A new point of conflict between President Trump, press corps

ICMD, April 14, 2020: President Donald Trump startled White House reporters on Monday by airing a video at his daily coronavirus briefing that sounded like a campaign re-election advert. Despite a US death toll of 23,200, Trump insisted his administration had superbly mitigated the damage, at one point even claiming that his actions saved "tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of lives". To the shock of reporters gathered for his briefing on the pandemic, Trump played a self-congratulatory, anti-media video during the press conference. Several news outlets, which have taken to broadcasting most or all of the lengthy events live, quickly cut away. Asked why he aired the video, Trump was curt: "Because we're getting fake news." Trump has jousted with journalists for years, but his airing of the video appeared to mark a new point of conflict with the press corps. CNN anchor John King, who spent years covering the White House, said that "to play a propaganda video at taxpayers' expense in the White House briefing room is a new — you can insert your favorite word here". Afterwards, Trump repeatedly insisted he took the right step in banning flights from China in late January, and expressed flashes of anger at reporters who asked him tough questions. "We really have done this right," Trump said. "The problem is the press doesn't cover it the way it should be." Trump also raised alarms when he discussed his desire to rapidly reopen the shuttered US economy, saying he had "the ultimate authority" to decide when states should command businesses to reopen, rather than the states themselves. "The authority of the president of the United States, having to do with the subject we're talking about, is total," he said. Trump's video featured clips that highlighted his decisive action and included Democratic governors, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California, praising his response. But it did not show Trump downplaying the threat of the virus as he did repeatedly in January and February. The pandemic has prevented Trump and his likely Democratic election rival, former vice president Joe Biden, from hosting traditional campaign events like rallies and town halls. While Biden shelters at home, like most Americans, and airs webcasts from his basement studio, Trump has relished using his pulpit at the White House briefings. -- Courtesy AFP

Covid 19: IMF approves a debt-relief plan for 25 countries

ICMD, April 14, 2020: The International Monetary Fund will provide immediate debt relief to 25 member countries that have requested financial assistance as they deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said Monday. The countries receiving the grants are among the IMF's "poorest and most vulnerable members." They are: Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Togo and Yemen. The funds will be used "to cover their IMF debt obligations for an initial phase over the next six months and will help them channel more of their scarce financial resources towards vital emergency medical and other relief efforts," Georgieva said. The IMF trust responsible for the funds can provide $500 million in "grant-based debt service relief." In her statement, Georgieva urged donors "to help us replenish the Trust’s resources and boost further our ability to provide additional debt service relief for a full two years to our poorest member countries.” - CNN

SC asks government to remove Dr Zafar Mirza

ICMD, April 13, 2020: The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan resumed hearing on Monday a suo motu case related to the situation arising out of the coronavirus crisis and the steps being taken by the federal government to curb the spread of the epidemic. A five-member larger bench of the apex court — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed — is hearing the case. Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed are also on the bench. During the hearing today, CJP Ahmed remarked that the government had not done anything at this point to stem the spread of the virus. “There is an army of ministers and advisors in place but no work is being done,” CJP Ahmed observed. He also alleged that “corrupt people” have been kept as advisors in the government. During the hearing, Justice Ahmed also questioned the credentials of the Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Health Dr Zafar Mirza and ordered the removal of the special assistant. CJP Ahmed had on Friday sent notices to the Attorney-General of Pakistan, the health secretary, and the interior secretary questioning the inadequate facilities being provided to citizens by the federal government to combat the coronavirus. In a report submitted to the apex court on Saturday, the government informed CJP Ahmed that an emergency had been declared in the border areas of Balochistan with Iran, with additional staff deployed at border crossings. The federal government further submitted that all the passengers coming into Pakistan were required to fill mandatory health declaration forms before entering the country. The court was informed that 207 hospitals in all major cities and 154 districts across Pakistan had been identified for isolation of suspected patients of the coronavirus. The government further submitted that quarantine centres had been established in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) with 300 beds for patients confirmed to have contracted the virus. According to the federal government, quarantine centres have been established at the Pak China Friendship Center, OGDCL, Hajj Complex, Radisson Hotel, and Hill View Hotel. The report submitted to the court claimed that in order to identify the suspected patients of the virus, around 83 thermal scanners had been installed in 83 different places across the country. A countrywide lockdown is being observed until April 14 to curb the spread of the virus. Owing to pressure from the business community, who are facing great losses, as well as concerns surrounding the livelihood of daily wage workers, the provinces are mulling over whether or not to extend the lockdown period.

