Coronavirus spread being controlled as new cases stay below 400: capital admin

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: Less than two weeks after the capital reported 771 cases of Covid-19 in a single day, the administration is claiming to have controlled the spread of the virus enough that Islamabad has reported fewer than 400 new cases every day in the days following lockdowns in hotspots.

Officials in the capital administration said the highest number of Covid-19 cases reported this month was on June 14, with 771 new patients. This fell to 635 on June 15, after which it has not crossed 400.

Islamabad reported 288 cases on June 16, 385 on June 17, 395 on June 18, 304 on June 19, 338 on June 20, 383 on June 31, 250 on June 22, 307 on June 23 and 264 on June 24, they said. There were also three deaths reported on June 14, five on June 15, seven on June 16, four on June 17, one on June 18, three each on June 20 and 21, five on June 22, two on June 23 and seven on June 24.

Punjab Dashboard now incorporates Covid-19 data from Rawalpindi’s private hospitals, including backdated deaths, commissioner says

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat said the administration had worked hard to minimise the spread of the coronavirus, which was now being controlled. He said the number of new cases per day was down from 600-700 to less than 400 as a result of sealing hotspots and implementing standard operating procedures.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

Two sub-sectors of G-9 were sealed on June 13 and two sub-sectors of I-8 and I-10 were sealed on June 18, he said. These six areas were identified as hotspots with a high level of transmission, which has since reduced.

Mr Shafqaat was hopeful that the spread of the coronavirus will be controlled further in coming days, as four areas in three more sub-sectors were sealed on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, 264 more people were diagnosed with Covid-19 and seven patients died from the disease.

The seven deaths were reported from six hospitals in the city, including two at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. The deceased included two women between the ages of 50 and 59, two men between the ages of 80 and 89, one man between the ages of 40 and 49, one woman between the ages of 60 and 69 and one man between the ages of 70 and 79.

There were 19 cases reported from Bhara Kahu, 18 from I-8, 15 each from G-9 and G-11, 14 each from I-10 and the Defence Housing Authority, 13 each from G-7 and G-10, 11 from G-8, 10 from G-6, nine from Tarlai, eight from Khanna, seven each from Alipur and Chak Shahzad, six each from Sohan, G-13, F-10 and Bahria Town, five from I-9, four each from Shah Allah Ditta, G-5, F-8 and F-11, three each from Lehtrar, Sihala, H-13, Ghouri Town, G-15 and E-11, two each from P.W.D., E-7, I-14, F-5, F-6, F-7, Jinnah Garden, Soan Garden and Rawal Town and one each from Model Town, Korang Town, Naval Anchorage, I-11, H-8, H-12 and D-17.

Rawalpindi

Another 61 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the garrison city on Wednesday, while 31 patients recovered.

According to data available on the Punjab Dashboard, 22deaths from Covid-19 were also reported in the district.

Commissioner retired Capt Mohammad Mehmood told MEDIA that as of Wednesday, the dashboard includes data from private hospitals and added that “backdated deaths” are included as well.

He said private hospitals and clinics have been asked to send daily records of Covid-19 tests and deaths to the Punjab Primary Health Department. Their data was not incorporated into the dashboard last week.

The government has also made it mandatory for government and private hospitals to make daily lists of Covid-19 patients and deaths.

With 61 more patients, Rawalpindi district has now reported 5,325 Covid-19 cases as well as 241 deaths and 2,594 recoveries.

At present, there are 986 patients being treated in hospitals, 1,504 under home isolation and 273 patients who belong to other districts.

Another 1,784 suspected patients have been admitted to the four hospitals in the city and their samples sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Benazir Bhutto Hospital and Holy Family Hospital laboratories for testing.

Local administrations have kept 5,600 people who were in contact with confirmed patients under observation in their homes.

In addition, 173 members of the Tableeghi Jamaat have been tested in the last three days; 150 were negative for Covid-19, while 13 people who tested positive are isolated in their homes and the results of 10 are still pending.

Also on Wednesday, eight shops were sealed in the district and Rs45,500 in fines imposed on shopkeepers for violating standard operating procedures (SOP) to limit the spread of the coronavirus. A total of 42 vehicles were impounded and Rs51,000 in fines were imposed on public transport for violating SOPs.

Taxila

There were 15 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Taxila on Wednesday, bringing the tally there to 343.

Deputy District Officer Health Dr Sara Qadeer said that an employee of the Christian Hospital in Taxila is among the new patients, three of whom caught the disease from previously confirmed patients while 12 were cases of local transmission.

