April 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on April 1, 2020

Sindh Minister for Information Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, while reacting to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to form a “tiger force” to stop the spread of the coronavirus, said that Imran Khan had already used the name “tiger” on previous occasions, and that people would certainly voice reservations over the name of this force.

Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the prime minister should have named this force the “Pakistan Volunteers Force”. The minister said that it would have been much better if the distribution of rations amongst the needy people should have been done by utilizing the services of the local government representatives instead of creating a tiger force.

There were a large number of municipal employees in local bodies to cope with these emergencies, he said. Syed Nasir Hussain Shah also strongly condemned the fact that the local government institutions in Punjab were abolished two years before the completion of their tenure.

The provincial minister for information said that due to this unfounded step by the Punjab government, the local bodies had been deprived of delivering their essential duties in this critical situation.

Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the Sindh government needed full cooperation of the people to fight the coronavirus. The minister said that if people did not follow the government’s instructions on the lockdown then there were obvious chances of further problems.

Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the Sindh government had been striving to provide help to all the needy people. The minister said that the Sindh government had prepared eleven thousand volunteers to help the needy people, adding that this number could be increased if needed.

He said that the government was trying to ensure that all the relief goods were delivered to the needy people at their doorsteps. Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that in order to ensure the continuous supply of the essential goods the Sindh government had not imposed any restrictions on intercity or inter-provincial movement of goods transport.

He said that in this time of difficulty all the religious scholars were supporting the Sindh government, and doctors, paramedical staff and media persons were also offering their services to the people continuously.

The Sindh government also highly appreciates the services of the personnel of the Pakistan Army, the Rangers, police and other security agencies for ensuring full implementation of the directives of the Sindh government regarding the lockdown, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said.

Meanwhile, the provincial minister visited some areas of the metropolis where germicidal spray campaign was in progress. Talking to reporters on the occasion the minister said that the Sindh government had been committed to extending this cleanliness campaign to all the areas of the city to prevent the people from getting affected by the coronavirus.

The minister also urged the people to keep their homes and surroundings clean. Meanwhile, Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah while expressing deep grief and sorrow over the demise of Mir Javed-ur-Rehman condoled with the family members of the deceased.

In his condolence message Syed Nasir Hussain Shah prayed that may Allah Almighty rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.

He said the struggle of the deceased for the freedom of expression as well as for objective journalism would always be remembered.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



Kalbe Ali | Munawer Azeem Updated April 01, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The capital administration is collecting details of around 33,000 families living below the poverty line and relying on daily-wage work in order to make arrangements for them to obtain edible goods during the lockdown.

Officials in the capital administration have said that only 1,000 families have been provided free edible products in the last couple of days, and the rest are still waiting.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat confirmed that 1,000 families have been provided items with assistance from donations and NGOs. He told Dawn these families were ones that urgently required edibles.

DC announces home delivery service for groceries through 24 cash and carry stores, save marts

He said that the administration is collecting details of families living below the poverty line and living off daily wages, in order to make arrangements for them to obtain edibles during the lockdown. There are more than 33,000 such families living in the capital, he said.

Mr Shafqaat said the details will most likely be collected within a week, and the families will be given a stipend according to their needs so they can buy goods. The stipend will come from a government package.

Around 4,000 to 5,000 people are also receiving cooked meals from Panahgahs, Dastar Khawans and Saylani, he added.

In a press conference at his office, Mr Shafqaat also announced a free home delivery service for grocery items, in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Shafqaat said the service will deliver grocery and green grocery items through cash and carry stores and save marts; initially, 24 such establishments have been designated in this regard.

These stores are located in Melody Market G-6, I-8, G-9, Bhara Kahu, Khanna Pul, Ghori Town, I-10 Markaz, Aabpara Market, G-13, Park Road, PWD, DHA Phase II, Soan Garden, Bahria Phase IV, Tarnol, Taramri Chowk and Rawat. People will be able to order deliveries over the phone.

He said the products will be sold at wholesale rates. Arrangements have been made with assistance from traders, who have also arranged manpower for the delivery service. Efforts are ongoing to provide the service in all 50 union councils in the capital.

Mr Shafqaat said the measure has been taken in view of the Covid-19 outbreak, in order to limit the spread. With edible items being provided at residents’ doorsteps, they will not need to go outside and put their lives and the lives of their families, at risk.

The administration is operating three ‘ration centres’ in the capital as well, where underprivileged citizens can obtain edible products for free, Mr Shafqaat said, and asked people to donate so that this can continue.

He also asked people to inform the police or seek their protection while distributing donations and khairaat, saying the act can lead people to gather in large numbers which may result in the spread of Covid-19.

He said a few incidents have also been reported about attacks and thefts during such activities.

Online suppliers face distribution issues as orders rise

The closure of weekly markets has led to a significant increase in online orders for fruits and vegetables, which has caused distribution problems for the two suppliers working with the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration.

With the fifth weekly marketshut down in the capital on Tuesday, many residents were forced to buy daily use items, particularly produce, at significantly higher prices from retailers.

Others opted to buy fruits and vegetables online from Fowrry and Sabzi Mandi Online, the two main supplies affiliated with the ICT’s Durust Daam application.

“The problem is that there are strict restrictions on movement at the same time that retailers have increased prices in Rawalpindi and Islamabad,” Hassan Ali, who lives in the capital, said.

The administration launched Durust Daam in October 2019 so citizens could access the official price list for essential items. Two suppliers were later added to the system to deliver fruits and vegetables to residents at cheaper prices and without any delivery charges.

But, Fowrry CEO Adeel Hasan said, the current situation has created a new challenge for them.

“While the daily orders jumped to more than 200 daily, which used to be less than 70 per day up till last month, the distribution network has been shattered,” he said.

Most riders were unable to work, he said, but the company has been in touch with a number of ride-sharing service drivers and drivers working for courier companies who are not currently at their jobs.

To make matters worse, the uninterrupted rainfall over the last few days has made it difficult for delivery workers, who ride motorcycles, to meet deadlines.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2020



Saleem Shahid Updated April 01, 2020

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani has said that his government would soon announce tax exemption for industries in the province.

Talking to reporters here on Tuesday, he said the industries would get incentives through exemption in service tax and reduction in other taxes which would help them to continue their production.

The chief minister said the industries would be given tax relief so that its benefit could reach the people who were suffering badly due to the coronavirus outbreak.

He said the provincial government was aware of the difficulties of daily wage workers who had been rendered jobless because of lockdowns and a package for them and other needy people would be announced within a week. The departments concerned were preparing that package, he added. “We are evolving a ration distribution system in consultation with welfare organisations so that food items could reach every deserving person,” Mr Alyani said.

He expressed anger over negative response of businessmen and industrialists of Hub and other areas of Balochistan who did not help jobless people.

He asked philanthropists to help poor people of the province. He said that despite meagre resources and without required assistance from the federal government his government made all arrangements for pilgrims who returned from Iran. He said over 5,000 pilgrims and other people were sent to their provinces after keeping them in quarantine. He said that during last one month people arrived in Pakistan through different routes.

He said the provincial government had purchased 250,000 begs of wheat and started sending them to all districts, specially to Makran and Rakhshan divisions, which could face shortage of edible and other daily use items due to closure of border with Iran.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2020


Punjab faces partial shortage of flour, other kitchen items

Amjad Mahmood Updated April 02, 2020

LAHORE: Panic buying in the wake of rumours of imposition of curfew soon coupled with large-scale buying by some philanthropists is leading to partial shortage of wheat flour and some other kitchen items in parts of Punjab province.

Though the government has increased wheat release from its godowns and is repeatedly announcing that there’s no shortage of the commodity while new crop is also expected within weeks, people are facing shortage of flour particularly in towns and villages far from the provincial capital.

The main reason for panic buying is the rumour-mongering by some unscrupulous elements out to cash in on the Covid-19 crisis as they are propagating that the government is considering imposing curfew to ban movement of people for curbing the corona infection.

Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry says the department is releasing 6,000 ton more wheat daily than the province’s consumption of 24,000 ton thus there should be no shortage of the commodity anywhere in Punjab.

The reports of shortage in some areas, he says, may be attributed to ‘abnormal’ buying for various reasons. Influenced by rumours, he says, the consumers are buying more than their real requirements and thus fomenting the crisis as some shopkeepers are also urging people to buy maximum flour, rice and pulses by misguiding them that the government is going to impose curfew to check spread of corona virus.

Anwer Hussain, the proprietor of an Ata Chakki in Mughalpura area, says as usual sale of food items picks up at the beginning of every month when most of salaried class gets their wages. But this time he is seeing a surge in the purchases by consumers.

He says that because of fluctuations in the price of wheat in the open market some Chakki operators like him who are supplied grain from the food department godown, have reduced their grinding capacity, resulting in temporary shortage of the commodity in specific areas.

Blaming big dealers for the price fluctuations, he says wheat price in the open market has gone up from Rs1,800 per 40 kg to Rs2,100 and they are left with the option of either passing on this increase to the consumers or halt grinding until getting wheat supplies at reasonable rates.

Mr Hussain is selling flour at Rs66 per kg to pass on some of the load of the higher wheat prices to consumers.

Some philanthropists are also stocking wheat to distribute it among the needy and those daily-wagers rendered jobless because of the lockdown. This activity too is putting pressure on the supplies calling for a mechanism to regulate the charity business so that hoarders may not take advantage of it.

