ISLAMABAD: The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has urged the government to immediately convene a session of parliament to get approval of the package announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide relief to people in the wake of novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.
PPP information secretary Dr Nafisa Shah, her deputy Palwasha Khan, and Senator Rubina Khalid said at a news conference here on Thursday that the relief package would be deemed as illegal because a large amount of this package was being used on “daily expenses”.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had last month announced a rescue and stimulus package worth about Rs1.2 trillion aimed at supporting various sectors of society and the economy in absorbing the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The PPP women leaders said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in the very beginning had declared that they had to fight Covid-19 together, but “the federal government is at war with the PPP and the Sindh government”.
Calls for parliament session
Dr Shah said the doctors had held a press conference in Karachi on Wednesday and informed the nation that Covid-19 was spreading with an alarming rate and demanded a strict lockdown to contain this disease. She said a policy on a national level should be chalked out keeping in view the directives and warnings of the World Health Organisation (WHO). She said the number of new cases should be enough to make the federal government realise that its policies were detrimental to Pakistan.
Dr Shah said three doctors and two nurses had already lost their lives fighting Covid-19.
She said the prime minister had taken his begging bowl to the Pakistanis living abroad without realising that the Pakistani diaspora was in immense difficulty in Europe and the US because of Covid-19.
Palwasha Khan asked the prime minister to disclose as to how much had the rich ministers and advisers donated to the Covid-19 fund. She suggested that the travelling and dining allowances of these federal ministers and advisers should immediately be halted.
Senator Rubina Khalid alleged that the traders in Karachi were being incited by the federal government and local leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), warning that soon this incitement would reach everywhere in the country.
The senator said the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was very alarming, but even then the government was planning to open borders with Afghanistan which would further deteriorate the situation.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement, PPP Sindh president Nisar Khuhro and former senator Taj Haider expressed reservations over the continuation of payment of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) funds under the name of Ehsaas programme through only two “favoured private sector banks”, and termed it a discriminatory and faulty method, which had multiplied the number of coronavirus cases in the country many times over.
“Not satisfied with facilitating the spread of coronavirus by allowing unchecked entries of passengers at airports and making a mess at the Taftan border, the federal government has delivered the final blow with limiting of the distribution of billions in public funds to the two favoured private sector banks,” Mr Khuhro alleged.
The two PPP leaders questioned the exclusion of other banks, especially the public sector banks, from the distribution process.
“What was the criterion for selection of the banks? There are also more than 500,000 branchless cash transfer points situated all over the country. Waiver of government taxes, minimising the commissions of the mobile companies and the agents could have greatly reduced the cash transmission costs. Inclusion of all banks and branchless outlets in cash distribution would have ensured no crowding at distribution points and no spread of coronavirus,” they said.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2020