ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties in the National Assembly on Wednesday claimed that the PTI led federal government has no plan to deal with coronavirus crisis and that now it is blaming the 18th constitutional amendment – that gives more autonomy to provinces – for its failures to deal with the raging pandemic.
Taking the floor, PML-N senior leader and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi criticised the federal government for not taking the provinces on board while taking decisions related to the outbreak.
“People of Pakistan are laughing at this parliament. The only achievement of the current government is comparing Pakistan’s coronavirus cases to other countries and claiming that the country has far fewer cases than predicted.
18th Amendment overshadows Covid-19 in NA session
“The rise in Covid-19 cases is unprecedented. We have a 19 per cent infection rate. There is no testing or treatment protocol, people are getting tested randomly,” he said.
He said on March 3, the federal cabinet decided not to give personal protective equipment (PPEs) to the provinces. “Do not lie so much that you start believing your own lies,” Abbasi said.
The former premier also questioned the purpose of the Corona Relief Tiger Force – a team of volunteers created by Prime Minister Imran Khan to help the government efforts. ”It seems they [the volunteers] would only arrange funerals for the dead,” he said.
Quoting an international report on polio, he said Pakistan is not neutral on health issues. Abbasi said the same is the current scenario with coronavirus outbreak. “This government has no strategy.”
Abbasi said the opposition is willing to work with the government and urged the Centre to form a unified strategy on the pandemic.
“We ask the government to create synergy with the provinces. There should be a consistent awareness campaign, a strategy to deal with the crisis, a containment strategy and an economic management policy,” the former prime minister added.
Another former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who belongs to the PPP, also lambasted the government and said the premier had shattered the idea of unified response to the crisis, when he left a parliamentary leaders meeting on the virus on March 25.
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had also walked out of the meeting when PM Imran Khan left the moot after completing his speech through video link.
He said the government lied when it claimed that it disbursed Rs1100 billion relief package among the people worst affected by the lockdown and said the actual amount disbursed was Rs400 billion.
Responding to the allegations, Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood said Tuesday’s Senate session was an attack on the government and Prime Minister Imran Khan “rather than a discussion on how to deal with the deadly pandemic that has gripped the country”.
The minister rejected the accusation of not taking the provinces on board while taking important decisions and said the PM formed the National Coordination Committee (NCC) and National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), with representatives of the provinces involved in the decision-making loop.
“The meetings of these committees are held daily and chief ministers of all provinces are present,” Mehmood said. “How can they say they are not taken on board while taking decisions?”
Referring to school closure, the education minister said the decision was taken after ensuring Centre and the provinces were on the same page. “After 15 days of the lockdown ‘tele-schools’ were started,” he said. “They impart learning on students for 10 hours a day.”
“We are figuring out ways to make distance learning better,” he added.
Urging the opposition to not indulge in petty politics, the education minister said the country has to take a balanced approach when it comes to the economy and health.