Bill Gates arrives Pakistan to meet Imran Khan

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan awarded Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates its second highest civilian honor on Thursday, in recognition of his work to alleviate poverty and diseases like polio and tuberculosis. 

On a daylong visit to the capital, Islamabad, Gates was given the prestigious Hilal-e-Pakistan award by President Arif Alvi in a televised ceremony. The award was given at a special investiture ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, attended by Begum Samina Alvi, federal ministers and senior officials, after he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan at his office.

Earlier, Gates visited the National Command Operations Center (NCOC), the body overseeing Pakistan’s coronavirus response since the pandemic began, where he was given a detailed briefing about Pakistan’s vaccination drive. Meanwhile, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiative Asad Umer also met Gates at the NCOC. The NCOC said in a statement that Gates recognized Pakistan’s success against COVID-19 despite its limited resources, as fatalities from the coronavirus continue a steady decline in the country.

Pakistan’s commitment to ending polio is inspiring, Gates said in a statement released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates is no stranger to the country, where his foundation has helped nearly eradicate the disease. The statement quoted Khan as thanking Gates and saying that polio eradication is a “top priority” for the government, which is working “at all levels to ensure that every child is protected with the polio vaccine.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan also hosted a lunch in honor of Bill Gates that was attended by Federal Ministers Shaukat Tarin, Asad Umer, Fawad Ahmed, Khusro Bakhtiar, Dr. Faisal Sultan, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Chief Ministers of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Prime Minister AJ&K.

Cabinet Minister Faisal Javed Khan congratulated Gates for the award on Twitter, calling it “a well-deserved honor” for his “valuable, exceptional and extraordinary services fighting poverty, disease, and inequality around the world.”

The Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the Microsoft co-founder to consider providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, highlighting that more than half of the population was living below the poverty line there.

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