Admitting that the situation is encouraging hoarding, the minister warns the unscrupulous traders to refrain from benefitting from the situation as the government will soon begin raiding the sites suspected of serving as godowns for hoarders.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2020



Ikram Junaidi Updated April 03, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Public and private sector organisations and individuals have started helping those rendered jobless due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Idrees Khan, a labourer who sits at CDA Chowk on IJP Road to get work, told Dawn that in the past a large number of contractors and others hired people as daily-wage labourers. He said he and others used to earn Rs500 to Rs1,000 daily depending on the nature of the work.

“Some people used to come here to engage labourers for either shifting goods from one house to another or moving furniture and refrigerators etc to upper portion of their houses. However, now hardly anyone comes here. On the other hand, we are ready to work even for Rs300,” he said.

 “But people also come here and distribute edible items among us. So we are thankful to God that at least we are getting food,” he said.

Another labourer, Saeed Khan, said they would sleep without food if people did not provide them food.


“We are not beggars so we cannot spread our hands in front of people. Thank God people come here and tell us to make queues and then hand over rice or curry to every person,” he said.

Moreover, a number of people have started circulating messages on social media that they want to help the poor and were requesting to inform them about deserving people.

Similarly, employees of Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL) have donated their two-day salary in the PM’s Relief Fund established to mitigate financial sufferings of the affected people.

According to a statement, OGDCL chief Shahid Saleem Khan handed over a cheque for Rs5.3 million to Special Assistance to Prime Minister on Relief Fund Nadeem Babar.

“During these challenging times, it is our duty to join hands and demonstrate collective efforts as no challenge is insurmountable,” Mr Shahid said.

Meanwhile, OGDCL I-9 hostel building has been converted into a quarantine centre where medicines, meal, bottled water, personal protective equipment, sanitisers and masks would be provided.

The facility consisting of 30 rooms has been equipped with all the medical care required for the Covid-19 patients. Besides, a fully equipped ambulance with a ventilator has been placed at a standby at the centre.

Moreover, Serena Hotels have started distributing rations to communities in locations surrounding their hotels countrywide.

More than 3,400 deserving families and households in areas where hotels are located such as Islamabad, Faisalabad, Quetta, Swat, Gilgit, Hunza, Shigar and Khaplu have been provided rations.

In addition, employees of the hotels have donated their one-day’s salary with the company making a double matching donation to contribute Rs10 million to the prime minister’s fund.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: April 3, 2020

KARACHI: Angered by the unavailability of funds and ration for daily-wage workers, scores of residents from Lyari took to the streets to protest on Thursday. The protesters alleged that the Sindh government has failed to devise a mechanism to distribute ration to the needy, despite the passage of eleven days of the lockdown.

Scores of residents, including women and children, from different localities of Lyari including Agra Taj Colony, Machhar Colony, Memon Society, Hangurabad and the adjoining areas were part of the protest.

The agitated protesters erected barriers and blocked Mauripur Road, halting the movement of vehicles carrying goods, as they shouted slogans against the provincial government. This resulted in a traffic jam on Mauripur Road itself, as well as West Wharf, Jinnah Bridge and Native Jetty Bridge.

The distraught citizens said they felt that they were being lied to by the federal and provincial governments.

“We don’t have ration to feed our children, who will die due to the unavailability of food,” the protestors stated. “Who will be responsible if they die?”

They stated that when they arrived at ration distribution points, they were turned away by the authorities with the use of force.

A heavy contingent of the law enforcement officials reached the protest site and calmed the protesters down. The demonstration ended when the law enforcers assured the protestors of their full cooperation.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2020.



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter April 04, 2020

LAHORE: The Punjab government has begun the process of distribution of financial aid to the destitute and daily wage earners under the Chief Minister Insaf Imdad Programme.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar says Rs1.46 billion have been transferred to 170,000 zakat recipients under the head of financial aid. “The government is providing real relief to the masses, instead of making hollow claims,” he said.

He said the ailing humanity could be best served through practical deeds than the spate of political jugglery. He said Rs10 billion had been allocated to provide financial aid to 2.5 million families.

“It is the most transparent and speedy financial aid programme of benefiting the daily wagers in Punjab,” says the chief minister.

DONATION: Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) President Irfan Sheikh on Friday presented a cheque of Rs10 million to the chief minister for the CM Fund for Corona Control.

The LCCI two-member delegation including Vice President Mian Zahid Javed Ahmed had called on the chief minister at his office.

The chief minister said the philanthropic passion of the industrialists was praiseworthy. He said the emotion of helping the ailing humanity also encouraged others and Islam also taught its followers to help the people in need.

“It is the time to help those who face difficulties and the rich should come forward to donate for others,” Mr Buzdar said.

He said the government was working hard to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and vowed that this battle would be won with the support of the people. He said the government had taken every step to secure the lives of the people.

AERIAL VIEW: The chief minister took an aerial view of the lockdown situation of Lahore and its surrounding areas. He saw different markets and trading centres closed due to the lockdown.

The streets and surrounding areas of the city were also devoid of traffic and the markets appeared deserted.

The chief minister expressed his satisfaction over the government’s measures taken for the protection of the people and lauded the efforts of police, Pak Army and Rangers. He said the measures had been taken to protect the health and life of the people.

“The outbreak of coronavirus can only be prevented if people stay at their homes,” he reiterated.

The chief minister expressed his gratitude for the people of Lahore for following the government’s instructions. He said the government was keeping a vigilant eye on the situation.

He said he was reviewing the implementation of government’s orders by visiting cities and trying to ensure that people stay protected from the scourge of coronavirus.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: April 4, 2020

KARACHI: On the directives of the Sindh government, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani issued on Friday a notification describing the mechanism devised for ration distribution among the needy.

As per the notification, each ration bag is to include 10 kilogrammes (kg) of flour, 1kg each of three types of lentils, 2kg cooking oil, 5kg rice, 1kg chickpeas, salt and 250 grams each of red chilli, turmeric and coriander powder.

Rations will be disbursed door-to-door between 5am and 7am, the notification states, adding that the exercise will take place under the supervision of relevant deputy commissioners (DCs) while citizens will be barred from crowding at any spot for ration collection.

The commissioner also issued another notification clarifying the government’s lockdown orders, as well as directing all DCs in the city to ensure the success of these measures, taken to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.

‘Low testing rate leaves Pakistan, India blindfolded in dealing with COVID-19’

He stated that bakeries would be permitted to remain open from 8am to 5pm, while confectioneries were to remain closed. Meanwhile, the management of supermarkets and utility stores have been instructed to practice social distancing while they operate.

The notification further says that restaurants and eateries will be closed, without any takeaway or delivery facilities, while only online services delivering essential daily use items and medicines can function via certain courier services. In addition, food and pharmaceutical companies may continue to operate in industrial areas.

Meanwhile, heading a meeting discussing relief activities during the lockdown, Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh maintained that the Sindh government was taking steps to ensure the supply of rations to the needy at their homes, with the help of local representatives and charity organisations.

Health workers fighting coronavirus pelted with stones in India

“The Sindh government will not abandon the needy under any circumstances and is trying to reach all those in need, especially those who do not seek alms publicly,” he stated, adding, however, that it was a challenge to provide rations while avoiding crowds.

Shaikh further said that the Sindh government was in contact with the Centre for the purpose of sharing data about needy citizens, adding that the measures had been discussed with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, who was also attending the meeting via video link.

Appealing to citizens to stay at home, he said that though the lockdown was an agonising process, the only way to curb the spread of COVID-19 was through such precautions.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2020.



By Mohammad Zafar Published: April 5, 2020

QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal on Friday approved a relief package of Rs700 million for daily wagers and poor families affected by the lockdown imposed in the province in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. Under the package, the government will distribute ration among deserving families.

The CM approved this package while chairing a meeting attended by Balochistan Minister for Finance Zahoor Buledi, Minister for Revenue Saleem Khosa, Home Minister Zia Langove, Balochistan Chief Secretary Captain (retd) Fazeel Asghar and civil and military officials.

The provincial food committee representative told the chief minister that the data of poor families was being gathered through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). He said the committee would ensure provision of food to the deserving families

The chief minister directed authorities to constitute district level committees to identify poor families affected by the lockdown. The committee to be headed by deputy commissioners would include also public representatives.

Lauding efforts of welfare organisations in launching the relief programmes in Balochistan, Kamal said, “The government will assist the organisations distributing ration among poor families.”

The meeting has approved to issue no-objection certificates (NOC) to donor agencies and the World Food Programme for registration related to social activities in Balochistan.

The meeting also decided to allocate funds of Rs10.5 million to divisional commissioners in order to provide safety equipment and food items in isolation wards and quarantine centres.

The chief minister reviewed purchase of safety kits, ventilators and testing kits for doctors and health staff and directed the officials concerned to approach the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for provision of safety equipment.

The meeting was informed that the provincial government utilized Rs70 million from allocated amount of Rs400 million for purchasing of medical and safety equipment following coronavirus pandemic. It was told that the provincial share of safety equipment provided by China would reach Quetta soon.

Kamal directed the finance minister to share precise figures of the amount released in order to deal with coronavirus challenge. The chief minister urged the attendees to ensure provision of safety kits for doctors and health staff performing duties in isolation wards and quarantine centres.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2020.




Kalbe Ali Updated April 08, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The ministry of finance on Tuesday released Rs10 billion for the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) as part of the government scheme to protect vulnerable sections of society from the current inflationary impact.

USC Managing Director Omar Lodhi said in a statement that Rs50bn had been allocated for utility stores and out of it Rs10bn had been released by the finance ministry.

He said because there was a significant difference between prices of different items in the open market and at utility stores the number of customers at the latter had increased remarkably.

