KARACHI: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Thursday urged the people of Pakistan, particularly of Sindh, to celebrate Eidul Fitr with simplicity and demonstrate solidarity with coronavirus patients, the families who lost their lives and the poor.

“We are passing through a very critical phase of pandemic which is unprecedented in the recent history, therefore, I am of the view that we all should celebrate Eid with simplicity and I would request the prime minister to announce celebration of Eid with simplicity on national level.”

He advised people not to travel to their hometowns and villages for celebrating Eid.

This he said on Thursday while speaking at a press conference in the auditorium of the Sindh Assembly building.

The chief minister said that he was dedicating Eidul Fitr to the front-line workers — doctors, paramedical staff, nurses, janitorial staff, police, Rangers and revenue department officials — who were selflessly fighting the virus to save lives of others. “This is a matchless service and we have lost seven doctors and five policemen,” he said.

Calls for celebrating Eid with simplicity, avoid travel to hometowns

Paying rich tributes to them, the chief minister said 364 persons of the health department were affected by the coronavirus; of them 27 recovered and seven lost their lives while saving the lives of patients. He said the doctors who died of the virus were Dr Abdul Qadir Soomro, Dr Abdul Haq, Dr Zubaida Siraj, Dr Furqan Ul Haq, Dr Asar Ibrahim, Dr M. Basheer Qasim and Dr Nawaz Gahouti.

The chief minister said that 274 policemen were infected with the coronavirus, of them 59 had recovered while five succumbed to the virus. The deceased policemen were SI Hanif, ASI Anis, ASI Sher Gul Khan, ASI Mohammad Anwar and HC Abdul Aziz.

Talking about the Rangers, the chief minister said that 20 personnel of the paramilitary force were affected by the coronavirus and prayed for their early recovery.

Compensation plan

The chief minister announced that compensation would be given to the front-line workers who lost their lives in the line of duty. “I will also give a similar compensation to the front-line medical workers of the private sector, including doctors, by making necessary amendment in the law,” he said and added that the compensation package was under preparation.

He said that there was a provision of compensation in accidental deaths. “We are also exploring ways and means to compensate others.”

Mr Shah said that international experiences and ground realities showed that the coronavirus had affected thickly populated areas badly. “I am not talking only of Pakistan but all over the world this trend has been witnessed,” he said and added that that was why Karachi and Lahore had more cases.

He said that on the coronavirus issue, the guidelines of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari were commendable. “He kept guiding us and almost all his decisions were based on ground reality and international experiences and expert guidance.”

NFC issue

Talking about the National Finance Commission (NFC), Mr Shah said that it was constituted in violation of the Constitution. “I have written a letter to the prime minister and requested him to withdraw the letter and reconstitute the commission in conformity with the Constitution,” he said and added that he was sure the prime minister would not do anything contrary to the Constitution.

In reply to a question, he said that the federal government had been violating constitutional requirements. He referred to the Council of Common Interests and said it was mandatory to convene its meeting after every 90 days but its meeting was held after 11 months. Similarly, he said the National Economic Council had to meet twice in a year but its meetings were not being held as per the constitutional requirement.

Talking about the removal of a Sindh member from Irsa, he said as per law the federal government without consulting the provinces could not remove their members. “I am sure the federal government will talk to Sindh before taking any action.”

Answering a question about the Sugar Commission, the chief minister said that they had no mandate to call him, that was why he had written a letter to them.

Train operation

The chief minister said that his government was against the operation of passenger trains and flights, but it was the decision of the federal government. He added that experts had told him that the cases would increase further.

Mr Shah urged the people not to go to their villages in order to prevent infections there. “At present, the virus has not spread in our rural areas and they are almost safe and if they are made infected then we will not be able to control it,” he said and added that that was why he was opposing trains, passenger buses and flight operations.

Federal transfers

In reply to a question, Murad Ali Shah said that the federal government recoveries should have been at Rs5.5 trillion against which, he said, he had heard the recoveries were being expected at Rs3.9tr. “Our share in federal transfers is Rs835 billion against which we expect to receive Rs602 billion by June 30,” he said and added that this showed a shortfall of Rs233bn in the federal revenue transfers.

Murad Shah said that our ADP was Rs228bn but we have faced a shortfall of Rs233bn. “Now, we have decided to curtail our ADP from Rs228bn to Rs93bn during the current financial year,” he said and added that he was releasing Rs10bn to complete 523 schemes.

Covid-19 situation

Sharing details of coronavirus patients in the province, the chief minister said 960 new cases were detected overnight after conducting tests of 6,003 samples. “So far, the government has conducted 143,543 tests against which 19,924 cases have been detected,” he added.

Mr Shah said that 20 more patients lost their lives, lifting the tally to 336 which constituted 1.7 per cent of the total patients. He added that 143 patients were in critical condition, of whom 33 were on ventilators.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2020