She said two patients have been admitted to the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology, two are at the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Hospital in Wah and 11 are under home isolation.

Three patients are from Taxila and 12 are from various urban areas in Wah, including the Askari Cement Factory Colony, she added.

Attock

Five people were diagnosed with Covid-19 on Wednesday, raising the tally in Attock district to 388.

District focal person for Covid-19 Dr Asif Arbab Niazi said that one of the new patients is from Hassanabdal tehsil and the other four are from Attock city. Among the new patients is a doctor at the District Headquarters Hospital.

Dr Niazi said that there are 161 active cases in the district, 13 are being treated in hospitals of whom three are critical condition and 148 are isolated in their homes. The results of 389 suspected patients are awaited, he added, while 182 patients have recovered from the disease so far and 40 confirmed and suspected patients have been safely buried.— 

RED ZONE FILES: PTI’s festering fault lines

Fawad Chaudhry’s interview has ope­n­ed a can of worms. This was fully expe­cted as the PTI government is groaning under the weight of its multiple fault lines. There are at least ten such fault lines and they tell their own stories. Here goes…

  1. Elected vs non-elected cabinet members: The resentment of the elected ministers has reached near boiling point. Advisers and special assistants to the PM occupy key ministries as decision-makers and elected ministers are seething at being sidelined. However, PTI insiders confess that the central role of technocrats/specialists is a deliberate policy choice which stems from the party leadership’s admiration for the best practices of a presidential system. Prime Minister Imran Khan said so once himself in an interaction with journalists. Clearly, the elected ministers are not amused.
  2. Ideological members vs electables: This fault line first opened after the famous October 2011 Minar-i-Pakistan jalsa and since then it has kept widening and shrinking as waves of people hooked their bandwagons to PTI. Many loyalists fell by the wayside as PTI inched towards power but the fault line remains active even though it is buried under layers of post-power fault lines. The ‘Origin­als’ of the PTI nurse grievances today when many of them have been elbowed out by those against whom they struggled for years on end. Life is cruel. Politics even more so.
  3. Politicians vs bureaucrats: The office of the principal secretary to the prime minister (PSPM) is arguably the most powerful bureaucratic position in the federal government. This person’s most potent weapon is that he or she controls access to the PM. PSPM is in essence the state’s arm in the PM office along with the military secretary (MS). However the role of the PSPM is usually balanced by an equally critical role of some trusted political leader close to the prime minister. At one point Jehangir Tareen played this role. No one does so today and therefore the PSPM has ended up exercising significant influence. Cabinet ministers say this increased influence, via control of access to the PM, has come at their expense. No one can leverage the power of the bureaucracy better than the PSPM so when he grows powerful, so does the role of the bureaucracy.
  4. Jehangir Khan Tareen group vs Asad Umar group: The political relevance of group members rises and falls with their leaders. Tareen group had a good run in the party when he was the secretary general and the good run continued when PTI got into power. JKT was the key man in deciding tickets for the 2018 elections. Members of his group still constitute a bulk of cabinet positions in the federal, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments. Asad Umar is now the de facto leader of the other group which includes most of the heavyweights in the centre. These two groups are further divided into sub-categories: elected cabinet members, technocrats, elected parliamentarians, reserved seats parliamentarians and even favoured bureaucrats. The Tareen group enjoyed important portfolios and smooth access all the while that JKT was the closest unofficial adviser to the prime minister. When Asad Umar made a comeback to the cabinet, so did many within his group in all the sub-categories. Fawad Chaudhry’s interview can also be contextualised within the framework of this fault line.
  5. Karachi group vs the rest: This is a very subtle fault line. PTI’s Karachi presence presents an interesting case study in itself. The party has 14 MNAs from the city. From the Karachi chapter, one person is the president of Pakistan, one is governor of Sindh and at least two are federal ministers. And yet there are issues. PTI is in the opposition in Sindh while it has to manage the delicate relationship with GDA and MQM. The Karachi group feels at a relative disadvantage to Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar where their colleagues enjoy direct political and financial benefits of being in power.
  6. Out-of-favour party loyalists vs government office holders: Many PTI loyalists fell out of the leader’s favour over the years. Some were consoled by handing them party positions while others found themselves in the wilderness. Many names of yesteryear are nowhere to be seen even though they remain within the fold of the party. They nurse a long list of grievances as they watch their party’s performance from the sidelines while still having to defend it feebly in public.
  7. Ministers vs MNAs: This fault line has become more acute as PTI’s governance issues have mounted. For the parliamentarians a key priority is getting development funds and getting their work done. In both instances, cabinet ministers play a central role. PTI MNAs today face two problems: one, they complain they don’t have enough access to their ministers because ministers have de-prioritised attending the parliament because their boss — the prime minister — comes to the parliament infrequently and has shown scant interest in its proceedings.

