Center-Sindh rift turns fierce

-Firdous says Sindh Govt’s representatives dividing nation on virus combat
-Murad vows stricter enforcement of lockdown
-Consensus evolved over easing restrictions on certain sectors

By Shakeel Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to PM on Broadcasting and Information Firdous Ashiq Awan on Wednesday said that the political leadership in Sindh is “engaging in divisive politics” at a time the country is battling the coronavirus outbreak.
The premier’s aide on information said that the Sindh government representatives are “dividing the nation”.
“The National Coordination Committee made decisions to ensure everyone is on the same page,” said Awan, adding that except for Sindh every province followed the decisions.
“The Sindh chief minister is creating fear instead of giving hope,” she said.
She said the Sindh government, “in the exercise of its autonomy, must not forget its responsibilities”.
“It must think of the poor people who have been forced to go hungry.”
“What did you achieve from the lockdown? There were more deaths,” she said, adding that the province had recorded more cases in proportion to its population.
Dr Awan said that there is a lapse on policy implementation in Sindh, adding that the provincial government should “witness firsthand the realities on the ground”.
Earlier in the day, CM Shah called for the provincial and federal governments to get on the same page to tackle challenges arising out of the coronavirus epidemic in the country. “During our meeting with the federal government yesterday, we asked for a uniform policy to deal with the situation,” Shah said while addressing a press conference in Karachi.
The chief minister added that there were some issues that the provinces and the federal government did not agree on. “Some provinces and the federal government agreed that some essential workplaces should reopen. We did not agree to open shops for barbers, plumbers, electricians etc,” he said.
“We did, however, agree that plumbers and electricians those travelling to homes to provide services be allowed, provided they are following the SOPs issued by the government,” he said. “We all agreed to restart the automobile sector and domestic flights with the implementation of decided SOPs. We, however, suggested that the federal government wait for another two weeks before resuming domestic flight operations,” he said. “We cannot understand the need to open the construction sector at the moment,” Shah said, referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision in this regard.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan says protection of the people of Pakistan is our top priority. In a tweet on Wednesday, she said Federal government will continue to play its role and responsibility to provide impetus to the provinces steps against the pandemic.She said Imran Khan is the Prime Minister of Pakistan and his aim is to ensure protection of the rights of the people of all the federating units.
The Special Assistant said all provinces are free and independent to make their decisions. She said eighteenth amendment guarantees constitutional powers of provinces. She said Sindh government can take decisions according to the circumstances of its province and there is no restriction from the federal government in this regard.Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Wednesday said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was fully empowered under the Constitution to take decisions about easing or extending the lockdown in the province, but as the chief executive of the province he was also responsible to save the vulnerable segments from unemployment, hunger and starvation.
Addressing a joint press conference along with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s Central Vice President and Parliamentary leader of the Party in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh here, she said on Tuesday, during the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, decisions were made in consensus and for the sake of national unity, the prime minister authorized the provinces to take their own decisions regarding lockdown and opening of low-risk industries to provide employment to daily wage workers.
The special assistant said Prime Minister Imran Khan was fully cognizant of his responsibilities and taking along all the federating units to successfully surmount the challenge.
She said the federal and provincial governments would have to work together to cope with the coronavirus challenge. She said all other provinces accepted the decisions made in the NCC meeting but unfortunately Sindh government spokesman, also a provincial minister made a controversial tweet which was an effort to divide the nation at this critical juncture.
She said time and again the Sindh government was informed during the meetings of NCC that the provinces were free to take decisions in the larger interest of the people of their respective provinces keeping in view ground situation.
