Bilawal accuses Centre of spoiling Sindh’s efforts

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From Zeeshan Mirza

KARACHI: PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday accused the PTI-led government of sabotaging the Sindh government’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
“The federal government has sabotaged our every attempt through their speeches […] from the start. Through their incompetency, they have let down each and every province,” he said at a press conference in Karachi.
“They opened up the Pakistan-Iran border at Taftan and did not provide the Balochistan government with tools to stop the spread of the virus. “They also let down the Punjab government by not warning them about the Raiwind Ijtima. They did not take any practical steps to protect those who participated and later did not support the provinces in tracing the participants,” he lashed out. “The federal government caused harm to all the provinces by not playing its proper role in the Raiwind Ijtima. “Day and night, the Sindh chief minister is attacked. They are attacking the province with the most limited resources.”
He added that the number of tests had decreased throughout the country except in Sindh, saying the reason being the province was conducting 90 per cent of its tests using its own resources. “They [federal government] do not raise questions about other provinces or areas.”
Referring to the premier’s speech a day earlier in which he said that an “elite” imposed the lockdown after they realised the virus affected the rich as well, Bilawal questioned who those “elites” were. “The decision to extend the lockdown was taken in a meeting at the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC). It was based on recommendations by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the announcement was made by a federal minister. Who then are these elites the prime minister talks about?” he questioned.
The PPP chairperson blasted the federal government for “not helping us increase our testing capacity, the bed capacity in our hospitals or helping the economy”. He alleged that there was no announcement of an agricultural package that the “government had promised” and they did not help with the locust attacks in Sindh either.
Bilawal added that he did not criticise the government earlier because he “wanted to maintain national unity and focus on the coronavirus pandemic” but he had been forced to do so. “Imran Khan has been attacking my ministers, my province and its people in his speeches since day one. His representatives have been attacking my ministers. I want to put the facts straight now.” A day earlier, Sindh information minister Nasir Shah had said that from the very beginning, the provincial government had been requesting the Centre to formulate a joint strategy.
The difference of opinion between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Sindh government over the lockdown had flared during the month of April when PTI ministers had openly criticised Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah for his policies in combating Covid-19.
That had prompted Shah to hold a press conference in which he had complained that the federal government had not facilitated the efforts of the provincial government and not released crucial data that Sindh had requested.
Bilawal dedicated Labour Day, being observed on May 1, to those frontline workers who lost their lives in the fight against the coronavirus. He said that he had received reports that more than 400 healthcare workers have been infected by the virus and nine of them have lost their lives. “We dedicate this day to their memory and to daily wage labourers affected by the virus. We pay tribute to them.” He also called out the government for its failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to doctors battling the outbreak. “It is our responsibility to provide them with everything they need to protect themselves. Doctors are in contact with coronavirus patients […] the bare minimum we can do is provide them with PPE.”
He added that the government needed to equip medical workers so that they can fight the “war against corona”. He also advised the government to listen to suggestions made by doctors regarding measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic. “Every where around the world, wherever they are easing lockdowns, they are comparing it to the pressure on their hospitals, they are listening to the advice of their doctors.
“Do not undermine the statements of doctors and nurses. Countries all around the world are fighting this pandemic; do not be the only country that fails to provide its doctors with PPE,” he warned.
Bilawal called out the prime minister’s “lack of awareness” of the effect his statements have on the efforts of the provinces to combat Covid-19. “No prime minister in this country’s history has displayed this level of ignorance and left his responsibilities during a national crisis.” He called on the premier “to step up”. “When people get infected with this illness, when they start suffering, it is the government’s responsibility to help them.
“If the prime minister is unwilling to work, if he only wants to be the premier of Islamabad, then it will be difficult to combat this pandemic.” Addressing the prime minister directly, Bilawal demanded that he “work as a premier or resign and go home” if he could not.
Responding to a question about the government’s assurance that the number of deaths was lower than feared, Bilawal said he agreed that the country’s case numbers and death rates were “not as bad as Italy, Iran or the United States”. He said, however, that “a two per cent fatality rate is still big.”
Criticising the premier for “taking the death rate lightly”, he said: “Somebody should ask the prime minister what is an acceptable percentage of death rate at which we can take steps to save people.”
A day earlier, the prime minister said that the death rate in the country from the coronavirus was “lower than feared”. Addressing a news briefing along with his aides in Islamabad, the premier added that he had “thought that our intensive care units (ICUs) would be filled by now but that is not the case” and assured people that the “situation was not out of control”.
Bilawal said he had a “very strong opinion on the legitimacy of the government and the prime minister” but he believed the country’s entire focus should be on coronavirus. The Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari slammed the PTI-led government on Friday over its “failure to fulfil basic demands of the doctors fighting coronavirus on the frontline”.
Bilawal, addressing a press conference, said: “Can you imagine Pakistan declaring war and sending its army without guns, bullets, and a uniform?” The PPP chairman lamented that the doctors were only demanding two things protective gear and a reduced burden on hospitals so that they may carry out their jobs more effectively. “The prime minister has failed to deliver […] He mentioned daily wagers in all of his addresses, but sadly none of them has received a single dime yet,” he regretted.