PM Imran urges provinces to 'reassess' complete lockdowns as strategy against virus
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday while reiterating his hesitance in imposing a full-scale lockdown in Pakistan urged the country's leaders to "discuss and reassess" their strategies in order to find a way to tackle the situation brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.
The PM said imposing a national lockdown would be detrimental for the country's economy, adding that it was not possible to "rationally judge the repercussions of decisions taken out of fear and panic".
Also read: Locking horns over lockdown.
"Only the nation can defeat corona, no government can do it," said Imran Khan, while addressing through video link a meeting of parliamentary leaders being chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.
He told the parliamentary leaders that until yesterday out of the 900 coronavirus cases reported in Pakistan, only 153 were locally transmitted.
"In a way this is a very good thing for us," he said, pointing out that the rest of the cases had been imported from other countries.
The premier, while urging leaders to reassess the situation said: "There are types of lockdown; initially we imposed lockdown by shutting down schools and universities and cancelling matches.
"Sindh [government] believed that [they] should go beyond that. The 18th Amendment is in place and provinces are free to take their own decisions. The Centre and I were of the opinion that we should not go as far as Sindh at the time. But then there was pressure from the media [...] Under that pressure, KP, Punjab and Balochistan also imposed incremental lockdown."
He went on to say that imposing a lockdown, under which transport had to be suspended, would affect poor people, especially in villages.
"I believe that we should not go towards a lockdown in which we shut down transport. I believe that we will have to face huge problems on the supply side. Already there is a shortage of oil in Gilgit-Baltistan because there is a lockdown on transport.
"Wheat is being harvested, diesel will be required in villages for transport. I feel that this lockdown will affect our construction industry [...] and there will be unemployment on a huge scale.
"Since provinces have taken their decisions, in tomorrow's National Coordination Committee's meeting, I will put forward recommendations based on the assessments made by [my] team [....] I feel that we will have to constantly reassess. Because every step we take has repercussions for society."
Today's meeting had been called by the National Assembly speaker in order to gather all parliamentary leaders and discuss how to cope with the ongoing corona crisis. Currently, Pakistan has more than 900 reported cases of the novel coronavirus, the bulk of which have been reported from Sindh. Most of the cases have been imported from Iran, from where pilgrims and traders had arrived.
Pakistan has closed its borders with Iran and Afghanistan. A lockdown has been imposed in Sindh to contain the spread of the virus. Other provinces and federal territories have also imposed partial lockdowns.
The prime minister, however, has vocally opposed the imposition of a lockdown on several occasions, saying it would harm the economy.