ISLAMABAD: The tussle between the federal and Sindh governments over the functioning of the Corona Relief Tiger Force (CRTF) continued as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Youth Affairs Usman Dar accused the opposition of “politicising” the volunteers’ force without understanding its terms of reference (ToR) and the opposition terming it a mere “political gimmick”.
Speaking at a news conference hours before Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address to the CRTF members on Monday, Mr Dar said it was unfortunate that the Sindh government had refused to use services of 154,000 volunteers registered in the tiger force in the province only because the force had been created at the prime minister’s initiative.
Mr Dar announced that the federal government would soon devise a mechanism so that these registered 154,000 volunteers in Sindh could serve the people of their province in this time of difficulty and this mechanism would be disclosed to the nation through media.
The prime minister’s adviser alleged that the opposition was criticising the CRTF without even reading its TOR and mocked the opposition by stating that it had now decided to publish these TOR in Urdu for the convenience of those “who had in the past distributed sweets after the announcement of the court’s verdict in the Panama case in English”.
PPP says it does not feel need for such force
Mr Dar explained that the force had been created to help the local administration at the grassroots’ level in the fight against coronavirus. He said the CRTF members would work as volunteers under the directives of deputy commissioners or assistant commissioners and they would have no powers over or access to public funds.
Moreover, he said, elected representatives of all political parties had been given representation in the committees at the district and tehsil levels to monitor the CRTF activities. He said since the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had the largest number of MNAs and MPAs in Sindh, they would be part of these committees.
Mr Dar alleged that by refusing to utilise the services of the CRTF, the PPP was “insulting” the passion showed by these volunteers to serve the nation in the time of need.
He said the Sialkot district administration had written a letter to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA and its parliamentary leader Khawaja Asif to lead the tiger force in the district, but he had given no reply so far.
The adviser said that there were nearly 2,000 health workers, including professors and doctors, who had registered themselves in the CRTF in Sindh.
Giving further break-up, he said there were 8,500 engineers, 5,500 teachers, 3,000 political workers, 1,000 lawyers, 30,000 social workers and some 15,000 people from private business in the CRTF in Sindh.
When contacted, Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Law and Information Murtaza Wahab said that the provincial government did not need such volunteers as the government was not carrying out any relief activity in the province at the moment. At present, he said, the government’s focus in the fight against Covid-19 was on the health sector.
Moreover, he said, a large number of volunteers were already working in the field in Sindh and the provincial government had no objection if someone wanted to work voluntarily.
Responding to Mr Dar’s claim that there were some 2,000 health workers, including doctors in the CRTF and the Sindh government was not ready to even utilise their services, Mr Wahab said the provincial government had not been informed so far as to what specific functions these registered health workers would perform.
Similarly, Sindh Minister for Education Saeed Ghani had already stated that there was no need for any formal approval of the provincial government, if someone wanted to do some volunteer work. He, however, made it clear that the provincial government would not allow any political party to interfere in the domain of the local administration and in functions of commissioners and deputy commissioners.
Mr Ghani said that the Sindh government already had the services of volunteers of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the Youth Parliament at its disposal and it would use them when it felt the need.
Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2020