Parliament is the best place for MNAs to get access to the ministers and prime minister. Since both have not developed a habit of attending, MNAs are frustrated because many find themselves cut out of the power loop. To add to their grievances, the prime minister has appointed an unelected person as minister for parliamentary affairs. Two, they have almost no access to the prime minister because he is rarely available in the parliament or to chair the parliamentary party meeting. This fault line is growing.

  1. PM’s kitchen cabinet vs other cabinet: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s kitchen cabinet is not as pronounced as the one that Nawaz Sharif had as prime minister but it exists in the shadows. The members of this cabinet — the inner-most circle — are those who have unfettered access to Banigala. They are few but they exercise an outsized influence on decision-making inside the Red Zone. The other cabinet members know well that these kitchen cabinet members are the super-ministers who enjoy the kind of access to the PM that other cabinet members can only dream of. This fault line pulsates on a daily basis and was evident in the stormy cabinet meeting that took place on Tuesday.
  2. Establishment group vs others: Within the higher echelons of the government this fault line remains alive in day-to-day policymaking. Cabinet members associated with the establishment are well known and the others mutter under their breath that these people have been imposed on the PTI cabinet and will be the first to leave when things go south. The establishment-linked cabinet members wield significance influence thro­ugh important portfolios and this influence breeds resentment among those who feel their higher stakes in the party have not delivered them equally higher rewards. The tension between these two groups simmers under the surface and is fairly visible to discerning observers.
  3. PTI vs allies: The tension in this fault line was sparking off and on till it burst open with the departure of Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s BNP-M. Yet there remain latent problems with other allies like MQM, BAP, GDA and PML-Q. JKT managed these problems as and when they arose but for now PTI does not have anyone who can work overtime to keep this fault line from heating up. There are issues of funds, ministries and transfer/postings that require nimble management from the ruling party. PTI will ignore this fault line at its peril.

There is unease inside the Red Zone. Fawad Chaudhry’s lamentations may just be the tip of the iceberg.

PIA to ground 150 pilots with ‘dubious licenses’

RAWALPINDI: The management of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has decided to ground its 150 pilots.

Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan disclosed in the National Assembly on Wednesday that a large number of commercial pilots possessed ‘dubious licences’.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez told Dawn that “about 150 pilots are being grounded.”

He said the management has now written to the Civil Aviation Authority to urgently provide the list of other licences found to be dubious and all of them will be indefinitely grounded pending inquiries against them.

“Those found at fault will be terminated from service after following a due process,” he said.

Probe into ATR pilot’s credentials began after plane skidded off Panjgur runway in 2018

The spokesman acknowledged the findings of the preliminary investigation report shared with the parliament by the aviation minister on the plane crash of May 22 which claimed 97 lives and reaffirmed PIA’s resolve for further improving safety standards within the company using the findings of the report as guiding principles.

He said that the investigations into dubious licences issued by the aviation regulator were highlighted by the PIA itself in the aftermath of the incident occurred in Panjgur in November 2018 where an ATR skidded off the runway, using the same hot and high approach and then making some elementary level mistakes.

That incident prompted an inquiry into the pilot’s credentials which were found to be dubious. The same was reported to the regulator and the PIA requested the government to constitute a highlevel inquiry into the matter which the aviation minister ordered immediately.

A thorough forensic audit was conducted into the licences of all the pilots obtained within the country. The PIA management continuously followed up for expediting the inquiry process and highest executive office of the country also intervened.

Meanwhile, the PIA tracked another 15 such pilots and all of them were grounded pending clearance from the inquiry board. That did cost PIA Rs175-200 million in terms of salaries of such pilots, not to mention additional perks and privileges.

The spokesperson said that based on the internal assessment of the situation consequent to this tragic event, the PIA will be making additional recommendations to the regulatory authority for further improvement which is the order of the day, saying that the regulator would be needed to firm up and bring about zero-tolerance towards misdemeanours in the grant and checking of licences.

Mr Hafeez said some of flights may be cancelled consequently but safety takes precedence over commercial interests and only pilots with impeccable service records and clear credentials will operate the flights.

He said in order to ensure that safety is never compromised again, a Flight Data Monitoring Unit has been established through which now the PIA will itself measure, analyse and identify trends of PIA flights network-wide for corrective or preventive measures based on international established commercial aviation standards.