Smart lockdown aimed at rescuing poor: Shibli

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By Uzma Zafar

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Shibli Faraz has said that to tackle the situation arising due to coronavirus epidemic, the government will take all federating units along.
While addressing a news conference here on Friday, Shibli Faraz said a collective response is required to meet the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19 faced by the nation. To protect the daily wagers and labourers from the impacts of coronavirus, he said the government has given the concept of smart lockdown. He said the country cannot afford a complete lockdown due to our economic situation. There is now greater realization including in Sindh of striking a balance in the lockdown and the economic activity, he added.The Information Minister said this is the first government which has taken practical steps including that of Panagahs and Sehat cards for the well-being and protection of the workers.
He said it is the empathy of Prime Minister Imran Khan for the workers and labourers that a mega Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program was launched in the wake of coronavirus under which twelve thousand rupees are being disbursed amongst them.
Shibli Faraz pointed out that industries such as construction have also been reopened to provide livelihood opportunities to the workers.
Responding to a question, he said a mechanism is being evolved to ensure the salary protection of media workers. When asked about the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the Information Minister said the government has effectively highlighted the lingering dispute at the world forums including the United Nations.
Shibli Faraz expressed the commitment to transform the Information Ministry as per the modern requirements. He said our plan is to enhance its outreach to the protection of the national interests and image of the country.
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.” 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. He added that Rs12,000 was being provided to each deserving family under the Ehsas programme. 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.