• Federal govt’s biometric system use blamed for surge in cases
• Centre asks opposition to support PM to stem spread of virus

KARACHI: The Centre and Sindh government on Saturday continued to spar over the way through which the fight against the coronavirus should move ahead amid confusion over the lockdown and other measures being taken to stem local transmission.

Each side complained about lack of support from the other, as federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Senator Shibli Faraz said the opposition should support Prime Minister Imran Khan in the war against coronavirus instead of doing petty politics while Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and Education Minister Saeed Ghani blamed the federal government and its ministers for “deliberately sabotaging the spirit of service of the Sindh government” from day one.

Addressing a press conference at the auditorium hall of the Sindh Assembly, Nasir Shah and Saeed Ghani said the federal government’s policy of using biometric system for registration of needy people for relief operation and other violation of precautionary measures had caused surge in coronavirus cases.

“The world is discouraging the use of biometric for the time being and many countries have put a ban on the technology being used there for different services. But our leaders at the Centre are unable to understand the basic points,” said Mr Shah.

Mr Ghani said the federal authorities and leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had violated all precautionary measures while distributing fund among the people. Their acts were actually defiance against the set rules, which could have led to arrest and registration of cases, “but we don’t want to damage any impression of national unity and send wrong message in these challenging times,” he said.

Expressing serious concern over the present state of affairs in the country, the Sindh ministers said that Pakistan needed proper leadership which was aware of the ground realities amid the growing challenges posed by the Covid-19.

Mr Ghani said: “It’s a proven fact that the federal government and its ministers are deliberately sabotaging the spirit of service of the Sindh government. This cannot be tolerated for long.”

Mr Shah said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) ministers had been criticising the Sindh government instead of supporting it in its efforts to control the spread of the deadly virus. He said the Centre had not given a single ventilator to Sindh, while the province received only a consignment of N-95 masks etc a few weeks ago.

Referring to the federal government criticism against 18th Amendment, the provincial ministers said that the PTI government was planning to “abrogate” the 1973 Constitution “over its reservations on a few clauses of the 18th Amendment” and attempting to restore the dictatorial policy. “The PPP will resist any such move,” Mr Shah said.

Mr Ghani said the PPP government had actually restored the 1973 Constitution to its original form when it formed the federal government. “Our party would resist all moves to scrap the 18th Amendment,” he said.

‘Sindh free to end lockdown’

Meanwhile, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz asked PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari not to destroy the atmosphere of national unity and cohesion to keep himself alive in politics, adds APP.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Senator Faraz said the PPP chairman and the Sindh government should not blame “their own failures on the federation”. He said the Sindh government that instead of political point-scoring should focus on controlling the coronavirus in the province.

The PPP chairman and Sindh ministers were holding long press conferences instead of working to defeat the virus, the federal minister said.

He said that the opposition parties should support the Prime Minister in the fight against coronavirus instead of doing politics. He said the Sindh government was free in making its decision about ending or extending the lockdown in the province.

He said the relief and support given by the federation to Sindh to ‘control the pandemic’ had exposed their ignorance. He said over 45,000 Sindh industrial and 717,000 commercial consumers were given relief in electricity bills. Similarly, the same facility was given to small business owners in paying their bills, he added.

The minister said like other parts of the country, the people of Sindh, too, benefited through Utility Stores. He said the State Bank of Pakistan’s Deferred Scheme had facilitated in the repayment of loan installments and this scheme would also benefit the people of Sindh.

Meanwhile, a close aide to the prime minister, Shahbaz Gill, also released a list of items that the federal government had provided to the Sindh province.

He said the Sindh government had been given 30,000 N-95 masks, 500,000 face masks, 290,000 surgical masks, and over 200,000 KN-95 masks, 77,992 testing kits and three PCR machines and nearly 150,000 protection kits, gowns and ICU shoes. However, he did not mention number of ventilators that federal government had provided to the Sindh government.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2020