Bilawal calls for lockdown, multiparty conference on Covid-19

Updated 22 Mar 2020

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Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also thanked Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq. — DawnNewsTV/File
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also thanked Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: As Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is holding the first video-link meeting of his party’s central executive committee (CEC) on Sunday, he has called for a multiparty conference (MPC) on Covid-19, proposing Pakistan must use the option of lockdown to deal with the pandemic.

In a related development, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s staunch rival Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has offered its services to the Imran Khan government on the issue of coronavirus.

In a series of tweets Mr Bhutto-Zardari said: “The Pakistan Peoples Party will be holding its first video link CEC meeting on #CoronavirusPandemic . Will propose to the party to call an all parties conference over video link to bring political parties on same page in our national response to the pandemic. #PakistanVsCorona.”

He further said: “Pakistan must move towards a lockdown. Every hour, every day that we delay is going to make dealing with the pandemic more difficult. We’re already late, should’ve done it earlier, need decisive action ASAP (as soon as possible) to mitigate this crisis now.”

JUI-F offers services to govt on coronavirus issue

The PPP leader said no province could handle this alone. “We need the full force of the federal government to facilitate a lockdown, increase tests and assistance for those in need. While we hope for the best we must prepare for the worst. At this rate our health system will be overwhelmed. We must learn from the experience of other countries. It’s a question of when not if. Stay at home now until the government makes up its mind. Stay at home to protect yourselves & others.”

While the PPP’s Sindh government has taken measures regarding lockdown of the province, PM Khan is not in favour of a complete lockdown of the country at this stage.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari also thanked Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, saying: “Thank you @SirajOfficial for reaching out to appreciate Sindh Governments efforts and offering his party’s help as we deal with this pandemic. #TogetherWeCan #PakistanVsCorona.”

Meanwhile, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman asked the federal government to take “quick actions” to magnitude of the threat to Pakistan as a whole.

In a statement she said: “Governments and citizens must take Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s advice in practicing and promoting self-isolation, which requires strong leadership in temporarily suspending our social norms that are rooted in social congregations. Lessons from other countries must not be ignored in losing time, as the virus moves with stealth and speed.”

She said the issue of voluntary and other lockdown options must not be taken lightly, because lives had to be saved first, which meant that only essential services should remain open, and immediate financial support lifelines be created for daily wage-earners and small businesses that would suffer in such an emergency. “Though this will be economically tough, this tough choice has to be made as we have to save lives first, and we must do whatever it takes.”

Senator Sherry Rehman further said: “It is important that test kits and ventilators are urgently imported. As this will take time, they should be ordered now and the procurement procedures fast-tracked. Initially, only Sindh government was quick to import 10,000 testing kits. The WHO has already stressed upon the importance of testing people, and this cannot be ignored”.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2020