COVID-19: PM Imran Khan urges rich economies to think of writing off loans

ISLAMABAD: (18 March 2020) Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he fears the new coronavirus will devastate the economies of developing nations, and urged richer economies to get ready to write off the debts of the world`s poorer countries.

In an interview, Mr. Khan also raised concern over India`s worst Hindu-Muslim violence in decades, saying the Indian prime minister`s Hindu nationalist-led government threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of millions of people through a controversial new citizenship law.

He further called for lifting sanctions against Iran, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East.

Mr. Khan sat down with the Associated Press (AP) at his office in Islamabad. He`d spent much of his day meeting experts about the effect of the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan, which has confirmed more than 200 cases so far.

`My worry is poverty and hunger, Mr. Khan said. `The world community has to think of some sort of a debt write-off for countries like us, which are very vulnerable, at least that will help us in coping with (the coronavirus).

He said that if a serious outbreak happens in Pakistan, he`s worried that his government`s efforts to lift the ailing economy out of near-collapse would begin an unstoppable slide backward. Exports would fall off; unemployment would soar and an onerous national debt would become an impossible burden.

`It`s not just Pakistan. I would imagine the same in India, in the subcontinent, in African countries, he said, referring to the virus. `If it spreads, we will all have problems with our health facilities. We just don`t have that capability. We just don`t have the resources.

The pandemic comes just as a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban has given Afghanistan its best chance at ending its endless wars, and taking US troops home after nearly 19 years.

President Ashraf Ghani recently said the insurgents need to demonstrate their commitment to peace by extricating themselves from Pakistan`s influence. Mr. Khan called President Ghani`s comments disappointing, and said that since taking office, he`s worked hard with the US to help cobble together a peace deal in Afghanistan.

`If anything, it should have been appreciated the way Pakistan has gone about furthering the peace process,` the prime minister said.

He also warned about violent strife on the other side of his country`s eastern border, amid the rise of Hindu nationalism in India.

`The worst nightmare of the world has happened; an extremist, racial party that believes in racial superiority has taken over a country of more than one billion people and has nuclear weapons,` he said.

`That`s when I went to the United Nations` to warn of the danger posed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s Hindu nationalist-led government, he said.

A new citizenship law in India fast-tracks naturalization for foreign-born religious minorities of all major faiths in South Asia, except Islam. There are about 280 million Muslims there.

In a further call for action from the international community, Mr. Khan said it is time to end US sanctions on Iran, where one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world has unfolded. Iran has struggled to respond in part because of crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration-AP


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