KARACHI: In a rare gesture, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday announced a “no criticism policy” against Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government over its response to the coronavirus pandemic. He expressed the hope that the federal government will meet the challenges posed by the situation, but at the same time called upon it to adopt a “proactive and interventionist” approach in war on COVID-19.
Addressing a press conference at the Sindh Assembly with Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Mr Bhutto-Zardari hinted that “we are heading towards a lockdown” — a day after the country reported its first two deaths from the virus.
He termed the situation a national challenge, saying that beyond political and ideological differences every individual has to play their role in this fight and deal with the fast-approaching situation.
“We should not waste our energies over criticism, the blame game and political point-scoring,” he said in reply to a question about his thoughts over responsibility for the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the country. “It’s not the time to criticise the prime minister and I would not blame him or anyone. Instead, I should hope that he and every single citizen of Pakistan can win this fight. There is a need for increased coordination and unity.”
To a question about concerns that the partial lockdown could cause problems for people acquiring food items, he said that the Sindh government was making all arrangements for any such situation. A plan was in place to deliver rations to affected families at their homes, he added.
“We need to understand that the war against coronavirus has to be fought on two fronts: containing the spread of the virus and mitigating the economic damage the virus will cause. I urge the federal government to help all the provinces. Our steps could only be effective if the country is united,” said the PPP chairman.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the federal government needed to finalise its strategy for dealing with the situation. “We need mass testing, we need as many kits as we can and we need to mitigate the impact of this situation on the economy.”
He also urged employers in the private sector to give daily-wage labours their full salaries during the coronavirus shutdown.
During the presser, the PPP chairman directed the Sindh government to ensure that no daily wage worker was laid off and the provincial authorities should make it incumbent upon private organisations to ensure that their employees’ salaries were timely disbursed.
He said the Sindh government was aware of the economic impact of the outbreak and would take concrete measures to tackle the approaching crisis.
He said the Sindh government had identified 34 suspected patients when there was news of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, adding that they all tested negative.
To a question about the recent cut in interest rates by just 75 basis points to 12.5 per cent, he said that it was not enough, adding that the government needed to take concrete steps to deal with the economic fallout from the virus.
Meanwhile, Adviser to the Sindh chief minister Barrister Murtaza Wahab has announced that a patient, who was tested positive for coronavirus around two weeks ago, had recovered.
“Third patient of #COVIDー19 in #Sindh who was being kept in isolation has Alhamdolillah recovered & has tested negative,” he tweeted.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2020