Coronavirus in Pakistan: Who is playing politics in the midst of crisis?

PPP and PML-N are criticizing the incumbent for being ‘incompetent’ when the world, IMF and WHO, are terming Pakistan’s response ‘wise and timely’. Does opposition in Pakistan have solid grounds to slam the government in times of COVID-19?

Pakistan

Coronavirus in Pakistan is now turning from a medical and public health challenge to a political battle between the government and opposition. Shibli Faraz, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, during his press conference on Friday rejected the criticism of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari over the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The minister said that the outbreak is a national problem and the public will not forgive those who are trying to play politics in the midst of crisis.

while commenting on Coronavirus in Pakistan PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari lambasted PTI-led federal government for allegedly sabotaging Sindh’s efforts to tackle the outbreak and non-provision of protective gear to medical workers in the province.

Read More: Coronavirus Pakistan: Rapid increase in cases & deaths

Mr. Faraz said the nation is faced with an unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 and a collective response is required to meet it. He added that the relief packages announced by the federal government were for the whole country rather than any specific province or area. He said that the deserving families from across the country, including Sindh, were getting an amount of Rs 12,000 each transparently under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.

Commenting on the Sindh government’s steps regarding coronavirus, the minister said that the PPP’s government in Sindh had failed to effectively implement its lockdown decision as people could be witnessed roaming in streets freely.

Faraz said the federal government adopted the concept of smart lockdown under the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to protect the daily wagers and laborers from the economic impact of coronavirus.

Read More: A Coronavirus guide to fixing Pakistan’s economy

The country could not afford a complete lockdown due to the economic situation and even the developed states were also opting for the smart lockdown to keep their economic wheels running, he added. Therefore, Coronavirus in Pakistan needed a completely different approach to be contained.

PTI’s policy to contain COVID-19

It is important to note that Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan Matsuda Kuninori commended Pakistan’s tremendous efforts to tackle the coronavirus. Japanese ambassador said this while talking to Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza in Islamabad. During the meeting, both leaders discussed the situation arising out of COVID-19.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has termed Pakistan’s measures against COVID-19 outbreak as “timely” and the “best national response”. The Country Head of the WHO Dr. Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, while talking to media in Karachi during his visit to various hospitals and testing labs, said: “At a time when other countries were reporting cases, Pakistan was keeping the virus at bay, which is something quite praiseworthy.”

While talking about Coronavirus in Pakistan Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director-International Monetary Fund (IMF), has praised the government for its “swift move to offer relief response to the people”.

Prime Minister Imran Khan initially opposed to enforcing a curfew-like lockdown in Pakistan. He offered several economic reasons behind his decision. However, provincial governments, experts, and media urged the prime minister to ensure the lose lockdown in order to ensure physical distancing so that the spread of the virus can be stopped.

Read More: Another senior Pakistani doctor loses life to Coronavirus in Peshawar

The Prime Minister then announced Corona Relief Tiger Force and Corona Relief Fund along with a multi-billion package involving relief for labor and underprivileged class, the business community and industries and farmers.

However, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif sheepishly termed Prime Minister Imran Khan ‘incompetent’.  He also alleged that the government is using the “Corona Relief Fund” to advance its political agenda, therefore, a parliamentary monitoring committee must be established for oversight of the funds to ensure their justified usage. The PML-N’s president accused Prime Minister Khan of ‘utter failure’ and held him responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the country. He said that a parliamentary committee is necessary to probe the details of the import of items being procured from abroad.

Similarly, when hearing a case related to Coronavirus in Pakistan the country’s top court also raised questions about the qualification of PM’s adviser on health, Dr. Zafar Mirza. The court was then informed that Zafar Mirza is a medical doctor with post-graduation in Public Health in Developing Countries from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a clinical stint in mental health. He has served as the Director of Healthcare System Development at the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean. Dr. Mirza is also a founder Executive Director of a civil society organization – The Network for Consumer Protection in Pakistan.

Read More: How is Coronavirus outbreak affecting Pakistan’s economy?

Analysts believe that the world is praising PM Khan’s effective policy to contain but some segments at home are unable to comprehend the context in which the premier is making such policies. It is believed that Pakistan does not afford a curfew-like lockdown at any point and under any circumstances.

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