Local transmission of Covid 19 virus increases to 52 pc

ICMD, April 13, 2020: Advisor to Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza said on Monday that Pakistan will soon start making N-95 masks for protection against the coronavirus. He said that local transmission of the virus had increased to 52%. He flanking Federal Minister Assad Umar said that Pakistan can conduct 3,000 coronavirus tests on a daily basis. "We have set a target of testing 20,000-25,000 people for the coronavirus by the month's end," he said. He said that currently, Pakistan had the capability to test 600,000 people for the virus. By April 15, the country can test 1 million people. Dr. Mirza said that Pakistan had built 24 laboratories to conduct coronavirus tests and the total number of active labs in the country had increased to 34.

Train services to remain suspended till April 24

ICMD, April 13, 2020: Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said Monday that the government had decided to extend the suspension of train services till April 25, as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country. "Train services that we wanted to resume from April 15 have been pushed back to April 25," said the federal minister. "Before operating trains from the first of Ramazan, we will review the decision once again," he added. Rashid said that he will decide whether train services will be restored across the country or not after consulting Prime Minister Imran Khan. "Train services will remain suspended until the night of April 24. Cargo trains will continue to remain functional," he said. The minister said that he had recommended using trains as quarantine hospitals in Taftan and Chaman. He said that if the coronavirus continues to spread in villages or cities then the government was ready to make use of trains as quarantine centres.

Minister for Religious Affairs for a uniform policy regarding Ramzan

ICMD, April 13, 2019: Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said on Monday that the entire country will have a uniform policy regarding the holy month of Ramzan this year. The religious affairs minister was addressing a press conference where he said that Speaker of the National Assembly, Asad Qaiser, will approach all the religious parties on this issue. He said that the parties will lay out a comprehensive strategy for the holy month in wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has impacted daily life and businesses ever since the first case was reported in Pakistan on February 26. He said that the government will approach Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Siraj-ul-Haq, Sajid Mir, Sajid Naqvi and other religious leaders for policy-making consultations. While referring to the untoward incidents regarding congregational prayers and violation of the ban due to the pandemic, the minister expressed displeasure by referring to them as 'unfortunate'.

Tiber Force: court should not be dragged into political matters

ICMD, April 13, 2019: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday dismissed the petition filed against the formation of the Prime Minister's Corona Relief Tiger Force – which was introduced by PM Imran to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus in the country by engaging the youth in relief work. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up the petition filed by the chairman of the Union Council of Rawat and other local representatives. The petitioner’s lawyer advocated that relief operations should be conducted through elected local representatives instead of involving the Corona Relief Tiger Force in the process. Dismissing the petition, the IHC judge stated that the court should not be dragged into political matters, however, the applicant must refer to the Metropolitan’s Forum in this regard.

Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a video message has revealed that he has tested positive for the coronavirus after he developed mild symptoms of the disease over the last 24 hours. “I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” Johnson said in the video message. A Downing Street spokesman said Johnson, 55, experienced mild symptoms on Thursday - a day after he answered at the prime minister’s weekly question-and-answer session in the chamber of the House of Commons. “The prime minister was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty,” the spokesman said.

Population Earthquake in Sindh: In 2014, Pashtoons will be the largest ethnic group in Karachi

KARACHI: Feb 14, 2019: Indus Chronicle Report In 1941, Sindhis were 61 percent in Karachi. Urdu Speaking people were 6 percent and Pashtoons 3 percent. In the 1951 Census, Sindhi reduced to 26 percent whereas 3 percent Urdu Speaking people increased to 51 percent. It was a demographic earthquake that created a conflict that appears anywhere in the world. Sindh’s politics is based on such a division. Yet another demographic earthquake is in process at the moment. In 2040, the single largest ethnic group in Karachi will be Pashtoons. Also, another change that is coming and is not indicated in any data is the rise of the Siraiki population in Karachi. Dr Kaiser Bengali talks about the reasons and resolution to this issue in Sindh. Watch videos here