Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Usman Dar on Tuesday defended the premier's move to use the Corona Relief Tiger Force (CRTF) to check rising prices of essential commodities, calling the volunteers "national heroes".
Speaking to the media in Islamabad, the PM's aide said that the opposition was criticising the country's youth and using words that had never even been used for the Indian intelligence agency RAW.
"Some are saying that the Tiger Force has usurped the country's wheat and sugar while some are calling it a 'Hitler force'," Dar said.
Dar's comments come two days after Prime Minister Imran Khan tasked the one-million strong volunteer force with checking the prices of food items and posting them on their portal. PM Imran will also be meeting the volunteers on Saturday in Islamabad.
The PM's announcement came a day after he expressed the resolve to use all available resources to bring down food prices. However, the move was met with criticism from opposition parties and legal experts who said the force does not possess the legal authority to check food prices.
Senator Sherry Rehman said the decision to use the force to check food prices in the country was a “recipe for rampant abuse”.
“Why in the existence of [a] full government including deputy commissioners is the government asking a politically tagged force to monitor and check prices of food and other items,” she had questioned in a tweet on Monday.
Responding to the criticism, the PM's aide said it was difficult for the opposition to believe that someone would selflessly work for the country's interest without any personal gain.
"I have said this several times that the Tiger Force is the vision of the youth that wish to work for the country's development. Then on the other side, you have those that have looted Pakistan and are sitting abroad instead of facing the cases against them.
"So I appeal to the opposition, the Tiger Force volunteers are national heroes. We need to give them respect and appreciate them."
Dar said since taking charge as the chief executive, PM Imran had initiated multiple programmes for the youth. He added that by forming the volunteer force, the premier had given the youth an opportunity to help the government in fixing Pakistan's governance.
Commenting on the role played by the force in tackling the spread of Covid-19 in Pakistan, the PM's aide said the volunteer's contribution and cooperation also played a role in curbing virus transmission.
"You saw them at Ehsaas management centres, at hospitals, implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) at mosques [and] at parks. I think that the Tiger Force youth are our national heroes," he reiterated.
He went on to say that young individuals made up 68 per cent of the country's population. "This is the segment the opposition is targeting by calling them thieves and dacoits."
Responding to a question about whether or not the Tiger Force had a legal sanction to act on behalf of the state, Dar said: "Let me clarify this, in the past also the force was only bringing issues to [our] attention. They didn't have the power to take action.
"That [power] rests with the deputy commissioner, assistant commissioner and price control magistrate," he said.
The CRTF had been constituted by the government to ensure implementation of SOPs aimed at reducing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. It had become formally operational in three provinces — Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan — in May after an address to its members by PM Imran.
However, the PPP's Sindh government had opposed the constitution of the CRTF in the presence of the local administration.