Due to subsidy on sugar it was being sold at Rs67 per kilogram at utility stores, whereas its price in the open market was above Rs80 per kg, he added.

He said utility stores had registered a record sale of Rs2.30bn during the first four days of this month.

Mr Lodhi said people belonging to low-income group and those with saving habits had expressed confidence in the quality of goods and service at utility stores.

This is the first tranche out of the Rs50bn package to the USC that is part of the relief measure announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the first week of March.

A financial relief worth around Rs1.2 trillion was announced to ward off the negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the country’s people and economy.

Under the package to USC, utility stores are offering five essential items — sugar, rice, pulses, wheat flour and vegetable ghee — at subsidised rates.

While, the USC procures rice, pulses and sugar at open tendering, there are seven brands of ghee that are sold at subsidised rates to the government retail stores after negotiations.

However, to ensure smooth supply of wheat flour at subsidised rate, the federal government has directed Passco (Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation) to release 200,000 tonnes of wheat. Another batch of 200,000 tonnes will be released to the USC soon for sale of wheat flour up to Eidul Fitr as it will also include the Ramazan package.

The grinding of wheat is done by flourmills who qualify after tendering process.

The Rs50bn package has been used to clear the previous backlog in payment of bills since January, 2020, as well for fresh orders. The package has also helped the USC to enhance its inventories from around Rs2-2.5bn in January to its current standing at around Rs12bn.

“The target is to increase the inventory in USC storages and bookings up to Rs20bn,” a senior official of the USC said.

Meanwhile, the USC has finalised the summary of Ramazan Package that is expected to be forwarded to the Ministry of Industries and Production soon, to be placed in the next meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet.

The government will provide subsidies at 19 essential items, including milk, tea, gram flour, dates, soft drinks and spices, apart from the existing five items.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020



BR Web Desk April 08, 2020

The provision of financial assistance among the 12 million deserving families under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme is scheduled to start Thursday (April 9) as part of the federal government’s initiative to financially support the downtrodden segments of the society with a payment of Rs 12,000 to each deserving family.

The cash distribution was earlier scheduled to start from Wednesday (today) but rescheduled to Thursday in order to allow “applicants in maximum number” to register for the programme, it is learnt.

The federal government has upped the recipient locations to 18,065 including retail shops in collaboration with two private banks to distribute cheques, after biometric verification, among the deserving population.

The Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme is directly executed by the federal government under the supervision of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Dr Sania Nishtar.

The programme envisages providing financial assistance to 120,000,00 families from across Pakistan under the 1.2 trillion Economic Relief Package approved by the federal cabinet last week with Prime Minister Imran Khan in chair.

Under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, each family would be provided Rs 12,000 in one go. Previously, the federal government was to provide this amount in instalments; Rs 3000 per month for four months.

Official sources told Business Recorder that over 40 million messages were received (by Monday afternoon) from the applicants seeking financial assistance under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, at the designated official number.

“Scrutinising the applicants in such a big number is a challenging task; to ensure that no undeserving applicant is offered cash grant while ensuring that no deserving applicant is ignored,” officials privy to the matter told Business Recorder.

The scrutiny of the applicants is carried out by NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) to determine whether the Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) that have applied for the cash assistance have any land, property or related assets registered in their names or they are genuine applicants,” sources said.

Moreover, the sources said, NADRA has been tasked to ensure that any employee of the federal or provincial governments as well as any applicant receiving financial assistance from BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme ), Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM), or any other social welfare programme, is not declared eligible for Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.

When the programme was launched, it was allegedly marked with procedural anomalies coupled with bureaucratic hitches related to the registration of those in need of financial assistance that created confusion and panic among the deserving population. However, the officials concerned claim that these shortcomings have been redressed.

Apart from Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have respectively launched the Ehsaas Imdad Programme for the assistance of deserving families.

In Punjab, the Ehsaas Imdad Programme is executed under the supervision of Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar. Earlier, this programme aimed to provide Rs 4,000 each to 2.5 million poor families in Punjab. Now, the amount to be provided to the poor families has been increased from Rs 4,000 to Rs 12,000.

The Insaf Imdad Programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is executed by the KP government under the supervision of CM KP Mahmood Khan. This package aims to provide Rs 2,000 to each poor family. The exact number of families to be provided assistance under this programme would be determined after a detailed survey, official sources told Business Recorder.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By Haseeb Hanif Published: April 9, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday approved a Rs2.5 billion Ramazan package under which 19 more food items would be sold at subsidised rates in Utility Stores during the holy month.

The new rates will come into effect from April 17. The prices of beverages will be reduced by 15%, tea by 8% to 10%, gram flour by 10% and dates by 5% in comparison with their rates in the open market.

The prices of flour, sugar, pulses and ghee, which are already being sold at subsidised rates at Utility Stores, will remain unchanged.

The ECC has also issued direction for the opening of more Utility Stores.

Umer Lodhi, the managing director of the Utility Stores Corporation, told The Express Tribune that 19 edibles were being subsidised during the holy month.

“The Ramazan package will remain in place till Eid,” he added.

A 10kg bag of flour will continue to be sold at a subsidised rate of Rs800. Similarly, the price of sugar at Utility Stores will remain Rs68 per kg.

Pakistan allows cargo trucks to cross over into Afghanistan thrice a week

Lodhi said as per the directives of the ECC, 200 more Utility Stores would be opened within a month.

He added that the funds allocated for the Ramazan package might be increased if required.

“The ECC has lauded the performance of the Utility Stores Corporation during the pandemic.”

In a statement issued a few days ago, Lodhi said Utility Stores were ensuring the provision of basic daily use items on subsidised rates to its consumers, especially to those belonging to unprivileged sector of the society, during the lockdown imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

He said sufficient stocks of sugar, wheat flour, rice, ghee and pulses were available with the corporation and swift action was being taken to address complaints of shortage.

Earlier this year, the prices of essential commodities including sugar, rice and pulses were reduced at Utility Stores after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s approval of a Rs7 billion relief package.

Govt determined to strike balance between lockdown and economy, says PM

Overall, a 5-10% special discount was given on over a 1,000 items and the price cuts ranged between Rs7 and Rs40.

The prices of ghee and edible oil were slashed by Rs30 to Rs40 per kg. Ghee is being sold at Rs170 per kg. The rates of pulses were reduced by 15% to 20% lower than the mark.

Later, the government had approved a subsidy of Rs2 billion per month for a period of five months to the Utility Stores Corporation for the provision of edible items of daily use to people at affordable rates.



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter April 10, 2020

KARACHI: As many as 2,700 households in the city have so far benefitted from a recently launched project aimed at helping the poor in the continued period of lockdown that has rendered countless daily-wage earners jobless.

Titled ‘Corona Ration Project’, the venture run by a small team of dedicated individuals is about collecting donations, coordinating the production of ration bags, creating strong ties with grass-roots organisations, and helping families that have been most impacted.

“It was seeing the severe impact coronavirus was causing [on] our home, Karachi, that this initiative was born. The majority of our population cannot take time off from work without literally starving. Covid-19 can take more lives through hunger and poverty than disease itself if not taken seriously,” Mahnoor Fatima Farishta, leading the project, said explaining what motivated her team to start the project.

The team, she shared, managed to raise Rs6 million in two weeks and provided rations to families in Korangi, Malir, Orangi, Surjani, Lyari, Lilly Bridge, Machhar Colony and Saddar.

To ensure honest and efficient distribution, the team has formed close relationships with local charities and non-governmental organisations that have experience working with the city’s most impoverished communities.

“We are also working to help marginalised groups such as Rohingya refugees, transgender communities and religious minority groups, many of whom have been sidelined in this relief effort,” said Farishta who works at tech start-up doctHERs.

She founded the ‘Smart Clinic’ where female factory workers are provided access to primary care through telemedicine at their workplace.

The venture won the Tommy Hilfiger Social Innovation Challenge in Amsterdam and the MIT Tiger IT Challenge Bangladesh in 2019 being granted $1 million to expand to factories within South Asia.

Donations for the corona project can be made locally in the name of Mahnoor Fatima Farishta.

Account No 1045-0078-008231-01-3

IBAN #: PK73 BAHL 1045 0078 0082 3101 Bank Al Habib Limited.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020



BR Web Desk Updated April 11, 2020

It is becoming increasingly clear that the coronavirus pandemic will take a heavy toll of the economy, particularly employment and poverty trends. And it’s no surprise that the ones to suffer first, and the most, are the lowest income groups. Still, the first quantifiable estimates that are now coming out make for some grim reading and should give policymakers much to think about. According to a report by Dun & Bradstreet Pakistan, not only can the ongoing slowdown almost double the country’s poverty rate, from 23.4 percent to 44.2 percent, it can also put more than 12 million people out of work, which is approximately 20 percent of the total employed population. Even more importantly, it will most likely add 46.3 percent of the country’s vulnerable workforce – defined as self-employed workers and contributing family workers, who are not very likely to have formal work – to the ranks of the unemployed as well. Since Pakistan has a very high percentage of vulnerable employment, 41.6 percent according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) figures of 2018, the expected poverty bulge becomes that much easier to understand. Going by the report, the biggest vulnerable employment layoffs will come in the transport and communication (90.26 percent) and hotels and restaurants (90.00 percent) sectors. Similarly, wholesale and retail trade should expect 70.11 percent and manufacturing sector 69.91 percent of its vulnerable workers to face the axe sooner rather than later. And so the list goes on.