She said the rulers should give hope to the people but the in today’s press conference of Syed Murad Ali Shah appeared pessimistic which might create fear and panic among the people of Sindh. She reminded the Sindh chief minister that he had the powers to impose curfew in the province under the Constitution but at the same time he had responsibilities to protect the rights of the people of the province. She said if the Sindh government failed to provide ration to the poor segments of the society, it would mean that the lockdown was imposed to protect the rights of the upper class and to promote his image of ‘good boy’ in the media. She assured that the federal government was ready to cooperate with the provincial government in the process of providing relief to the poor segments o f the society and Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme was its manifestation as disbursements were being made in all provinces including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. She said the federal government announced Rs1200 billion relief package after the spread of coronavirus, whereas the Sindh government had not announced any relief package for vulnerable segments of the society.
She asked Murad Ali Shah that instead of focusing to build his media image, he should look at the poverty and hunger at the ground and take measures. She said the picture of Qauid-e-Azam Muhmmad Ali Jinnah had been published on the boxes of relief packages given by the federal government as this was not the time of political point-scoring, but serving the masses. She said the Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to take all provinces with him in fight against the coronavirus as the government had been fighting on two fronts, one of controlling coronavirus and the other to protect the people from hunger and starvation. Haleem Adil Sheikh said PTI was in the opposition in Sindh, but it wanted to cooperate with the government of the province at this critical time. He asked Sindh chief Minister that instead of holding lengthy press conferences, he should perform practically on the ground.
He said the Sindh government should disclose where it had distributed relief goods worth billions of rupees. He said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should know that health sector was a provincial department and the PPP was ruling the province for past 12 years but health infrastructure was in very bad shape. Haleem Adil Sheikh said thousands of youth had joined Tiger Force in Sindh and working actively to provide relief to the deserving people. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has once again appealed to the public to adhere to the restrictions during the lockdown that he says will be stricter than before.
“The lockdown will be more intense in the next 14 days,” CM Shah said while addressing a press conference in Karachi on Wednesday.
He emphasised that the reason all provinces have agreed to increase the lockdown is because our combat with the novel coronavirus isn’t over yet. “People should know that the danger hasn’t gone. Across Pakistan, approximately 10% results of total tests conducted have come back positive,” he said. “If anyone thinks that the infection in Pakistan is less intense than other countries, then they are wrong.” The federal government, with the consensus of other provinces had extended the lockdown till the end of April, but allowed resumption of certain businesses. The Sindh CM explained that certain industries were exempted from the lockdown after a calculated analysis. He added that these companies will provide transport to their employees and the vehicles used for this purpose will be filled only one third so that a social distancing can be maintained.
According to Shah, as of Wednesday, 1,668 known coronavirus cases have been reported in Sindh and 41 deaths. The mortality rate in Sindh is 2.4%. He said 133 people recovered from the virus while six patients have died in the last 24 hours. He said a stigma about the coronavirus is developing in the country, due to which at least 15 to 20 more people could have died of it, but we don’t have them on record because many families are burying their dead without informing the authorities.
Speaking about the Tablighi Jamaat members, many of whom many have tested positive for the virus, Shah said around 5,000 are being kept in isolation in Sindh and they’ll be sent home after a week once their tests are conducted.
“Those Jamaat members who test negative will be sent back to their homes and their respective deputy commissioners will be provided their whereabouts so they could keep an eye on them.”
As for the foreigners who were part of the Jamaat, they could collect their passports from the Raiwind Markaz. The chief minister regretted that many organisations were revealing names of their employees who have contracted the virus. “I believe this is inhumane,” he said. “If a high-ranking official tests positive, their identities are being hidden but same is not the case for low-grade officials.” Without giving any names, Shah said some provinces had recommended the prime minister allow hairdressers, electricians and plumbers to resume work, but their demand was ruled out because the nature of their work makes it difficult to manage social distancing. He thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for calmly listening to his suggestions in meetings held to curb the coronavirus spread. About comments of top clerics regarding holding congregational prayers at mosque during Ramazan, he said the provincial government will address their reservations and the PM will talk to them as well. He urged people to pray during the holy month for the the virus to end, adding that he doesn’t see a cure for it anytime soon. Since the elderly are most at risk, the Sindh CM asked people to avoid meeting them. “By not meeting them, you’ll be saving their lives,” he said.