'Pakistan not ready for third Covid wave': Bilawal blasts govt over vaccination campaign

Published April 2, 2021
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses a press conference with local PPP leaders in Jacobabad. — Photo by Gul Sarki
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses a press conference with local PPP leaders in Jacobabad. — Photo by Gul Sarki

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Friday that Pakistan was not sufficiently ready to combat the ongoing third coronavirus wave due to the government's "refusal" to purchase vaccines for every citizen, which he said was the only solution for the health crisis.

Addressing a press conference in Jacobabad after meeting local PPP leaders and workers, he said the "stubbornness" of the government in refusing to purchase vaccines had led to Pakistan lagging behind other regional countries in vaccine rollout.

"Pakistan is not at all ready to challenge the third [coronavirus] wave which is cropping up and coming in front of us.

"If we are not ready then [it is] only because our federal government [is showing] stubbornness on this policy, that it is not ready to buy vaccines for every Pakistani which is the only solution to this problem."

Bilawal said Pakistan was trailing behind India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in tackling the pandemic and the vaccination campaign, despite Afghanistan being a war-torn country.

"I think this is a shameful reality and there is no need or reason why Pakistan's economic growth rate should be behind Bangladesh or Afghanistan.

"If there is a reason then it is only this puppet [government] which has been forced upon us which has no political or economic or historical knowhow and can't run the Pakistani state."

Pakistan's Covid-19 inoculation campaign is currently underway with both the private and public sector operating to deliver vaccines to the population. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had said on Wednesday that 0.8 million vaccine doses had so far been administered in the country.

Pakistan also received its first consignment of 500,000 purchased Covid-19 vaccine doses from China on Wednesday and another 500,000 were expected by Thursday. That would make a total of 2.5m doses — China had earlier donated 1.5m doses of the Sinopharm vaccine which were used to kick off the country's inoculation campaign.

SAPM Sultan had said that millions of doses of purchased Covid-19 vaccine would continue to come in the following weeks and months.

Meanwhile, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab announced on Twitter today that the provincial government had plans to order 10m doses of CanSino Biologics' Covid-19 vaccine.

'Sacrificial goat'

Bilawal in his presser also criticised the government over frequent cabinet changes, saying it had changed two finance ministers in three years and yet the policy had remained the same — "delivering relief to the rich and pain to the poor".

"To bring changes in the cabinet is a good thing and it should happen. Different people, districts, party representatives and areas should get the opportunity that they're also given ministries," he said.

However, the PPP chairman said, the "haphazard way" and speed with which information and finance ministers were changed in the PTI government could not be "said to be good governance".

"I think this is a sign of the lack of Imran Khan's leadership that he is not ready to take responsibility for anything and whenever a problem arises he is ready to make someone else the sacrificial goat."

Bilawal held the prime minister and his cabinet responsible for last year's fuel crisis which saw a shortage of petroleum products in the market and their overpricing.

He said the stepping down of special assistant to the prime minister on petroleum Nadeem Babar was "merely an attempt at face-saving" by the prime minister.

"He (Imran) is thinking that by making Nadeem Babar the sacrificial goat, he and his cabinet can remain safe from this scandal but the PPP won't allow this to happen and we won't leave this corrupt government at any forum, [we] will follow this case and won't accept this sacrificial goat."

PPP workers 'under pressure'

Bilawal alleged that attempts were being made to pressurise the local PPP leaders and workers and separate them from the party using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other institutions.

"Despite this pressure, they (the workers) were with the PPP yesterday and they're with the PPP today as well and I know that they'll remain with the PPP tomorrow.

"Instead of decreasing, PPP's membership has been continually rising and we welcome all honourables who are joining the PPP after leaving other parties," he said.

Bilawal also criticised the government for hinting at the reopening of the Swiss bank accounts case against PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, asking: "How many times do they want to lose this case?"

He said according to the concept of double jeopardy in jurisprudence, "a case can only be trialled against you once. They've now filed this case against us three times and they've lost a third time." He added that Zardari had been acquitted by the courts when Iftikhar Chaudhry was the chief justice of Pakistan.

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