Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday blamed the Sindh government's poor governance for the worsening Covid-19 situation in Karachi and Hyderabad, noting that the percentage of vaccinated people in the two cities was low compared to the rest of the country.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad following a meeting of the federal cabinet, Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan was informed that 35pc of the eligible population in Rawalpindi and Peshawar had been vaccinated, followed by Faisalabad at 28pc and Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot and Sargodha at 27pc.
"We do not want to criticise the Sindh government but Karachi and Hyderabad are the most behind in vaccination which is why most [Covid-related] problems are there," he said. "This is why the Sindh government needs to reflect on its matters and try to improve its governance."
Criticising the provincial government further, the minister said the Sindh government was "the most behind" when it came to economic figures and performance in various sectors. Terming the situation "unfortunate", he said that there was a "lot of concern" because Sindh was a "very important" province.
Chaudhry said the Centre could not "sit back and watch faces", adding that it was among the rights of the federal government "to bring the provinces' attention to their governance".
"We keep bringing the attention of the Sindh government towards its governance."
The purpose of doing so was to bring betterment to the lives of the province's people, he said.
Criticism over Sindh lockdown
Last week, the Sindh government had decided to impose a lockdown in the province with a focus on Karachi. The decision was strongly criticised by federal ministers and Prime Minister Imran Khan.
At the time, Chaudhry had said the Sindh government would not be allowed to impose a complete lockdown in the province as the federal government's policy on controlling the spread of Covid-19 was crystal clear.
He said that under Article 151 of the Constitution, Pakistan is a single market with the port of Karachi acting as the "jugular vein of its economy". Any move that could affect the country's economic lifeline could not be allowed.
The Sindh government had been given a clear message that unilateral decisions could not be allowed in this regard, he said.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran too criticised the decision saying the Sindh government hadn't taken into consideration the hardships of the poor.
"We had a small problem between the federal government and Sindh," the PM admitted. "Sindh government wanted to impose a lockdown, which is the correct decision and will curb the spread of virus.
"But on the other hand, the thing to see is, will we be able to save the economy from the lockdown? Then there is the issue of hunger ... the daily wage earners and especially the poor section of our society ... how will they make ends meet during the lockdown?"
The prime minister cited the example of "destruction in India" to tell Sindh government "never to impose a lockdown until you have the answers to these questions."
Shehbaz's statement a 'positive development'
During today's press conference, Chaudhry termed PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif's statement — in which he stressed the need to "move on" while learning lessons from the past if Pakistan was to make real progress — as a "positive development".
"I think there are other sincere people in the opposition. If democracy has to remain in this country then we will have to clarify a system in which all people have trust."
The minister claimed that some people who were not part of parliament, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, did "not want the [democratic] system to get better and wanted it to worsen [instead]".
However, there were people in PML-N and PPP who were part of the system (parliament) and wanted to strengthen it, he added. "We will talk with leaders inside parliament and not with leaders outside parliament," he stressed.
Navy, air force asked to remove encroachments
The federal cabinet was also briefed by the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) regarding the removal of encroachments in sectors E8 and E9 in Islamabad, the minister shared.
Chaudhry said the prime minister issued "strict directives" regarding the protection of green areas in the capital. "The navy and air force have been told to remove encroachments," he added.
The prime minister ordered action to remove encroachments by "powerful people", he said, stressing that the government would "not allow any occupation" of land.