ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Wednesday slammed the Sindh government on its decision to apply even stricter measures during the continuing lockdown, apparently against the spirit of what was agreed upon at a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) here a day earlier.
Two members of the federal cabinet cautioned the Sindh government at separate press conferences against ignoring the centre’s decisions to deal with the situation.
Special Assistant to the PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said: “The Sindh government will soon witness the people’s reaction if it continues to confine them to their homes without any plan to provide them help in cash or kind.”
Earlier, federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar at his presser said that decisions should be made keeping in view the ground realities.
Mr Umar urged the Sindh government to implement the centre’s decision regarding reopening of some low-risk industries.
Aide says PM will visit province soon
The unguarded criticism by the federal ministers belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of the Sindh government, led by Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Murad Ali Shah, came hours after the latter had announced a stricter lockdown in the province for the next two weeks. “Citizens should refrain from thinking that the lockdown for the next two weeks has been eased. It is a stricter lockdown. There are just a few exceptions,” he said in Karachi.
Asad Umar said it was a globally accepted practice that while fighting coronavirus there was a need to maintain a balance to run the economy so that minimum impact of the crisis was transferred to the poor.
“I do not agree with the opinion that whatever [decision] is right for health is right for the economy,” he said in an indirect reference to the Sindh government’s decision regarding stricter lockdown for another two weeks.
Dr Awan said Prime Minister Imran Khan had accepted the Sindh government’s decision but he wanted to mitigate the suffering of people as he knew what problems they were facing while being confined to their homes without food and other basic needs.
Ms Awan said the prime minister was of the view that the provinces were independent to take their own decisions and the centre would support them but they (provinces) had to take care of the people by any means.
Talking to Dawn, she said Prime Minister Khan would visit Sindh soon.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Sindh in a couple of days,” she said, adding the exact date of the visit was yet to be decided.
She said the centre endorsed the Sindh government’s decision to impose “stricter” lockdown in the province for another two weeks but demanded resolution of people’s problems during that period and reopening of some low-risk industries as announced by the PM a day before.
Meanwhile, keeping in view hardships being faced by people, Prime Minister Khan, during a meeting with PTI’s parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh, called for ensuring better implementation of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme in the province. Under the programme, Rs12,000 as four-month stipend is being given to 12 million poor families and daily wage earners hit hard by coronavirus crisis.
Referring to Tuesday’s meeting of the NCC, the Sindh chief minister said that although there was an agreement to extend the lockdown in the country, there were certain items on the agenda on which provincial governments and the centre did not agree.
Ms Awan, who was accompanied at her press conference by Haleem Adil Sheikh, said the Sindh chief minister was fully empowered under the Constitution to take decisions about easing or extending the lockdown, but as the chief executive of the province he was also responsible for saving the vulnerable segments of society from unemployment, hunger and starvation.
She said the prime minister had authorised the provinces to take their own decisions regarding lockdown and reopening of low-risk industries to provide employment to daily wage workers.
“All other provinces accepted the decisions made in the NCC meeting but unfortunately the Sindh government spokesman, also a provincial minister, made a controversial tweet which was an effort to divide the nation at this critical juncture,” she regretted.
Ms Awan said that rulers should give hope to people but in today’s press conference the Sindh CM appeared pessimistic which might create fear and panic among the people of the province. She said if the Sindh government failed to provide ration to poor people, it would mean that the lockdown was imposed to protect the rights of the upper class and to promote the CM’s image of ‘good boy’ in the media.
She said the federal government was ready to cooperate with the provincial government in the process of providing relief to poor people and Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme was its manifestation as disbursements were being made in all provinces as well as Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“The federal government has announced a Rs1,200bn relief package after the spread of coronavirus but the Sindh government has not announced any such package.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2020