Following the lead from Indian PM Narendra Modi, Pakistan has decided to host a virtual conference of ministers and senior officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) today to discuss a common strategy against Covid-19, reports the Express Tribune.
Earlier, on March 15, SAARC leaders held a virtual conference on the global pandemic where all heads of state and governments were present except Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Islamabad had almost boycotted the India-led SAARC conference and deputed Dr. Zafar Mirza, health advisor to PM Khan.
Experts in Islamabad justified the unofficial boycott as they believed that the SAARC Secretariat based in Nepal should lead the fight against the global pandemic instead of India.
“As proposed by Pakistan, a Video Conference of Saarc Member States is being held on 23 April 2020 to discuss the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.
Special Assistant to the PM Khan for Health Dr. Zafar Mirza will lead the Pakistan delegation. Besides ministers and senior officials, the meeting would also be attended by SAARC Secretary-General Esala Ruwan Weerakon, the statement added.
Earlier, experts in New Delhi lambasted Pakistan for discussing the Kashmir issue instead of coronavirus pandemic and using the SAARC conference as a political tool. Dr. Zafar Mirza had urged the Indian Prime Minister to lift Kashmir’s lockdown “in view of health emergency” as COVID-19.
“It is a matter of concern that COVID-19 has been reported from Jammu and Kashmir and in view of the health emergency, it is imperative that all lockdown in the territory must be lifted immediately,” Dr. Mirza was quoted as saying during a video conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.