Info minister terms 18th Amendment hurdle in fight against Covid-19

Updated May 02, 2020

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Faraz stresses need for striking balance between lockdown and revival of economic activities. — DawnNewsTV/File
Faraz stresses need for striking balance between lockdown and revival of economic activities. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Federal Informa­tion Minister Shibli Faraz said on Friday that the 18th Amendment was a hurdle in preparing a uniform policy to fight the coronavirus across the country as after the amendment the federal government’s role in various spheres had been limited to issuing policy guidelines.

At his first press conference after assuming office, Senator Faraz said that unanimity of policies and implementation was needed between Sindh or any other province and the centre in the national fight against Covid-19.

He said that the federal government would take all the federating units on board to address the situation created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Not only Pakistan but the whole world is faced with an unprecedented challenge in the form of Covid-19 and a collective response is required to meet it,” he said. “But the 18th Amendment has delegated the regulatory powers even over industries to the provinces and the federal government can only issue policy guidelines.”

Faraz stresses need for striking balance between lockdown and revival of economic activities

The minister said that the provinces had started to realise that the country could not afford a complete lockdown due to the economic situation and even the developed countries were opting for smart lockdown to keep the wheels of their economies running.

He said that now there was a realisation on part of the Sindh government also about the need for striking a balance between the lockdown and revival of economic activities to save the vulnerable segments of the society from hunger and starvation.

“We have asked the provinces to develop their standard operating procedures for reopening the industrial sector,” he said and appealed to the people related to the industries and other sectors of society to take precautionary measures.

“The prime minister wants that the lockdown should be eased to some extent so that the country’s economy could grow,” Mr Faraz said. “Even the advanced economies cannot afford complete lockdown.”

He said that the prime minister’s vision of smart lockdown envisaged protection of the daily wagers and labourers from the impact of the pandemic on the economy.

He highlighted the initiatives taken by the government for labourers saying that the incumbent government was the first one to take practical steps for the well-being and protection of workers in the form of Panahgahs and the health card.

“It is owing to the empathy of Prime Minister Imran Khan for the labourers that the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme has been launched in the wake of the pandemic under which Rs12,000 are being disbursed amongst them,” Senator Faraz said.

He pointed out that industries such as construction had been reopened to provide opportunities to the workers to earn a livelihood.

Replying to a question about summoning of a parliamentary session, the minister said that consultation with the opposition on this issue it was in advanced stage.

“The government wants that the sessions of both the National Assembly and the Senate are held but it is vital to adopt precautionary measures,” he said. “We all know the conditions. Even National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has been diagnosed with Covid-19.”

The information minister said that it was also necessary to call the sessions of two houses of the parliament for approval of certain bills which were going to lapse.

He also spoke about the grave situation in India-occupied Kashmir and said that the government had effectively highlighted the Kashmir issue at the world forums, including the United Nations.

The minister highlighted the need for use of modern technology, including digital forums, by the information department and said that it was essential to enhance outreach of the nation’s voice at global front to counter anti-Pakistan propaganda by India and others.

Senator Faraz said that he and the newly appointed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information retd Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa would work as a team.

“The realities have changed and both of us will utilise our diversified expertise to enable the ministry of information to meet the requirements of the 21st century,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2020