LAHORE: The Punjab government has banned all kind of philanthropic and private relief activities to minimise violations of social distancing and to avoid further spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
An order issued by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Relief Commissioner on Monday evening highlights that the federal government has declared a health emergency in the country while the provincial government has declared the entire province as epidemic-affected and calamity-hit.
It pointed out that the Punjab Primary and Secondary Health Department has also warned that the incidence and transmission of COVID-19 poses a serious and imminent threat to public health in the entire province. It has also issued protocols and guidelines for safety and social distancing in the province to check the spread of viral disease.
It further indicated that the Punjab Home Department has imposed a complete ban on gatherings of all kinds for social, religious or any other purpose at any place public or private. Whereas, it has been observed that widespread philanthropic activities were underway in the province violating and compromising the public health safety and social distancing protocols issued by the government for mitigation of COVID-19 pandemic.
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In the prevailing situation, the order highlights, there was a pressure on the provincial food resources and commodities and increase in the number of the suspect and positive cases of COVID-19 in the country would have a devastating effect on human lives, hence it is mandatory to take all possible measures to contain further spread of COVID-19 on a war footing.
The authority has decided to route all philanthropic activities by any individual, organisation or any other entity in Punjab through the PDMA which shall organise the same under standards and protocols set by the government.
The order states: “If any individual, organisation or any other entity, who or which intends to undertake philanthropic activity on its own, shall submit an application to the deputy commissioner in whose jurisdiction the philanthropic activity is proposed. The deputy commissioner shall determine the mode, mechanism, area and extent of the philanthropic activity with appropriate checks for conformity with the government guidelines regarding COVID-19, under intimation to the PDMA.”
The order warned: “Any person who fails to comply with the aforesaid order shall be liable to criminal proceedings under Section 6 of The Punjab National Calamities (Prevention and Relief) Act, 1958, read with Section 188 of The Pakistan Penal Code. The offences in violation of this order shall be tried in accordance with the procedure for summary trials under Code for Criminal Procedure 1898.”
The authority has enforced this order in the entire province on April 5 until further orders.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Jamaat-e-Islami (JIP) Deputy Chief Liaqat Baloch indicated that the government was afraid of generous relief activities of Al-Khidmat Foundation and other such organisations involved in organised philanthropic and relief activities. “The government wants to promote its so-called Coronavirus Tiger Force on the pretext of mere violations.”
The JIP leader underlined that any such move would prove counterproductive for the poor and the daily wagers are facing a serious toll of this lockdown imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.
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“The government has failed to help needy and poor amid lockdown. Consecutive governments in the country did not set up any database of poor. We have no record of poor and daily wage earners in the country which has made relief activities difficult,” he maintained, adding that the government should encourage maximum relief activities while ensuring the safety of the citizens. He highlighted that charity wing of the JIP, Al-Khidmat Foundation, is helping the poor by providing relief goods at their doorstep and never attempted to showcase their efforts by parking trucks carrying relief goods on road. It is the governments’ style of aid distribution to gain political mileage.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government has extended lockdown till April 14 in wake of the rapid increase in coronavirus patients in the province.
The government has warned that the spread of viral disease is alarming and highly dangerous for the health of the people. Hence, it is mandatory to take all pragmatic and possible measures to contain and counter the further spread of coronavirus on war footings.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2020.