ISLAMABAD: Amid calls by the opposition parties for auditing of the amount so far spent by the government in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has announced that the Prime Minister Corona Relief Fund (CRF) has swelled to over Rs4 billion.
The announcement was made by PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan through his official social media account on Twitter.
“The PM (Corona) Relief Fund has crossed the 4 billion mark Masha Allah. Generosity and Jazba (passion) of all donors is commendable. This indeed is a great cause. Together we can and together we must,” the PTI senator tweeted.
In the same tweet, the PTI senator recalled that the government had decided to contribute Rs4 for every single rupee donated to relief fund.
There has been an increase of Rs1 billion in the CRF, set by the government in the aftermath of the spread of coronavirus in the country, in just under a month’s time as the same PTI senator had announced through Twitter on May 1 that the PM fund had touched Rs3bn mark.
Opposition wants parliamentary oversight of fund utililastion; Shahbaz calls for convening CCI meeting
Senator Faisal Javed was sent written questions regarding the utilisation of the fund and the opposition’s demand for a parliamentary oversight, but he did not respond despite committing to do so.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced creation of the CRF where people, including overseas Pakistanis, could donate money without declaring their source of income during his televised address to the nation on March 30. He had stated that those depositing money in the fund would be given relaxation in taxes and the money would be utilised to provide food and cash to 15 million poor and needy people.
The prime minister had said Pakistan had to fight the war against the coronavirus with wisdom as the country did not have ample resources such as China and the United States.
The US, he had said, had allocated $2,000 billion to offset the impact of Covid-19, while Pakistan had earmarked only $8bn.
The CRF started receiving donations from April 1 and the prime minister had himself made a formal announcement in this regard through his official account on Twitter.
“The Prime Minister’s Covid-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020 has been set up to help us fight this pandemic. I want everyone to donate towards this fund which will be used to take care of all those who have been made destitute by the lockdown,” Mr Khan had tweeted at the formal launch of the fund.
Speaking during a telethon held on a private television channel on April 10 to collect donations for the CRF, the prime minister had said that in addition to using its own resources, the government was raising funds because the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis would “further worsen”.
Later, the opposition parties through a charter of demands called for forming a parliamentary committee for monitoring how and where the CRF was being spent, the quality of ration for labourers, daily-wage workers and other vulnerable segments of society and the mechanism for its distribution.
They also stressed the need to ensure that the government did not use the money being donated to the fund for political gains.
The opposition parties had further demanded that a surveillance system be set up to gather accurate data on the virus situation to keep the public informed.
During the recent special sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate, the opposition members reiterated their demand for a parliamentary oversight of the government’s handling of the coronavirus situation and criticised the government over alleged lack of transparency in the distribution of relief amount to the people under Ehsas Cash Programme.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday expressed alarm and sorrow over the increasing number of deaths and infections by coronavirus.
“Had there been a comprehensive strategy before imposition and lifting of the lockdown, the disease would not have spread this aggressively across the country,” Mr Sharif said in a statement.
The opposition leader demanded that an emergency meeting of the Council of Common Interests must be called to assess the latest situation and a fresh strategy should be formulated based on the learning.
Mr Sharif once again warned the government against continuing to operate without a circumspect comprehensive strategy, saying that it should make the details of the testing data public. He said there was no time to waste and clear priorities based on the developing situation must be established to minimise the damage by the disease.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2020