Pakistan Deploys Troops Against Its Own People to Enforce Coronavirus Restrictions

Army soldiers patrol in a market to implement new restrictions imposed as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Peshawar on April 26, 2021. (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP) (Photo by ABDUL MAJEED/AFP via Getty Images)
ABDUL MAJEED/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan’s government has deployed federal troops to six provinces and territories to enforce Chinese coronavirus “standard operating procedures (SOPs)” in anticipation of a nationwide lockdown.

Pakistan Army soldiers will deploy to the federal capital territory of Islamabad and five additional provinces: Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir starting April 25 to ensure residents adhere to coronavirus SOPs, which include mask-wearing, observance of movement restrictions such as a ban on inter-provincial travel, and nightly curfews in some areas.

“The federal government … is pleased to authorize deployment of sufficient strength of troops of Pakistan Army … on the requisition of the Government of Punjab in the province in connection with enforcement of … guidelines on Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] and matters ancillary thereto subject to laws enforced in Pakistan [sic],” read one troop deployment order for Punjab, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Punjab is Pakistan’s most populous province, home to nearly 111 million people. It shares a border with the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan, as well as the federally administered Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir. India’s coronavirus caseload has surged to record highs in recent days, pushing the country’s healthcare system to the brink. Pakistan’s federal government said Friday the threat of India’s coronavirus infections spreading to Pakistan via their shared border contributed to the troop deployment on Sunday.

“I have asked [the] Pakistan Army to assist the police and law enforcement agencies in enforcing SOPs to check the spread of coronavirus,” Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a nationally televised address on April 23 after presiding over a meeting of Pakistan’s National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus].

“If Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] cases continue to surge, the government would be compelled to impose lockdown in big cities. I am appealing to you to follow SOPs so that we do not have to take steps which India is taking, like imposing lockdowns. Half of the problem is solved when you wear masks,” he said.

“If our circumstances become the same as India, then we will have to close down cities. We cannot do that because, as experience has shown, the poor suffer the most when lockdowns are imposed,” Khan said.

The prime minister added that “people were suggesting him to impose a lockdown but he would not do so because it would once again bring suffering to the daily-wage earners and labourers,” according to Dawn.

“That is why we have not taken the action,” Khan explained.

Pakistan reported a record-high daily death toll from the Chinese coronavirus on April 25.

“According to [government] data, 157 people lost their battle against the deadly virus in a single day [April 25] — the highest number ever recorded since the coronavirus was first detected in the country in February 2020,” Dawn reported. “Earlier, the highest count of casualties was 153 reported on June 20 last year.”

“The NCOC [National Command Operation Center] also revealed that 5,908 more people got infected in a single day [on April 25], which was the second-highest figure in the current year,” according to the newspaper.

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