Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates meets PM Imran on first-ever visit to Pakistan


Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates met Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday during his first-ever visit to Pakistan.

Sharing pictures of the meeting on Twitter, Senator Faisal Javed Khan said Gates "greatly appreciated steps [regarding polio eradication] in Pakistan, the National Command and Operation Centre's (NCOC) performance in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic and initiatives such as the Ehsaas programme".

Later in the day, PM Imran hosted a luncheon in Gates' honour. The Prime Minister's Office, which shared pictures from the luncheon, added that the Microsoft co-founder was visiting the country on the premier's "special invitation".

The prime minister said that it was a pleasure to welcome Gates to Pakistan.

"Apart from his many achievements, he is admired globally for his philanthropy. On behalf of our nation, I thank him for his immense contribution towards polio eradication and poverty alleviation initiatives," he said.

NCOC visit

Earlier in the day, Gates met Planning and Development Minister and NCOC head Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan.

In a statement, the NCOC said the philanthropist attended the forum's morning session.

During his visit, Gates was informed about the NCOC's role and methodology, its achievements since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the coronavirus situation in Pakistan as well as the non-pharmaceutical interventions by the forum to control the spread of the disease.

Gates and his delegation were also informed about genome sequencing and coronavirus variants detected in Pakistan, the statement added.

"Gates took keen interest on various initiatives by NCOC, particularly smart lockdown and micro-smart lockdown strategy enforcement measures and Pakistan's vaccine administration regime which enabled NCOC to formulate and implement a comprehensive Covid response."

During his visit to the NCOC, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chairman also shared his views on the pandemic, especially the vaccination drive.

"Gates appreciated Pakistan's success against Covid-19 despite resource constraints and introducing excellent initiatives and measures for public health safety," according to the statement.

For his part, Planning Minister Umar credited "a true national response, executed through an effective communication campaign mechanism of the NCOC" for the success in dealing with the coronavirus.

The minister thanked Gates for his foundation's support to Pakistan during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Gates awarded Hilal-i-Pakistan

In addition, President Dr Arif Alvi conferred the Hilal-i-Pakistan award on Gates during a special investiture ceremony in Islamabad in "recognition of his support for poverty alleviation and healthcare", according to Radio Pakistan.

The report added that the ceremony was attended by federal ministers, senior officials and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

The famous philanthropist has held conversations with Prime Minister Imran in the past on various issues and their possible solutions. In October last year, the premier urged Gates to consider providing humanitarian assistance to poverty-stricken people in Afghanistan.

The two had also discussed the polio situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the premier appreciating the assistance provided by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in that regard. In turn, the Microsoft co-founder had praised the prime minister for the progress in eliminating the disease and pledged his foundation's continued support to the country's polio programme.

Prior to that, in April 2021, the two had discussed matters relating to the Covid-19 response, polio eradication and climate change, and agreed to continue working together on the shared objectives.

By Naveed Siddiqui