Given that businesses and government alike didn’t fully understand the kind of economic compromises that the lockdown would demand till as late as mid-March, and there’s still no way of knowing just how long proper economic activity cannot resume, these figures can be taken as careful estimates at best. But they do give a pretty clear idea of the magnitude of the problem. The government must immediately work on an action plan to help the sectors that are most at risk; so their vulnerable workforce can be protected before it finds itself on the streets with no income. It is unlikely, given the size of the economy, that the government can make direct transfers of the huge sums of money that businesses need to avoid a liquidity crunch in the immediate term. So it will have to adopt a calculated and phased approach.


Whenever it is feasible to relax the lockdown, it will be important to stagger it in stages. Right now, only industry related to essential services is allowed to function. Next, export industry should also be allowed to resume operations along with allied industry that feeds the export sector. But it should be done in a staggered manner. Suddenly giving the green light after a cabinet meeting one fine day will not do the job. The government will have to make a priority list, for which it will have to hold discussions with all stakeholders and gather input from experts. It will also have to make sure that the more important industries, food and pharmaceuticals, for example, are given a higher position on the list than others. And it must do all it can to time the relaxation as perfectly as possible. Just the other day, the Sindh chief minister was advised by a delegation of doctors, along with owners and chief executives of private hospitals, to extend the lockdown beyond April 14 because there is still the threat of the virus spreading like a fire in a jungle. Needless to say, of course, that if the spread is not controlled the economy will almost certainly collapse, and no manner of stimulus or intervention will get it back on its feet.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



Our Correspondent

April 12, 2020

JHANG: As many as 4,311 deserving women received financial assistance on Saturday under the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas Kifalat Programme at nine special distribution centres in the district.

The special distribution centres were set up at the Government Ghazali Degree College, Government Boys High School Shah Jewana, Mai Heer Stadium, Government Boys and Girls High Schools Ahmadpur Sial, Government Boys High School Shorkot Cantt, Chenab College Shorkot City, Government Girls High School Wassu and Government Elementary School Dal Mor.

The administration provided proper sitting and clean drinking water facilities to the visitors. Assistant Commissioner Qasim Gil while talking to The News said that 1,634 deserving women got Rs 12,000 and Rs 21,000 as per their approved stipend money at three distribution centres of Tehsil Jhang while further process to serve them was in progress.

The AC said that 816 deserving women had been provided their stipend money at the distribution centres of Tehsil Ahmadpur Sial while 1,081 deserving women received their money from Shorkot City and Shorkot Cantt centres. He told that 780 preserving women had been providing their financial assistance in both distribution centres of Tehsil Athara Hazari.



Our Correspondent

April 12, 2020

NOWSHERA: Ummah Welfare Trust country director Sahibzada Syed Imran has said that because of the problems being faced by daily wagers amid the ongoing lockdown over coronavirus outbreak, the Trust has started distribution of free ration worth Rs22 million.

He was speaking a ration distribution ceremony for newspaper hawkers on Saturday. Imran said that so far under the programme, food packages have been distributed to deserving families in Nowshera, Swabi, Mardan, Malakand, Rawalpindi and Karachi.

He said the Trust was also supplying food packages to orphans at their doorsteps amid the ongoing lockdown.




The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent Updated April 13, 2020

QUETTA: The Balochistan government on Sunday decided to provide roti to daily wage earners and deserving families in the provincial capital from Tuesday with the help of a non-go­­vernmental organisation, Baitul Islam.

Under the joint programme, roti would be provided at the doorsteps of the needy people through volunteers, it was decided in a meeting of Baitul Islam representatives with Chief Minister Mir Jam Kamal Alyani, provincial ministers Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa, food secretary and other senior government officials.

The NGO representatives said their organisation had already been supplying roti to the deserving people. They said philanthropists were providing donations to Baitul Islam for the programme that has benefitted half a million people.

They said a mobile application would be uploaded by Monday and the CM’s delivery unit and Provincial Disaster Management Authority would also get deserving people registered through call centres. Under the programme, roti would be provided according to the data registered with the PDMA and the delivery unit.

Official sources said that the provincial government would provide free of cost wheat to the mills, which would supply wheat flour to the welfare organisation for implementing of the programme. For the distribution of roti, Quetta would be divided in zones, while government schools, hostels and private tandoors would be utilised in this regard.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020



Dawn Report April 13, 2020

DERA GHAZI KHAN:Police registered cases on Sunday against six shopkeepers for fraudulently deducting a portion of the amount doled out the poor women under the Benazir Income Support Programme-cum-Ehsas scheme.

District Police Officer Akhtar Farooq told Dawn that the action was taken against the shopkeepers on the complaints filed by the affected women during visits of joint monitoring teams of police and the district administration to various points for distribution of Bisp-Ehsas programme grant.

About the modus operandi of the fraudsters, the DPO said these shopkeepers would deduct a considerable amount from the financial aid during transaction, cheating the poor women.

He said the women would previously draw the two instalments of aid amount after as many months that would total up to Rs21,000 each, adding that some staffers at the distribution points would even deprive them of the entire aid.

As per the complainants, the shopkeepers would draw the full amount but give only Rs12,000 to each recipient and keep the remaining sum.

Acting on the complaints, Civil Lines and Gadai police booked the suspects under section 420 of the Pakistan Penal Code, the DPO said.

KASUR: The district police on Sunday booked two alleged fraudsters, one each at Khudian and Pattoki Ehsas Kafalat grant disbursement centres for cheating poor women recipients.

According to the complainant, Benazir Income Support Programme (Bisp) Assistant Director Asghar Cheema, one of the suspects, Saaram, collected ATM cards from some poor women fraudulently at the Pattoki’s Allama Iqbal Road disbursement centre to deprive them of the grant. However, he was arrested on the affected women’s complaint.

Similarly, the police arrested a government employee, Ghulam Mustfa, on the complaint of a recipient, Suraiyya Bibi, who alleged that the suspect got her biometric identification fraudulently and then lied to her that there was no aid amount in her Bisp account. The incident occurred at Khudian Government Girls High School centre.

Earlier, on Friday, police had arrested a suspect, Tasleem Mahmood, at the Government Girls High School, Kot Radha Kishan Center and lodged a case against him for allegedly paying only Rs9,000 to a grant beneficiary, Fatima Bibi, instead of the entire amount of Rs12,000.

The police registered a case against him.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020



Dawn Report April 13, 2020

FAISALABAD: As many as 30,267 deserving people in Faislaabad received Rs36m under Ehsaas Kafalat Programme at 18 centres set up in the district during the last three days.

Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Ali said on Sunday that 6,847 people received Rs12,000 each on the first day, 11,313 on the second while 12,107 people got the amount on the third day after the biometric verification.

He said drinking water and washroom facilities had also been provided at the centres and assistant commissioners supervised all the arrangements regularly.

He said measures to control coronavirus were also being made at the centres coupled with maintaining the social distancing.

SAHIWAL: Out of total 36,957 applicants, 7,783 have received financial assistance under Ehsaas programme in the Sahiwal area during the last three days.

They received the assistance at nine centers set up in the district.

A senior bureaucrat told Dawn six centres were established in Sahiwal tehsil while three were in tehsil Chichawatni.

Deputy Commissioner Zeeshan Javed told Dawn the administration had decided to set up another centre in Chichawatni tehsil for distribution of funds in the future.

OKARA: During the last three days, the district administration distributed Rs107m among 8,800 beneficiaries at 18 centres in the first phase of the Ehsaas relief programme.

During this phase, the beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) got the relief amount while the details of registered applicants would be verified for the second phase of the programme.

On Sunday, Deputy Commissioner Usman Ali and District Police Officer Umer Saeed Malik increased the number the law enforcement personnel to enforce the social distancing at the centres.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020



Syed Irfan Raza Updated April 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Ehsaas Cash Relief Programme for poor people and daily wage earners, who are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout of the pandemic the most, is going on smoothly and over 1.7 million families have so far benefited in different parts of the country.

“So far 1,774,000 poor and eligible families have received Rs12,000 cash each as four-month stipend under the programme,” Special Assistant to the PM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar said in a media briefing on Sunday.

She said Rs22.46 billion had been distributed among the families from different branches of two designated banks and distribution camps were being established across the country.

Dr Nishtar said the programme was based on Short Messaging Service (SMS) as eligible persons received SMS telling them from which cash point and on which date they could get their stipend. “People who are employed somewhere and are getting their salaries should not apply for this facility as it is meant only for daily wage earners who have lost their livelihoods due to lockdown,” the SAPM said.

She warned that strict action would be taken unscrupulous officials if anyone was found involved in deducting amounts from the stipend. “Transparency and merit is being ensured in processing the applications and people should visit cash points only after they are advised to do so,” she added.

The Ehsaas Cash Distribution Programme was formally launched by the PM on Thursday for the less privileged to mitigate their suffering during the coronavirus crisis. A total of 12 million families will benefit under the programme which will be completed in three to four weeks.

According to Dr Nishtar, 673,948 beneficiaries had obtained cash from different branches of the two designated banks during the first two days of the campaign.

Under Rs144bn PM’s Ehsaas Relief Programme, an amount of Rs50bn has so far been given to the banks for distribution among the needy.

The stipend is being provided through 17,000 branches of Habib Bank Limited and Bank Al-Falah and 3,000 camps with multiple booths are being established with the assistance of the provincial governments.

The federal government has planned to complete the cash distribution process in two-and-a-half weeks but the process may prolong because it depends till what time people will draw cash from the banks.

Staggered mode of payment has been adopted to avoid crowds outside the banks and other distribution points.

