PPP, PTI leaders trade barbs over imposition of lockdown in Karachi – Pakistan

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday lashed out at the government for its criticism of the lockdown in Sindh, stating that Prime Minister Imran Khan and his ministers would be the ones responsible if the Covid situation in Karachi became similar to India’s.

“If coronavirus spreads in the province or in Karachi like [it did] in India then Khan sahab and his ministers will be responsible,” he said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad.

The PPP chairman said that the current back and forth was sending a message of “not one but two Pakistans” and pointed out the lockdowns placed by the PTI government on various cities in Punjab in the wake of rising cases.

“They are undermining our efforts when in Karachi, the biggest economic capital of the country, the positivity rate is more than 30 per cent,” he said.

Bilawal said the Delta variant was “100pc more infectious” compared to the original virus, adding that it was the federal government’s responsibility to take care of every citizen. “Instead of taking care of us […] we are being called jahil (illiterate).”

Bilawal hit back at the government for its cavalier attitude, adding that this demonstrated that the government wanted to politicise all issues, including people’s health and lives. “They are not ready to do anything themselves and don’t let anyone else do anything.”

Bilawal said if government ministers were not satisfied with the policies adopted by the province then they should’ve “stayed quiet” and tried to help. “Instead they are sabotaging the Sindh government’s steps to protect the people.”

He said the federal government had access to and looked at the same data available with the Sindh government including the extent of the disease spread in Karachi.

“They knew that the Sindh government would have to adopt such strictness. [Despite] this, people’s health and lives are being played with due to political reasons,” he said.

‘No provincial govt can take unilateral decisions’

Earlier today, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry emphasised that no provincial government could take unilateral decisions and bypass the orders of the federal government and the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) [for containing the coronavirus spread].

Speaking to media in Lahore, Chaudhry specifically referred to the Sindh government, and asked it to “immediately” open industries that it had shut under its nine-day province-wide lockdown announced yesterday.

“The way Sindh government is trying to impose restrictions, it will only add to plights of common men. The province is the jugular vein of Pakistan’s economy and when it’s improving, you are talking about imposing a lockdown,” the minister lamented.

He said the Sindh government’s decision had raised concern for the Centre. “When your strategy is yielding results, you don’t change it this [haphazard] manner,” he added.

Taking a dig at the Sindh government, he said the strategy that was being given to the provincial government must be adhered to. “If you were wise enough, Karachi should not have been in the condition it is today,” he added.

The minister underlined that if the Sindh government unilaterally went against the directions of the NCOC and the federal government, “it will direly affect the national economy”.

He emphasised there should be no curfew-like situation in Karachi nor should any industry close. “You must focus on vaccinations and industries with 100 per cent vaccination of its workers should be opened,” he advised.

Chaudhry termed the provincial government’s decision “inappropriate”, adding Articles 149 and 151 of the Constitution and a decision of the Supreme Court was also very clear on it. The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that provinces could not take unilateral decisions in this regard.

“You cannot take unilateral decisions on the matter. You cannot neglect the strategy of federal government. All your plans should be devised after approval of the NCOC and under the guidelines of the federal government,” he said.

Earlier, he said India didn’t take necessary steps for containing Covid-19 and the fourth wave ballooned up from there. “Our economies were recovering but the Indian government’s irresponsible policies affected the world and Delta variant spread in its wake,” he regretted.

Pakistan has seen coronavirus infections soar, dominated by Delta variant, and its poor health infrastructure is under extreme pressure.

The national positive test rate for Covid-19 stands at 8.4pc, according to the NCOC. The rate in Karachi crossed 26pc in recent days.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Planning and Development and head of the NCOC Asad Umar tweeted that no one should doubt that the NCOC was a national platform whose decisions were not influenced by politics, adding “all decisions are made solely for the betterment of the nation”.

He said it was hoped that the Sindh government, during a NCOC meeting tomorrow, will consult in detail on all related issues and formulate a strategy in which all the pillars of the state work together to protect health and employment of the people of Sindh.