KARACHI: The strained relations between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in Sindh and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the centre suffered another blow on Saturday when the provincial administration revised its coronavirus lockdown restrictions it had imposed a day earlier, but Islamabad still called the lockdown decision “defiance of the terms agreed between the two sides”, rejecting a “curfew-like situation in the metropolis”.
The Sindh government had revised its coronavirus lockdown restrictions, lifting the ban on pillion riding, allowing small transport to run within the limits of Karachi and giving exemption from timing restriction to certain businesses.
However, the fresh move failed to impress the federal government, which questioned the measures of the provincial administration and accused it of defying the terms it had agreed with the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) before announcing the lockdown.
MQM-P condemns provincial govt measures
“The Sindh government has created a curfew-like situation here,” Sindh Governor Imran Ismail told a press conference held at Governor House soon after Barrister Murtaza Wahab’s presser. “The Sindh chief minister before announcing the lockdown had briefed the NCOC heads Asad Umar and Dr Faisal Sultan. The two sides had agreed on certain terms and conditions for the restrictions. However, when the notification was issued by the Sindh government, all those agreed terms were defied and ignored. This should not have happened. The federal government, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, is very much concerned about the situation.”
He said the smart lockdown strategy introduced by the prime minister proved effective from the beginning. It saved the economy from complete disaster and allowed the poor segment of society to stay largely unaffected from the impact of the pandemic on businesses.
“It’s not Pakistan alone which utilised the strategy, but it was appreciated across the world,” said Governor Ismail, flanked by PTI lawmakers Khurram Sher Zaman and Shahzad Qureshi. “Pakistan became the third country after New Zealand and Hong Kong to get fastest recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus on economy. It’s so unfortunate that we are pushing the situation back to that stage from where we came out after so much struggle.”
The Sindh governor advised the chief minister to refrain from a complete and curfew-like lockdown in the province and ensure the enforcement of SOPs in letter and spirit instead of opting for excessive measures. He made it clear that the federation was against extreme steps to contain the pandemic as the national economy could not afford shutting down industries and business activities, particularly in Karachi, the economic hub of the country.
“The Sindh government neither took the federal government on board while taking the decision nor they consulted other stakeholders, including the trade and industry community,” he said. “We think that this decision was also a violation of the apex court’s judgement that directed that the guidelines be followed while dealing with the situation arising from the spread of Covid-19. The complete closure of industry and business is not a viable option and the provincial government’s unilateral decision in this regard is a surprise move for the federal government as well as the NCOC.”
The PTI’s ally in the centre, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), concurred and condemned the move of the Sindh government. It accused the provincial government of shifting the burden of its failure onto poor population of the metropolis.
“We firmly believe that the coronavirus is a pandemic and we don’t deny its deadly impact and seriousness,” said Senator Faisal Subzwari while addressing a press conference at the party’s Bahadurabad office.
“That’s the reason that when the first wave struck we launched a massive welfare operation and distributed free rations and household things among thousands of families during the lockdown. But it’s unfortunate that the Sindh government has found the only solution to meet the challenge and that’s lockdown. Who would ask them the details of their relief efforts? Who would ask them about their capacity-building in the health sector [during the pandemic]? What preparations they made in these 19 months and where were the funds of billions of rupees spent in the name of fight against the coronavirus?”
Accompanied by party legislators Kishwar Zehra, Mohammad Hussain and Javed Hanif, Senator Subzwari said the Sindh government failed miserably in a smooth operation of vaccination and its traditional corruption and incompetence had dented this crucial health issue as well.
“It’s unfortunate that here in Sindh, this pandemic has become a business lockdown,” he said. “The vaccines were supplied by the federal government and here the officials who are responsible only for smooth inoculation are selling fake certificates of vaccination. The Sindh government should take responsibility for its failure and not shift it to poor people of Karachi.”
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2021