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British MPs question the scientific basis of Pakistan’s inclusion in the UK redlist

Pakistan has been lobbying to exclude itself from the UK travel red list. Several key British MPs have sent a joint letter to the Secretary of Health, highlighting Pakistan's updated covid data. They have jointly appealed to take off Pakistan from the red list.

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On 24th August 2021, key British MPs sent a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, questioning the UK government’s intent for keeping Pakistan on the travel red list. Afzal Khan, who is the Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, tweeted that “The Government’s decision is not rooted in science & fails to take into account recent developments..”

The joint letter was authored by several focal persons: Chair and Co-chair of the APPG Pakistan, Yasmin Qureshi and Rehman Chishti MP; other MPs include Debbie Abrahams, Tahir Ali, Apsana Begum, Liam Byrne, Andrew Gwynne, Afzal Khan, Sarah Owen, Naz Shah, Zarah Sultana and Sam Tarry.

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The joint letter to the Secretary said that the grave situation is well understood by Pakistan and that British MPs have been in contact with top Pakistani officials to gather details of the pandemic management.

Pakistan shared that the genome sequencing results show the delta variant to be dominant and account for up to 90 per cent of the cases. The same variant is present in the UK and other than that no other variant has been discovered in Pakistan.

While the UK has placed Pakistan on the travel list, Spain, Italy and Germany have not placed a travel ban on Pakistan. Germany has instead shared its concerns over India, from where the delta variant spread over.

The UK Government justified its red list inclusion of Pakistan on a scientific basis, asserting that Pakistan had also not shared updated data. Yet according to Pakistani top diplomat High Commissioner (HC) Moazzam Ahmad Khan, all current data was provided.

Read More: Pakistan lobbying to exit UK Red-list on Aug 25

HC Moazzam had shared two weeks ago that “There is no communication gap, we are constantly in touch with them. In fact, I had an opportunity to speak to Prime Minister [Boris] Johnson and brought it to his attention that keeping Pakistan on the red list has left both people in Pakistan and the diaspora frustrated and disappointed. He said ‘we are looking into it.”

 

Read More: India taken off UK’s red list but Pakistan stays?

British MPs also asserted that the Government of Pakistan is willing to ensure that all data is regularly provided to the authorities. The top figures from 23rd August were also provided in the letter. Pakistan’s positivity rate reduced from 7.70% to 6.78%, while daily average cases declined from 4404 to 3629 which is a total reduction of 12 per cent.  The daily mortality rate also fell from 77 deaths to 74.

The MP’s also highlighted that the Pakistani diaspora in the UK has to unnecessarily suffer. People are unable to meet their loved ones and family which has caused severe distress. The Pakistani people are also extremely concerned over this matter as the delta variant originated from India, yet India was excluded from the red list.

A Scientific resolve or a covert political campaign?

Initially, the delta variant was called the Indian variant, but due to relentless pressures from the Indian government, the name was changed to the Delta variant. The world has witnessed large scale deaths in India where more than half a million passed away, and the rate of infection has been alarming.

On the other hand, Pakistan proved itself in the pandemic. Its management has been applauded by top international organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO). Pakistan managed to control death and infection rates and its smart lockdown policy has been in effect since the pandemic started. The National Command Operation Centre  (NCOC) has been efficiently taking the required actions to curb the spread of infections in Pakistan.

 

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The Pakistani diaspora in the UK and the people in Pakistan, thus question the intentions of the UK government. Is Pakistan really on the red list because of science? Or is it a manifestation of political pressures? Boris Johnson’s government to keep Pakistan on the red-list is being perceived as political pressure. India out of the red-list signalled the international relationship between India and the UK.

India has previously accepted its role in fermenting pressures on international bodies like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to keep Pakistan in the grey-list despite Pakistan’s serious efforts. This is also being exemplified under the Indian presidency at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where on several occasions Pakistan’s letter was not considered.

India has shown its influence by changing the name of the variant to Delta, so it offers enough insight into what possible pressures the UK government must be heeded to, to have India off the red-list. Prime Minister Boris’s cabinet has three Indian origin MPs like the Home Secretary Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, and Alok Sharma. Ms Priti Patel is a close friend to External Minister Jaishankar of India who even sent congratulatory notes on her promotion.

The doubts are embedded in the people as Pakistan has been singled out for interests that challenge Human security and sanctity.

The joint letter issued by the MPs not only offers an on the ground scenario but also a solution to the problem. They suggested that people should be allowed to travel with negative PCR tests and WHO approved vaccines. The arriving passenger could then be quarantined at home and tested until the end of their quarantine. The letter also emphasised that “keeping Pakistan on the red list is causing grievous suffering to many people.” They urged the UK government to consider their request to avoid a crisis.

Pakistan has managed the pandemic to its best capacity, therefore the UK government may need to re-check its decision.

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