Pakistan’s place on the red list is political, not scientific, and reeks of discrimination
This has been a political decision taken by the UK government to soften up the Indian government ahead of trade negotiations and signals a turn away from Pakistan – a country with such a rich shared history and culture.
Late last night, Grant Shapps and the UK government sneaked out that the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and India would move from the red list to the amber list. This change means passengers can now quarantine at home rather than paying for the expensive hotel quarantine.
I am delighted that the government feels these countries are safe enough to move to amber – but what about Pakistan?
The rolling 7 day average in Pakistan stands at 14 per 100,000, yet in India, the rate is 20 per 100,000. Total Covid cases in Pakistan are five times lower than in the UK and ten times lower than India.
As a nation, Pakistan has responded well to the pandemic with a low number of deaths and has recently even developed their own vaccine – the “PakVac” – and whilst I accept vaccination rates may be lower than in the UK, they are higher than in India.
Pakistan is subject to higher standards than other countries time and time again
Pakistan, despite being a burgeoning nation, is still young and developing. Its demographics lean towards the younger end of the spectrum and as an economy it is around a tenth the size of the UK.
India, on the other hand, has a population of well over one billion and has had huge leaps in GDP in the past twenty years – the UK has a clear economic interest in appeasing India’s government.
This idea is born out in the government’s original decision to delay changes to India’s travel status earlier this year, as the Prime Minister had a trade visit to the country and a delegation was coming to the UK, ahead of a proposed £1 billion trade deal.
It is worth noting that this delay resulted in the delta variant taking hold and precipitating the calamitous third wave we have just experienced.
That’s before you even get to the economics of the UAE or Qatar, which for countries with a small population, have similar GDP per capita levels to the UK.
What’s worse, they also sneaked out that the price of hotel quarantine was due to increase by between £450 - £800, to a total of £2,200. This is yet again an additional barrier to members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK who must return home.
My office is inundated with correspondence from people from all over the UK who are currently in substandard hotel quarantine, paying exorbitant costs, because they have had to attend family funerals in Pakistan, or to wrap up family matters. Many students seeking to attend university in the UK from Pakistan are unable to do so as they cannot pay the extortionate fees.
This has been a key campaign for me in recent months.
I have written to the government calling on it to outline why Pakistan is subject to higher standards than other countries time and time again, to no avail. I have tabled Parliamentary Questions on data, science, and case rates, again, to no avail. I have even met the Ministers responsible and senior FCDO officials, again, to no avail.
Ultimately, this has been a political decision taken by the UK government to soften up the Indian government ahead of trade negotiations and signals a turn away from Pakistan – a country with such a rich shared history and culture.
As chair of the APPG on Pakistan, I have called on the government to place Pakistan alongside the other nations on the amber list, however I am not sure Pakistan fits into its plans for “Global Britain” – whatever that slogan even means.
Yasmin Qureshi is the Labour MP for Bolton South East and chair of the APPG on Pakistan.
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