Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari says the UK government is changing its excuses for Pakistan remaining on its travel red list and is “shifting goalposts”. — APP/File
Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari on Monday criticized the United Kingdom for its “feeble excuse” for retaining Pakistan on its travel ‘red list’, adding that the British government had never asked for the country’s Covid-19 data.
The United Kingdom operates a “traffic light” system for international travel, with low-risk countries, rated green for quarantine-free travel, medium risk countries rated amber, and red countries requiring arrivals to spend 10 days in isolation in a hotel.
Pakistan was placed on the red list in early April while India followed on April 19 due to surging case numbers and the emergence of the Delta variant.
In a recent update issued by the British government, India, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE were moved to the amber list from August 8 (Sunday) while Pakistan remained on the red list — a move that was also criticized by British lawmakers.
Taking to Twitter on Monday, the minister shared a report from The News according to which the UK cited the lack of vaccination and testing data as the reason for retaining Pakistan on the list.
“The UK government, dominated by Indophiles and despite globally documented India’s continuing disastrous handling of the Covid pandemic, moved India to the amber list but keeps Pakistan on the red list; then under pressure from opposition MPs gives feeble excuse [that] Pakistan didn’t share data,” she said.
She said the British government had never asked for the data, adding that it was publicly available. “The National Command and Operation Centre has the most centralized and daily updated databases anywhere,” she said.
“Earlier, [the] UK government had given another excuse — that more Pakistani passengers than Indians [had] tested positive! Shifting goalposts!” the minister exclaimed.
According to the report, British MPs of Pakistani-origin had held a virtual meeting with Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan on Friday.
During the meeting, the issue of whether or not Islamabad had provided data to the British government was discussed.
“According to the MPs, Umar told them that the data was publicly available on the NCOC forums, including Twitter and YouTube, and the UK authorities could have accessed it,” the report said.
It also quoted one of the British lawmakers as saying: “It’s clear looking at these sheets that Pakistan has up to date data but I feel Pakistan authorities should have shared the same with the UK government and run effective lobbying.”
After the meeting, the planning minister had tweeted that data regarding Covid surveillance and Pakistan’s Covid response strategy had been shared with the group. “Will engage with the UK government to try and ensure that red list decisions are based on science [and] not politics,” he had said.
Criticism from British MPs
Last week, British lawmakers had criticized their government’s move to keep Pakistan on its ‘red list’ while promoting India to amber despite the latter’s Covid-19 situation being more serious.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah had said she was “surprised” at the move, adding that it was not the first time the UK had exhibited “callous behavior” in managing its quarantine traffic light system.
“The last time this government favored political choices rather than science and risked our nation’s Covid efforts, it failed to place India on the red list,” she said. “That led to the Delta variant becoming the most prominent Covid variant in the UK.”
Terming the decision “unacceptable”, she had vowed to raise the issue further.
Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi had noted that Pakistan remained on the red list despite “not having any variants of concern”.
“The government is seeking to penalize Pakistan in favor of potential economic benefit,” she had said. “This is clear and blatant discrimination towards Pakistan.”
Labour MP for Luton North, Sawah Owen, had also said it was difficult to understand the reasoning behind the latest changes.
“When you see figures like this, Tory ministers have a lot of explaining to do as to why India is going amber yet Pakistan and other countries remain red,” she had said.