The government is considering to extend the countrywide lockdown to prevent spread of deadly coronavirus, but some low-risk industries will be allowed to open from Tuesday (tomorrow) with the condition that they will follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) being devised for them.

Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the situation before formally taking the decision whether to ease the restrictions or extend the lockdown at a National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting on Monday (today).

“The meeting, which was attended by senior cabinet members and chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through a video link, discussed how to open low- and moderate-risk industries [as per guidance of the World Health Organisation] so that the wheel of economy starts running,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, who also participated in the meeting, told Dawn.

He said the WHO had issued a list of high-, moderate- and low-risk industries and the government had decided to allow low-risk industries, including the construction industry, to open from April 14.

He said SOPs were being devised for the industries to be opened to enable them to ensure prevention of the viral disease from spreading among their employees.

The meeting was apprised that the impact of Covid-19 was low in Pakistan as compared to other countries, particularly European states. “So far 88 people have died of the disease, and 14 of them who had contracted the virus three weeks ago during the last 24 hours,” the SAPM said.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020



By Mohammad Zafar Published: April 13, 2020

QUETTA: Under the federal government’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme, 6.5 million needy people in Balochistan who are affected by the lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak would get cash assistance, said the provincial government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani.

 “If lockdown resumes for another month the number of affected families will be over 1.5 million. Besides, if government decides to extend restrictions even after it, the hard-hit families would surpass the 1.7 million mark,” said Shahwani while speaking at a press conference on Saturday.

He added that Chief Minister Jam Kamal requested the federal government to enhance the quota of beneficiaries who are listed under the Benazir Income Support programme.

Briefing on the prime minister’s visit to  Bolan Medical Complex quarantine centre in Quetta, Shahwani said the PM hailed efforts of the provincial government in handling the deadly coronavirus pandemic in Balochistan.

Besides, the provincial spokesperson also briefed on the medical facilities to treat the COVID-19 patients.

 “An isolation ward has been established which will accommodate 460 patients with the facility of medical equipment, surgical accessories and medicines.”

Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme has been initiated in Quetta to provide relief to families hit hardest by the lockdown. Under the programme, Rs12,000 per family would be distributed to 31,000 families across the provincial capital through 14 payment points.

The provincial government has ensured special precautionary measures during the distribution to maintain social distancing. To achieve the purpose, it has divided the procedure in three phases.

In the first phase, the families registered under Benazir Income Support Programme would receive the payments; in the second phase, families who registered themselves through SMS would receive the cash; and in the final phase a list of beneficiaries saved with Quetta deputy commissioner would receive payment.

Fourteen payment points across Quetta have initiated distribution, including Railway Girls High School Joint Road Quetta, Govt Girls Primary School Manu Jaan Road and others.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2020.




ISLAMABAD: The reports of foul play involving several retailers who deprived scores of eligible women of part of their cash assistance under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme is compromising the transparency in “Pakistan’s largest social welfare initiative” — so allege its detractors — while the federal government functionaries claim that those involved in this practice will be dealt with an “iron hand.”

Since April 9, the distribution of Rs 144 billion under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme has been ongoing countrywide. In the first phase of this programme, 4.5 million women already registered under Kifaalat Programme are being provided cash assistance.

However, in what is seemingly a highly worrisome scenario, reports from across the country have emerged with corroborating videos on social media suggesting that scores of deserving women have been paid only Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 by the retailers instead of the full entitled amount of Rs 1,2000. Allegedly, the retailers involved in this practice refused to provide the complete Rs 12,000, saying Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 were being deducted from the cash assistance on the government’s instructions in the form of taxes.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Dr. Sania Nishtar took strong exception to these reports and reiterated “zero tolerance” for the perpetrators involved in looting women. She has clarified repeatedly that applicants being paid under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme are entitled to full amount of Rs 12,000 and anyone making any deduction in the cash assistance must be reported to the authorities.

According to official sources, after Sania Nishtar strongly intervened, a total of 72 alleged fraudsters were arrested against whom some 64 First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered (in some FIRs multiple accused were nominated) with 36 arrested from Punjab, 26 from Sindh and 10 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Business Recorder has learnt.

Reportedly, in several instances, Nishtar expressed dissatisfaction over the inaction against the alleged fraudsters on part of district administrations and law enforcement apparatus concerned in the related districts, and reprimanded the government officials after which the FIRs were registered and the accused were clearly nominated in the cases for fraud. Moreover, Nishtar has also recently written a letter to the regional director generals, regional directors, divisional directors, deputy divisional directors and assistant directors of Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division directing them to make sure that the full cash assistance of Rs 12000 is paid to each deserving applicant.

“It is expected of you that you would leave no stone unturned in discharge of this national and sacred duty regardless of any external pressure and influence…..I will fight corruption till my last breath and hope that you would support me in this drive,” the letter reads.

The federal cabinet has earmarked Rs 200 billion to financially support the downtrodden segments of society adversely affected by lockdown measures taken to stop the spread of coronavirus. Out of these funds, Rs 144 billion are to be spent to provide Rs 12,000 each to 12 million families under the Ehsaas Emergency cash Programme.



By RECORDER REPORT on April 15, 2020

When it comes to helping less fortunate members of society Pakistanis are one of most charitable people in the world. But there is no shortage of cheaters. The first phase of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme for the disbursement of Rs 12,000 to daily wagers and piece-rate workers worst affected by the coronavirus lockdown started last week. The amount was barely enough to help the poor and jobless to make ends meet. But reports soon started emerging of several beneficiaries complaining of unauthorized deductions. At least 25 people, including a police officer, have been arrested from different parts of Sindh for stealing money from the poor. In Dadu, nine people were arrested and five CNICs and 25,000 recovered from their possession. It is good to note that action has been swift unlike the laxity that characterizes official attitude under normal circumstances.

After the second phase, in which the remainder of the 12 million eligible beneficiaries are to receive cash assistance, it may become necessary for the government to extend the programme to the next quarter, i.e., if lockdowns are to continue in some form. This being the first time such large-scale distributions of cash were made, problems were likely to crop up, as they have. A major flaw appears to be in the mode of distribution. A per the plan, deserving families are to receive cash handouts through over 18,065 sale points of two private banks, for which provincial governments were asked to provide open public spaces for setting up disbursement arrangements, as well as management of crowds. That created opportunities for unscrupulous elements to take advantage of the recipients. This is amply illustrated by the example of the arrested police officer. According to press reports, although posted at the Counter-Terrorism Department in Karachi, he was also working as an authorized agent of a bank for which he had set up a centre inside his home in Khairpur, where he took a certain amount out of poor people’s relief fund. Also cause of concern is the number of distribution points, which falls far short of the requirement. People have been seen standing long hours crowded closely together in long queues – in utter disregard of social/physical distancing – leading in one instance to a woman’s death from sheer exhaustion.

The government needs to review this system. It should consider using the services of mobile operators for the disbursement of funds. That is imperative to create ease of access for the recipients and also cut out the role of corrupt intermediaries who think of nothing to deceive even the poor of the poorest.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By Associated Press of Pakistan on April 15, 2020

LAHORE: Provincial Industries and Trade Minister  on Tuesday reviewed various proposals relating to Ramadan Relief Package 2020.

Chairing a high-level meeting here at Civil Secretariat, the minister discussed and reviewed in detail various options with regard to provision of relief in electricity and gas bills, fiscal aid and providing essential items through home delivery system at subsidized rates under the proposed Ramadan package.

The participants of the meeting also expressed their complete consensus for provision of relief in electricity and gas bills. It was also decided that recommendations would be submitted to Punjab Cabinet for final approval.

Provincial Minister assured that targeted subsidy would be given in the absence of Ramadan Bazaars during the Ramadan and government would also provide relief to the poor and destitute.

He expressed the concern that common man was badly affected due to coronavirus outbreak and vowed to provide them all out support and help.

Aslam Iqbal said that recommendations relating to targeted subsidy and line of action would be submitted in cabinet meeting for final decision in this regard.

Secretaries of Industries and Trade, Agriculture, Food and senior officers of relevant departments attended the meeting.




ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar Wednesday said the government was fighting on two fronts, against the COVID-19 and against hunger at the same time.

Addressing a press conference here along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health, Dr Zafar Mirza, Umar said that the government was making all-out efforts to contain the spread of the virus as well as dealing with hunger.

He maintained that the people’s health was the top priority of the incumbent government, adding that considering the ground realities, one nationwide decision to combat Covid-19 must be implemented.

The minister said that timely decision of the government to open the construction, horticulture and dry cleaner sectors would help mitigate sufferings of the labour community.

He maintained that the federal government had taken all the decisions regarding the coronavirus keeping in mind the interests of the 220 million people, and facts on the ground were taken into consideration.

He said the government was well aware of the genuine needs of the low-income group and keeping in view the present crisis, there was a dire need to open up construction industry, and other small business sectors.

Outlining the need for a balance between containing the coronavirus from spreading and also ensuring economic activity does not come to a halt, Umar said that it was important to keep in mind those who were facing hardships due to the lockdown.

“We are trying to present the facts in front of you [the masses] with honesty,” he said. “We have to take decisions for the betterment of 220 million people,” he added.

The minister said that the prime minister was particularly concerned about the street vendors, tailors, workers, labourers and other daily wage earners who were bearing the brunt of the lockdown.

He said that there were concerns among the masses regarding the lockdown but actions had to be taken according to the situation.

“Decisions are being taken keeping in mind the facts on the ground,” he said, adding that people should not compare other countries with Pakistan as the situation regarding the coronavirus was different in each country.

Umar said that the basic direction of the country should be the same.

