division are all involved in doing their part in strengthening the national response and have also made contributions to the relief fund.
Troops of Pakistan Army have been deployed across the country in aid of the civil power under Article 245. Pakistan Army is working closely with the federal and provincial administrations for ensuring public safety and is carrying out enforcement measures for the containment of COVID-19. Under this mendate a multiple-pronged approach is being used which includes manning and monitoring all points of entries and working closely with the Law Enforcement Agencies in establishing joint check posts and patrolling. Additionally, Pakistan Army is assisting in the management of quarantine facilities and, in efforts to help contain the spread of COVID-19, carrying out contact tracking, tracing and isolating suspected individuals.
In these trying times, it has been difficult for some areas to mount a broader response to the crisis. One such case was Gilgit-Baltistan. Cognizant of the challenges faced by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan due to difficulty of terrain and accessibility, COAS reiterated, “We are working closely with GB Government and civil administration to provide all possible support while additional resources are being arranged on war footing. We will never leave the people of GB alone in these challenging times.” Pakistan Army, similar to its cross-country efforts, is also working tirelessly to enhance capacities of DHQ Gilgit, DHQ Skardu and DHQ Chilas, and providing all possible support immediately.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), under the guidance of Commander Army Air Defence Command, Lieutenant General Hamood Uz Zaman Khan who has been designated as chief coordinator, is currently serving as a hub for the response efforts. It is functioning as a one window operation to synergize and articulate national effort against COVID-19, optimize informed decision-making and ensure implementation of decisions of National Security Committee (NSC) and the National Coordination Committee ( NCC).
On April 1, 2020 COAS also attended a special briefing at NCOC along with federal ministers and senior military officials.
Foreign Minister, Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi; Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives, Mr. Asad Umer, who is also the focal person for national effort for COVID-19; Minister for Interior, Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah (R); Minister for Economic Affairs, Mr. Muhammad Hammad Azhar: Minister for Communications & Postal Services, Mr. Murad Saeed: Minister Aviation, Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Khan: Minister for National Food Security and Research, Mr. Khusro Bakhtiar: Minister Maritime Affairs, Mr Ali Zaidi; Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Finance & Revenue, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh; SAPM for Information and Broadcasting, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan; SAPM Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza; SAPM National Security, Mr. Moeed Yousaf; SAPM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, Ms. Sania Nishtar attended the briefing.
The forum was briefed about the latest situation on containment efforts, enforcement measures against COVID-19, and troops deployment across the country assisting federal and provincial administrations in aid of civil power.
COAS stated that all necessary measures to ensure public safety are being taken. Emphasizing on the significance of a broad and systematic response he said, “We cannot afford to leave any segment of the society at the mercy of this pandemic. Troops on ground must reach out to citizens in every nook and corner of Pakistan not only to protect them against this pandemic but also for bringing comfort in this hour of distress.
Only through a coherent national effort can we address all vulnerabilities before they turn into threats. The planned measures, if implemented timely, will contribute to safety and wellbeing of every Pakistani and society at large.” He reiterated, “We must rise, and rise together irrespective of caste, color, creed and religion fighting as one nation. The task at hand is daunting, but we have overcome difficult situations before. This time the challenge is entirely different. The Armed Forces will stand shoulder to shoulder with nation to guard the border between people and COVID-19. Pakistan Army being part of national effort will not leave any stone unturned for security and safety of people of Pakistan.”
The forum expressed complete satisfaction over the measures taken thus far and also dilated upon future course of action.
At such a time when disinformation and a lack of knowledge can lead to needless panic, the holistic strategy also focuses on risk communication and community engagement to ensure timely and accurate flow of information. Instead of falling into a state of panic, everyone from the individual to the community level has to do their part in this fight and follow the instructions issued by the Ministry of Health. Even though the task at hand is difficult, the Pakistani nation and its troops will once again be proven resilient as they have in the past challenges. With collective efforts of the civil-military institution and the trust and support of the nation with it, Pakistan shall overcome this threat as well. As stated by COAS, “Pakistanis will fight against COVID-19 as one.”
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