PPP leaders want govt to discuss Covid-19 policy in parliament

Published January 6, 2021
Some PPP leaders alleged that a hybrid system was being run in the country which had debased parliament and the Council of Common Interests. — AFP/File
Some PPP leaders alleged that a hybrid system was being run in the country which had debased parliament and the Council of Common Interests. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Some leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Tuesday alleged that a hybrid system was being run in the country which had debased parliament and the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

Speaking at a programme organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) here to discuss strategies to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Syed Naveed Qamar, Barrister Amir Hassan and Senator Rukhsana Zuberi said that polices related to the pandemic were being made by the establishment and some departments.

They said that though parliamentary committees were very effective, they were not being allowed to function properly by using the pandemic, unavailability of space and social distancing as excuses.

Say parliamentary committees are not being allowed to function properly

The PPP leaders demanded that a dialogue be held on the floor of parliament to discuss pandemic-related policies.

They suggested that the Covid-19 vaccine should be acquired by the government, special task forces be created at federal, provincial and district levels for ensuring efficiency and transparency, licences be issued to pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine in the country, development budget for the health sector be increased, intermittent curfew and lockdowns be used as tools to curb the spread of the virus, more people be included in the Benazir Income Support Programme through a fresh survey, agriculture be made backbone of the country’s economy, interest rates be further decreased and special measures be taken for protecting the educational sector from the negative impact of the pandemic.

Mr Qamar said transparency in the National Disaster Management Autho­rity (NDMA) was an important issue and it should be dealt with a governance angle rather than a political one.

“Wherever funding comes transparency needs to be ensured. Though parliament is present, its role has been limited by making different excuses, such as the pandemic and unavailability of space. Policies should come from parliament rather than from the GHQ and Banigala. Moreover, the CCI should be given importance as its role is most important along with parliament,” he added.

He said the government should not play politics while taking decisions regarding the pandemic. If a country, like the United Kingdom, could go for a complete lockdown to protect its people from the virus, the Pakistan government should also be ready for taking such decisions.

He said Pakistan had strong connections with the UK and in a normal situation a large number of people travelled between the two countries. The government should be ready for dealing with the new variant of coronavirus which was currently playing havoc in the UK, he added.

He urged the government to ensure strict implementation of SOPs (standard operating procedures) for Covid-19, saying that whenever there was a relaxation people started violating the SOPs. He said the government should also launch an awareness campaign about coronavirus and the SOPs.

PPP leader Barrister Amir Hassan said the impression of a ‘deep state’ increased when decisions were taken outside parliament.

“I suggest that the government should decide the procurement of vaccine and other equipment rather than leaving everything for the NDMA. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had given importance to health and educational sectors in its election manifesto, but both have been ignored by it after coming into power,” he regretted.

He said the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine should not be delayed just like the procurement of petroleum products was delayed. “There is an allegation of Rs5 billion corruption in the purchase of face masks by the Punjab government,” he added.

Decision-making

Talking to Dawn later, Barrister Hassan said that the PPP wanted increased role of parliament in decision-making.

Senator Rukhsana Zuberi of the PPP said that being a member of the Standing Committee on Planning and Development she had urged the departments concerned a number of times to brief the committee on the procurements, but they had never provided complete details.

“We have been informed that ventilators worth of Rs25 billion have been purchased, but a number of them cannot be used as there is a shortage of skilled human resource to operate them,” she said.

Pildat president Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that a clear policy regarding vaccination should be made and a time frame should be given for vaccination of the people.

Pildat representative Aasiya Riaz said that it was usually observed that political parties gave their policies at the time of elections. Therefore, she added, her institute had decided to invite political leaders to get their input on the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 1,947 cases of Covid-19 and 59 deaths were reported in a single day across the country. The National Command and Operation Centre’s data showed that 314 ventilators were occupied across the country on Tuesday — 46 per cent in Islamabad, 44pc in Multan, 41pc in Bahawalpur and 37pc in Lahore.

About 57pc beds with oxygen were occupied in Peshawar, 32pc in Islamabad, 31pc in Multan and 31pc in Karachi.

The number of total active cases in the country is 35,707.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2021

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