He said that the chief ministers of all the provinces and other stakeholders took part in the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meetings and presented their recommendations.

“The direction we take should be the same and decisions should be taken with consultation,” he said.

“It is my opinion that the provinces and even district administrations should be allowed flexibility to take decisions according to the situation,” he added.

The minister said that once the pandemic was over, people could argue with one another about which steps taken by the government were correct, and which were not.

“For the time being, the need of the hour is that we battle this global problem with unity and let me tell you that it is happening to a great extent,” he added.

Umar said that Rs35 billion had been disbursed among more than 2.8 million people under the Ehsaas Programme.

Speaking on the occasion, the SAPM on National Health said that the situation in Pakistan as compared with the rest of the world was not worsening and so far both coronavirus infections and deaths were even below the estimates of the local authorities.

He once again urged the masses to follow the guidelines developed by the national and global health authorities to cope with the spread of the Covid-19, adding that those guidelines must be implemented across the board by everyone from buyers to businessmen to factory owners to employees.

Dr Mirza said that globally over two million people had been infected with the Covid-19, adding that 127,000 deaths had occurred and 485,000 people had recovered.

Pakistan so far conducted 73,439 tests of which 5,988 were positive including 272 cases in the past 24 hours.

He said that so far 107 people in Pakistan had died of the Covid-19, 1,446 had recovered and 46 were in critical condition.



By Shabbir Hussain Published: April 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has so far distributed Rs37.608 billion among 3.134 million deserving families under its Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme launched to provide support to the daily wagers hit hardest by the lockdown imposed in order to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The government plans to distribute Rs12,000 cash stipend to each of 12 million deserving families who get themselves enrolled by sending SMS to 8171. To date, 83.61 million SMS have been received whose analysis is under way. The deadline for registration is April 19, 2020 midnight.

According to a press release, the programme entered its second phase on Wednesday as it started distributing the stipend among the second category of beneficiaries.

They were declared eligible based on their profiling checks by the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) – the national socio-economic database.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar – who also heads Ehsaas Programme – visited the cash distribution campsite at IMCG Girls College in Islamabad and interacted with the beneficiaries who had come to collect their payments.

The beneficiaries had a customized message on their phones addressed to them with their names to visit the nearest payment centre and to collect the emergency cash handout of Rs12,000.

Briefing media about Ehsaas category-2 beneficiaries, Dr Nishtar said each one of these beneficiaries is either the wife of a labourer whose livelihood is badly affected by the coronavirus crisis or is a domestic help laid off by the employers.

“These people were on the brink of running out food rations. So, these Rs12,000 come to them at a very critical time.” She said such a fast and transparent programme of financial aid had never been introduced in Pakistan’s history before.

Dr Nishtar said the number of distribution centers and counters was being increased to prevent overcrowding. No one will be allowed to illegally deduct the aid amount, she said.

“We take special measures for preventing spread of the virus during cash disbursement and ensure social distancing and other measures. Special instructions have been issued to staff at the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Centers to facilitate the special persons,” she said.

She also spoke to the retailers and informed them about the cabinet’s decision to waive advance withholding tax on commission collected under section 233 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 from branchless banking agents.

“The Ehsaas Emergency Cash payment notifications will go to new Ehsaas Emergency Cash recipients registered through 8171 in a staggered manner over the next seven days. In the initial batch, women will get payments and in next batches, men will start getting payments,” said the statement.



ZAHEER ABBASI  April 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has disbursed till to date Rs44.194 billion during the last seven days to 3.692 million deserving families under Ehsaas emergency cash transfer programme and started payment to male beneficiaries in category 2 from Thursday with most of them daily wagers.

Dr Sania Nishtar, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Protection stated that Ehsaas Emergency Cash program has commenced disbursements to the second category of beneficiaries to all of them who have been enrolled through 8171 SMS service.

They were declared eligible based on their profile checks in the national socio-economic database as well as the wealth profiling checks.

She visited the cash distribution campsite at IMCG located at G-10/4, Islamabad and interacted with beneficiaries who had come to collect their payments.

Each one of them had a customized message on their phone addressed to them with their names to visit the nearest payment centre on April 15, 2020 and collect emergency cash handout of Rs12,000.

Briefing the media about these Ehsaas category-2 beneficiaries in need, Dr Nishtar stated, “Each one of these beneficiaries was either the wife of a labourer whose livelihood has been badly affected by the coronavirus crisis or is a domestic helper herself who has been laid off by the employers. Without any food, they are at the brink of running out of food rations. So, these Rs12,000 come to them at a very critical time.”

Dr Nishtar also spoke to the retailers and informed them about the cabinet’s decision yesterday on the waiver of advance withholding tax on commission collected under Section 233 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 from branchless banking agents.

She urged them to do an effective crackdown against corruption.

The Ehsaas Emergency Cash payment notifications will go to new Ehsaas Emergency Cash recipients registered through 8171 in a staggered manner over the next seven days.

In the initial batch, women would get payments and in next batches, men will start getting payments.

The analysis of 83.61 million SMSs received was underway and the deadline for registration is April 19, 2020 midnight.




ISLAMABAD. In the second phase of Ehsaas emergency Cash program, distribution of aid money has begun for men along with women who are mostly daily wage earners.

At least Rs44.19 billion has been disbursed in 36 lakh, 82 thousand families during the seven-days of the ongoing implementation of the cash programme.

According to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, the government has started providing money to deserving men in the second phase of the programme.



The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent Updated April 19, 2020

QUETTA: Over 1.2 million families in Balochistan had been adversely affected due to lockdown imposed in the province to stop the spread of coronavirus, said a spokesperson for the Balochistan government at a press conference on Saturday.

According to him, if continues for another two months the lockdown may force thousands of families in the province to live below the poverty line.

“As the number of cases is increasing, we have decided to conduct 1,750 tests daily,” Liaquat Ali Shahwani said, adding that the total number of infected patients had now reached 359 in Balochistan, of which 229 patients were local transmissions.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on April 19, 2020

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Asad Qaiser, said on Saturday that Rs132 million is being distributed amongst 11,000 deserving families of the district of Swabi under the Ehsas Programme.

Talking to media here after visiting the Ehsas Kifalat Centre, he said Rs12,000 would be paid to each needy family under the Ehsas Programme initiative that is being appreciated and acknowledged globally.

He said that in a very short span of time the federal government successfully launched the Ehsas Kifalat program in a very transparent manner.

He said the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also distributing Rs 6, 000 assistance package among each deserving family of the province.

Referring to members of the Tablighi Jamaat and the Zaireen, he said all possible assistance is being provided to them, and within one week all the members of the Tablighi Jamaat across the country would be sent back to their respective areas.

He said that by Friday 1,239 members of the Tablighi Jammat who had been stranded in different areas of the country safely returned to their areas, adding arrangements are being made to bring home all the Pakistanis including members of the Tablighi Jamaat stranded in different countries.

He said the government respects members of the Tablighi Jamaat and overseas Pakistanis and would not leave them alone in this hour of tragedy.

The Speaker said that he had constituted a committee of the National Assembly under the chairmanship of Federal Minister Shehryar Afridi to contact all the chief ministers to address the issue of stranded Pakistanis.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020




Khalid Hasnain April 20, 2020

LAHORE: While the government claims to have disbursed over Rs944m among 77,464 people in Lahore alone under the EhsaasKafalatProgramme during the last eight days in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown, those seeking financial assistance are facing various problems at the centres set up by the city district administration to distribute the financial assistance.

Moreover, the opposition leaders have criticised the government for getting credit for the programme that, what they claimed, was actually the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) launched by the PPP government during its 2008-2013 tenure.

“Previously, I would comfortably receive financial assistance through the ATM card or from Nadra office at ThokarNiazBaig. But this time, when I visited the office some days ago to receive Rs12,000, I was asked to go to a centre set up at a school at Nawab Town,” one Allah Rakhi told Dawn on Sunday.

“But when I reached the centre, there were almost 1,200 women gathered to receive money. There was suffocation and I was unwell also and I was unable to wait for many hours. So I returned. And now I plan to go again,” she added while describing her ordeal.

A recent video from a centre established in Lahore for disbursing the financial aid showed several women standing in long queues with no distancing despite the fact the Covid-19 pandemic continues spreading fast in the country.

“We have BISP cards and we are here to receive money at this centre,” a woman was shown as saying. A relative of an applicant waiting outside the centre said, “For the last four hours, we are here (to receive cash) but to no avail”.

According to a senior PPP leader, though the government is trying hard to replace name of the BISP with the EhsaasKafalatProgramme, it cannot do so since the BISP has a legal cover through an act of the parliament.

“It is the best ever programme introduced by the PPP government that was widely appreciated by the international institutions. In our tenure, the total beneficiaries of the BISP were 7.2m. But later, the successor government reduced the number to 4m and then 2.9m finally,” PPP central leader Chaudhry ManzoortoldDawn. He said it was very easy for a beneficiary to get financial assistance through ATM card/bank.

He claimed that EhsaasKafalatProgramme has no data as the text messages being received by the government are being verified and scrutinised through the BISP data.

Senator Mushahidullah of the PML-N has critcised the government for continuously telling lies, especially at the time when the country is facing the Covod-19 pandemic.

“You can see all the people getting Rs1,200 are women. And these women are actually the beneficiaries of the BISP and not the PTI government’s EhsaasKafalatProgramme,” he told this reporter, saying the PML-N, during its last tenure, had substantially increased funds for the BISP.

“But this government continues to take credit of the programmes introduced and successfully implemented by the PML-N and PPP governments. They all are liars,” he says.

