Input from provinces urged for parliamentary panel on Covid-19

Updated Apr 07 2020

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In parliamentary panel's meeting PPP insists that nothing can be achieved without provincial data. — APP/File
In parliamentary panel's meeting PPP insists that nothing can be achieved without provincial data. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: National Asse­mbly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday announced formation of a sub-committee to formulate comprehensive terms of reference (ToR) and draft rules of procedure for the special parliamentary committee on coronavirus after the opposition called for input from provincial governments and representation of the provinces in the committee to make it more effective.

The speaker, who presided over the first meeting of the “Parliamentary Committee on Coronavirus Disease” at Parliament House, stated that he would soon notify the sub-committee having representation of all political parties for preparing the ToR.

He also announced names of the members of the sub-committee which include Azam Swati and Shibli Faraz of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Muhammad Ali Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Shahida Akhter Ali of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Raja Pervez Ashraf of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Mushahidullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Anwarul Haq Kakar of the Balochistan Awami Party.

Sources told Dawn that at the meeting, the opposition members mainly from the PPP, said the committee won’t be able to achieve its objectives without having complete data and the equipment and workforce available to deal with the coronavirus crisis. They were of the view that complete and authentic data could only be obtained from provinces.

PPP leader and former PM Raja Pervez Ashraf said that all four provincial chief ministers should have also been invited to the committee meeting.

Similarly, parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman, who participated via a video link, also stressed the need for effective coordination between the Centre and provinces to fight Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The opposition members feared that the number of positive virus cases might increase in coming days and they should remain ready to face possible worst-case scenarios. They also called for utilisation of funds in consultation with provinces.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and head of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt-Gen Muhammad Afzal briefed the committee about the steps taken so far by the government to deal with the situation in the aftermath of Covid-19 outbreak and utilisation of funds received by the government.

The committee was told the government was in contact with Chinese authorities and making efforts to acquire more protective and medical equipment.

The opposition members asked several questions from Dr Mirza and the NDMA chairman about the availability of ventilators, testing kits and other equipment required for combating coronavirus and government funds utilisation.

They also expressed their concerns over the alleged poor handling of the Zaireen (pilgrims) from Iran at Taftan in Balochistan.

The speaker said the main objective to constitute the parliamentary committee was to seek feedback from parliamentarians, adding that their recommendations would be sent to the government for implementation.

‘Govt plan missing’

Later, talking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Qaiser said the government had assured the committee that its recommendations would be implemented. He said the committee would monitor and oversee government efforts in dealing with the situation after the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Mr Qaiser said the next meeting of the committee would be held on April 9 (Thursday) in which they would discuss the situation due to lockdown and its impact on the economy.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, parliamentary leader of the PML-N in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan expressed his dissatisfaction over the briefings given to them by government functionaries.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020