Army to fight deadly virus with civil administration: COAS

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ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday ordered deployment of troops and military’s medical resources to fight Covid-19 alongside the national health infrastructure after the Ministry of Interior approved the summaries it had received in this regard from the provincial governments over the past two days amid surging number of patients infected with novel coronavirus.

“Despite heavy troop deployment along the western border and the Line of Control, the army chief has directed deployment of available troops and all medical resources according to the requirement,” said Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar in a televised statement.

The announcement was made after the federal government sought deployment of the armed forces in all four provinces, Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir under Article 245 (functions of the armed forces) of the Constitution and Section 131(A) (power to use military force for public security and maintenance of law and order) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Separate notifications were issued by the interior ministry for the four provinces, the AJK, GB and the federal capital.

The deployment of troops has been decided when the pandemic has already entered the critical phase of local transmission with the tally of confirmed cases in the country nearing 900.

Under the deployment plan, the role of troops is apparently meant for enforcing the restrictions introduced by the federal and provincial governments to contain further spread of the virus.

Gen Iftikhar in his statement emphasised that the restrictions would be fully enforced in cooperation with civilian administration.

Under government directives, schools, malls, cinemas, marriage halls, restaurants and swimming pools will remain closed and no religious or political gatherings will be allowed. Public transport too will not be allowed to ply on the roads except for goods truck carrying food items.

The restriction on international flights, the military spokesman said, would remain in place till April 4.

The DG ISPR said the days for opening of fuel stations and wholesale vegetable/fruit markets (mandis) would be notified by the respective provincial administrations.

Only hospitals, pharmacies, retail stores, pharmaceutical industries and factories producing food items will be open.

Emphasising the enormity of the challenge, Gen Iftikhar said: “Nothing similar had been witnessed in our lifetime.” He called for cooperation, discipline and trust in the state efforts.

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