All measures taken keeping in mind the economically downtrodden: Shibli
Information minister says Centre will take along all the federating units in its fight against coronavirus pandemic
ISLAMABAD: Newly-appointed Federal Information Minister Shibli Faraz on Friday said the country could not afford to impose a complete lockdown for curbing the coronavirus pandemic as the lower-income groups could not cope with such restrictions and the Sindh government had realised that as well.
“We are a country drowned in debt and must keep our economic activities running,” he said at a news conference in Islamabad.
“Some people were of the view that a complete lockdown should be imposed, but the provinces are now realising that such strict restrictions cannot be enforced,” he added.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has been saying from day one that it’s [complete lockdown] not possible.”
Shibli stressed the need for striking a balance between taking precautionary measures against the disease and ensuring that the underprivileged sections of the society do not starve because of the government’s restrictions.
He noted that the policy to close all businesses and confine people to their homes had even failed in the US.
“We must strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the disease from spreading. We have allowed some industries to resume their operations following these SOPs.”
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To a question about the differences between the Centre and Sindh government over the strategy to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, Shibli said the 18th Amendment had empowered the provinces to make their own decisions and the federal government could only issue guidelines.
“The Centre will take along all the federating units in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” he maintained.
“It’s in the country’s interest to work together instead of developing differences over individual or provincial basis.”
Shibli the prime minister’s foremost concern was the impact of the lockdown on labourers and daily-wage earners. “The government has allowed the construction sector to resume its activities and given incentives to industries to ensure that labourers and daily-wage earners did not suffer from unemployment.”
The minister said the government had introduced a programme to financially assist labourers and daily-wage earners who bore the brunt of the complete lockdown in the country.
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Speaking about the premier’s decision to appoint him as the information minister and Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bawja as the special assistant on information, Shibli said PM Imran wanted to change his team and he had the right to make changes he deemed necessary.
“The special assistant [Asim Saleem Bajwa] has a great deal of experience with the media and together we will take the country forward,” he added.
“Imran Khan is the only reason that I’m in politics. If he would have entered politics, I wouldn’t have either.”