According to the city district administration, the government has disbursed Rs944.5m among 77,464 people during the last eight days at 31 centres set up in the metropolis.

“We have made good arrangements at 31 centres and 145 cash counters under EhsaasKafalatProgramme in Lahore,” Lahore Deputy Commissioner Danish Afzaal said in a press release on Sunday. He said all the centres were also well-equipped to protect the people against the coronavirus.

He said besides this programme, those sending messages to 8171 were also being paid Rs12,000 each. According to a spokesman for the administration, each person takes 2/3 minutes in getting the financial assistance.

“Moreover, all the precautionary measures, including provision of sanitisers and hand wash, social distancing and screening of each beneficiary coming to center are being taken by the administration. The elderly are being treated on a priority basis with due respect. All are being served water and juice at the centres,” he claimed.

PTI leaders MianMehmoodur Rasheed, Aleem Khan and Hafiz Mumtaz were not available for comments.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent April 20, 2020

QUETTA: Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri has said that the federal government is making all-out efforts to save people from unemployment and severe impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking at a distribution ceremony under the Ehsaas Cash Relief Programme at Quetta Press Club on Sunday, he said that he had come here to help deserving media people who were facing difficulties due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Suri said that recently a C-130 aircraft had arrived in Quetta from Islamabad several times and brought required equipment and other items sent by the National Disaster Management Authority to the Balochistan government.

He said that the world was passing through a difficult time as coronavirus had badly affected the entire world, killing thousands and rendering hundreds of thousands sick.

He advised the people to take precautions and avoid going out of their homes unnecessarily.

“Coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing in Balochistan, particularly in Quetta. The government as well as the people need to be cautious to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

“The poor people, particularly daily wage earners, are bearing the brunt of the lockdown imposed in the country. Therefore, the government has started a process of distributing Rs12,000 among the poor and deserving people. Millions of people have benefited from this initiative,” the deputy speaker said.

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided to ease the lockdown in phases and the construction sector had been given tax exemption. In an effort to prevent people from becoming unemployed, the federal government had allowed various sectors to resume functioning, he added.

“In addition, we are seeking a long-term solution,” Mr Suri said. “In the next budget, a comprehensive programme will be launched to boost Balochistan’s economy, with focus on agriculture, livestock, mines and minerals.”

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2020



By Our Correspondent Published: April 20, 2020

PESHAWAR: The provincial government on Sunday expressed fear that as many as 1.3 million people may lose their jobs if a lockdown was imposed for 45 days in the province.

This was disclosed in a report, titled ‘Coping Strategy: Mitigating Adverse Impact of Covid-19 on the Economy and Job Market in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P)’, prepared by the provincial Planning and Development Department.

The report discusses the current situation and the future impacts of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). It said that as many as 460,000 people working on daily wages and street vendors could lose work due to the lockdown.

Released on Sunday, the report highlighted the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the province’s economy. The people highly vulnerable to the financial impacts of the Covid-19 are daily wagers, people paid per the work performed, paid non-family apprentices and street vendors, the report read.

It projected that the economic growth of the province could fall from last year’s 3.73 per cent to 2.9 per cent this year. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the province could also decrease from Rs1.335 trillion to Rs1.316 trillion.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2020.



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated April 21, 2020

ISLAMABAD: More than 84 per cent households in a Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) survey have reported that they are food secure, while 16pc households are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity in overall Pakistan.

The PSLM survey report 218-19, conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (FBS), covered 25,940 households across rural and urban communities for collecting information on a range of social sector issues — education, health and food security by facilities and services. It is eleventh round of PSLM surveys since 2004 for monitoring of development plans at the provincial/district level in the overall context of MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and now SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

The calculation of food security is included in the report for the first time. It was revealed further that moderate or severe food insecurity is more in the rural areas as compared to the urban areas.

Sindh witnessed the highest level of moderate or severe food insecurity followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Punjab, respectively.

Says 16pc households experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity

The survey reveals that more than one half of the population of 10 years and older — 61pc in 2018-19 as compared to 60pc in 2013-14 — has ever attended school. Similarly, overall 30pc children aged 5 to 16 are out of school in Pakistan as compared to 33pc in 2013-14, showing a overall declining trend. The percentage is highest in Balochistan and lowest in Punjab.

Out of school consists of children, who have never been to school and those children who attended school but left afterwards. At the same time, 24pc children age (5 -16) years have never been to school in Pakistan, this percentage is highest in Balochistan, followed by Sindh and lowest in Punjab. Dropout rates are lower and have almost same pattern in all provinces.

The overall literacy has increased to 60pc from 58pc in 2013-14. There is increasing trend in provinces except Balochistan. The report reflects increasing trends in indicators of education such as literacy rate for male increased to 71pc and 49pc for female. In the youth, the literacy rate increased to 72pc from 71pc in 2013-14.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2020



By Muhammad Shahzad Published: April 21, 2020

LAHORE: The partial lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and the increasing practice of self-quarantine has adversely affected the socio-economic conditions of domestic workers.

The domestic workers constitute a large portion of the workforce that contributes to the country’s informal economy.

A majority of such workers belong to rural areas. Since the global pandemic began and the federal and provincial governments imposed lockdown across the country, domestic workers had been forced to leave for their native villages.

Those who resided in the city had been left confined in their homes as the public transport system closed down.

The imposition of ban on their entry by a large number of private and cooperative housing societies only added more trouble to their woes as domestic workers have no other means of earning.

A few weeks ago, a domestic helper working at the residence of famous designer Maria B tested positive for the virus and the family reportedly sent him back to his village rather than admitting him to a quarantine centre.

A worker’s rights activist told The Express Tribune that people of higher-income backgrounds, who usually hosted these workers, had sacked many of their helpers instead of sensitising them to the situation.

The affected people include a couple from Sargodha. The husband worked as a cook while the woman worked as a maid.

China owes Germany $162 billion in ‘coronavirus damages’: report

After the pandemic began, their employers just asked them not to come for work until they were asked to return.

The sacked couple were left helpless and felt as if they were stranded in the city. Public transport was also not available. With the help of fellows from their village, the couple shared a hired vehicle to transport them to their village.

The Executive Director of HomeNet Pakistan (HNP), an organisation working for the rights of domestic workers, Umm-e-Leila said that such workers formed a large portion of the labour force of Pakistan’s informal economy. “These include home-based workers, domestic help, street vendors and contract workers.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2020.



By Shahbaz RanaPublished: April 21, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Punjab left behind Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in average monthly household income that increased to Rs42,861 at the end of terms of previous assemblies, due to concentration of development activities in one province, reveals the latest official survey.

The key reason behind the increase in household income appeared to be consolidation of development activities in Punjab, which had been governed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz – the ruling party in the Centre at that time.

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Monday released findings of the Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES) 2018-19. The survey compared social and economic indicators across the provinces with results of the HIES 2015-16.

The work on survey began towards the end of last political governments but field activities were carried out from August 2018 to June 2019.

The average monthly household income in Punjab increased to Rs42,861, higher by Rs6,631 or 18.3% as compared to the results of 2015-16, according to the HIES 2019.

It was also the highest average household income among all provinces, a distinction that was with K-P in 2015-16.

The average household income in K-P stood at Rs42,736, up Rs4,383 or 11.4%, showed the survey.

However, in Sindh, the average household income stood at Rs39,078, higher by Rs5,130 or 15.1% over three years ago.

Meanwhile, in Balochistan, the average household income increased by Rs6,346 or 21.2% to Rs36,387, according to the new survey.

The increase in average income was the slowest in K-P among all provinces. Punjab and Balochistan were the two main provinces where income increased significantly both in absolute terms and in percentages.

The most populated province – Punjab – was the main beneficiary of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other mega development initiatives, followed by Balochistan.

Politicians belonging to Sindh and K-P had protested against the uneven distribution of development funds during the 2013-18 tenures of assemblies.

Findings of the survey also depict mixed social and economic results. The literacy rate in Pakistan increased by two percentage points to 60% and the infant mortality rate went down between the period of the two surveys.

The review showed that economic disparity between the lowest income group and the highest income group fell marginally.

According to the survey, average monthly household expenditure in 2018-19 stood at Rs37,159, up by Rs4,581 or 14% compared to 2015-16.

This figure is used to assess the overall welfare of people. The pace of increase in expenditure in all income groups was lower than the previous survey year, showing positive impact of low global inflationary environment.

However, the expenditure by the richest income group was 267% higher than the lowest income group, indicating disparity in living standards due to income levels.

Average monthly income stood at Rs41,545 in 2019, higher by 13.6% or Rs4,883 over the 2016 period. The growth in income was slightly less than the growth in expenditure, which suggested that people hardly met their expenses from their income.

The income of the richest was 273% more than the income of the poorest.

The increase in expenditure seems to be across the board as the expenditure for all income quintiles increased in the range of 10% to nearly 19% – but the pace of increase was less than in previous years.

There was usual disparity between the lowest quintile and the highest one – the highest income group spent Rs58,206 per month, which was 168% more than the spending by the lowest income group that amounted to Rs21,726.

The poorest income group’s spending increased only Rs3,230 per month in the last two years. The second-lowest quintile’s average monthly expenditure amounted to Rs27,138, higher by Rs4,264 or 18.6% over the last surveyed year.

Meanwhile, the third quintile, comprising the middle-income group, had average monthly expenses of Rs30,475, higher by Rs3,770 or 14.1%.

Moreover, the higher middle-income group’s expenditure grew to Rs36,338, up by Rs5,001 or 16% more than the previous surveyed year.

The monthly income of all quintiles increased in the range of 5% to 22% and the major surge was recorded in the income of the lowest two quintiles, which appeared to be beneficiaries of the government’s economic policies.

The lowest quintile’s average monthly income stood at Rs23,192, higher by Rs3,450 or 17.5% and sufficient to finance the expenses.

The second-lowest quintile’s income stood at Rs29,049, which was 22% or Rs5,223 more than the previous year’s income and also higher than the pace of increase in expenses.

The middle-income group saw a 12% increase in its income to Rs31,373. The higher middle-income group’s average monthly income increased to Rs37,643, showing 11.8% growth.

The average monthly income of the highest income group was estimated at Rs63,544, higher by 5.1%, still short of matching the growth in expenses.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2020.



The Newspaper’s Reporter Updated April 22, 2020

Around 43m people were estimated to be acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance across ten countries, including Pakistan. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Around 135 million people across 44 countries experienced acute food insecurity at the close of 2019, said the Global Report on Food Crises 2020 released on Tuesday.

The report, jointly published by an international alliance of UN, governmental and non-governmental agencies, said a total of 183m people were living in stressed condition at the cusp of acute hunger and at risk of slipping into crisis or worse if faced with a shock or stressor, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

The food crises, as well as lack of access to dietary energy and diversity, safe water, sanitation and health care will continue to create high levels of child malnutrition, while the pandemic is likely to overburden health systems in these countries.

The key drivers behind the food crises as analysed by the report include conflict, extreme weather and economic turbulence.

Around 43m people were estimated to be acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance across ten countries in the Middle East and South and South East Asia, including Pakistan.

With a rural poverty headcount close to 50pc, Sindh and Balochistan have the highest rural and urban poverty rates. The provinces have experienced drought-like conditions since 2013 and 2016, and the situation worsened during the last quarter of 2018 with adverse effects on rural livelihoods, cereal production and livestock.

Over 3m people — representing more than half of the population analysed in 21 rural, drought-affected districts in Balochistan and Sindh — were in crisis or worse during the period between October 2018 and July 2019. Of these, more than 1m people faced emergency conditions.

The acute food insecurity forecasts for 2020 were produced before Covid-19 became a pandemic and do not account for its likely impact. The combined effects of conflict, macroeconomic crisis, climate-related shocks and crop pests, including fall army-worm and desert locusts, were likely to worsen the crisis.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2020



AFP April 22, 2020

PARIS: The coronavirus pandemic could nearly double the number of people around the world facing acute hunger, the UN’s World Food Programme said on Tuesday, its director warning of a looming “global humanitarian catastrophe.”

“We are on the brink of a hunger pandemic,” David Beasley, the WFP’s executive director, told the UN Security Council in a video conference.

The warning came as the WFP and other partners released a new report on food crises around the world that predicted an explosive growth in the number of people threatened with “acute food insecurity.” The fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises said the number was already on the rise last year before the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

But the economic impact of Covid-19 is projected by the WFP to increase the number facing food insecurity to 265 million this year, from 135 million in 2019, already the highest in the four years the report has been prepared.

 “With Covid-19, I want to stress that we are not only facing a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe,” Beasley said. “Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children, face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the spectre of famine a very real and dangerous possibility,” he said.

“In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries, and in fact, in 10 of these countries we already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation.” Comparing the 50 countries in the reports this and last year, the number of people in food crisis rose by nearly 10 percent to 123 million people.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2020



KhaleeqKiani Updated April 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government has called a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Wednesday (today) to approve a mechanism for disbursement of Rs200 billion among daily wage earners.

The meeting, to be presided over by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, is expected to take up a total of nine agenda items, including technical supplementary grants to various agencies.

Finance Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that the government had allocated Rs200bn for providing financial assistance to daily-wage earners/employees as part of the PM’s Rs1.24 trillion relief and economic stimulus package. But disbursements could not be made for want of a foolproof selection and disbursement mechanism.

He said the financial assistance to daily wagers and employees of various businesses “would be released after proper identification and screening through filters by Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP)”.

Nine-item agenda includes technical supplementary grants to various agencies

An official told Dawn that consultations had also been made with the provincial governments, their labour departments, workers welfare institutions, the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and various businesses through chambers of commerce and industry.

The official said the ECC would also consider a proposal by the climate change ministry for exemption from the government’s re-lending policy of the Pakistan Hydro-Met & Ecosystem Restoration Services Project because of its non-profitable objectives. The policy entails expensive interest rates effectively going beyond 14 per cent.

The ECC will also discuss the implications and way forward in the wake of Sindh High Court’s orders regarding payment of dues by the government to about 850 employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). The meeting will take up another matter raised by the maritime affairs ministry about arrest of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation’s ships in South Africa on account of alleged claims by a firm, Coniston, against the PSM.

Officials said a presentation by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) was also on the ECC agenda. The federal cabinet has already ordered dissolution of the incumbent CCP for its alleged links with businesses involved in anti-competitive market practices.

The ECC will approve two technical supplementary grants of Rs613 million for maintenance of a helicopter of the Frontier Corps and a few development schemes in Balochistan. It will approve Rs150m seed money for the Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority and the revised budgets of the EOBI for fiscal years 2028-19 and 2019-20.

The finance secretary updated the National Assembly’s Standing Com¬mittee on Finance on the Rs1.2tr package announced by the prime minister. He said assistance had already been disbursed among 4.4m families out of Rs150bn apportioned for the poor.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2020



ZULFIQAR AHMAD April 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, Dr Sania Nishtar, on Wednesday said that the government had so far distributed Rs 65.249 billion among 5.437 million families across the country.

Taking to Twitter, she said that “to date, Ehsaas Emergency Cash disbursements of Rs65.249 billion have been made to 5.437 million families across the country for categories 1& 2.”

Terming the feedback sent by people via social media of great importance, Nishtar said that she would hold a presser today (Thursday) and would respond to the questions and feedbacks given by the people regarding the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme.

Almost 140 million (139.197 million) text messages were received at the federal government’s designated short messaging service (SMS) number seeking financial assistance under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, of which 55.47 million were freshly registered applicants, upon the closure of the programme’s registration last week.

The 55.47 million freshly-registered applicants have been identified as “unique” applicants given that they got themselves registered at the federal government’s SMS facility for the first time, whereas 139.97 million applicants mainly included those already registered but sent text messages on the prescribed number to check the status of financial assistance, official sources told Business Recorder.

Till closure of the deadline on April 19, Rs55.039 billion were distributed among 4.586 million families under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, according to the data issued by Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division.

The relevant details suggest that Rs22,189,116,000 distributed among 1,849,093 families in Punjab, Rs18,478,044,000 distributed to 1,539,837 families in Sindh, Rs11,490,264,000 among 957,522 families in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rs1,622,028,000 to 135,169 families in Balochistan, Rs842,196,000 among 70,183 families in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Rs296,184,000 among 24,682 families in Gilgit-Baltistan and Rs121,428,000 were distributed among 10,119 families in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

Since April 9, the distribution of Rs144 billion to provide cash assistance of Rs12,000 each to 12 million deserving families was launched countrywide under the supervision of Dr Nishtar.

In the first phase of this two-week programme, which was completed on August 16, 4.5 million women already registered under Kifaalat Programme were provided cash assistance.

In the ongoing second phase, which started off on April 16, four million registered through National Socioeconomic Database, are being provided cash assistance.

In the third and last phase of the two-week drive, 3.5 million applicants registered through the government’s designated SMS facility, web portal and district administrations concerned with the assistance of the relevant union councils, would be provided financial assistance.




APP Updated April 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The management of shelter homes has identified multiple places to set up emergency Panah Gahs in the capital, which are expected to see an influx of migrant workers due to reopening of the construction sector.

Eight public and private sector buildings have been marked in the capital where at least two Panah Gahs will be established on an emergency basis to facilitate proper implementation of social distancing, said Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Shelter Homes Naseemur Rehman.

During his visit to the G-9 Panah Gah, he said the selected facilities included six government schools and two private hostels located near Tarlai and Bhara Kahu shelter homes.

“The criteria for selection of places are based on easy access and not too far from existing Panah Gahs so that the spillover can be coordinated efficiently,” he said.

As per the new strategy, social distancing is being practiced in shelter homes to ensure safety of its dwellers from the deadly virus. As of now, a safe distance of four to six feet is maintained in sleeping areas, he added.

Mr Naseem said more places were being examined to set up emergency Panah Gahs in the twin cities where migrant workers in large numbers were expected to come from small cities.

“In collaboration with district administrations of both the cities, a series of advocacy and social mobilisation activities is being done to arrange buildings from prominent persons who are among the first responders in serving the social cause,” he said whilst appreciating the business community’s response.

The management will extend a formal request to the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) to get its approval for creation of emergency Panah Gahs at the identified government schools, he added.

Responding to a question, he said the management had decided to double the number of Panah Gahs in the twin cities.

We are intending to raise the number of Panah Gahs to 10 from five, he said.

“Safe and secure premises with basic services of water, sanitation and hygiene are part of the values that inspire us to build a multi-faceted partnership to provide safe and healthy shelter to the poor and needy across the country,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2020



RECORDER REPORT April 27, 2020

FAISALABAD: The amount of Rs 1.58 billion has been disbursed so far among 131908 deserving men and women under Ehsaas Program phase 1& II.

Deputy Commissioner informed that 20 centers had been functional in the district and all necessities arrangements had also made inline. Deputy Commissioner directed the Assistant Commissioners to monitor all the arrangements and no complaints should be com