Shehbaz demands center to support provinces: Is he promoting provincialism amid coronavirus?

PML-N’s President has once again accused the federal government of ignoring the provinces amid coronavirus outbreak and demanded a daily meeting of the Council of Common Interests. Is he demanding space for ethno-nationalists in Pakistan? Who is behind this strategy?

Coronavirus

As Pakistan gears up to deal with the existing and emerging challenge as a result of novel Coronavirus outbreak across the world, former ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), continuously blames the incumbent government for being ‘incompetent’ and ‘self-centred’. The party’s president and former chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, has once again accused the federal government of ignoring the provinces amid the coronavirus outbreak and demanded a daily meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CII).

In a statement, Shehbaz Sharif, who is the National Assembly (NA) opposition leader, has said that there was not transparency in the distribution of resources to the provinces. “In February, all provinces and the federal capital demanded protective gear for their medical workers but the prime minister flatly turned down their request,” he claimed, adding that the “premier and his team had been unable to carry out this basic and essential task”.

Read more: Coronavirus Outbreak: Is PML-N an opportunist party?

He said that had the government given Rs2.5 billion to the provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), things would have not been this tense. “The provinces constantly raised their voice over the matter but the prime minister and his cabinet committed criminal negligence by not approving their request,” he added.

Political commentators and experts believe that the post-18th amendment period in Pakistan marks a different political stage where provinces appear to be financially stronger than the Center. The underlying idea behind the amendment was to ensure financial autonomy to the provinces in order to suppress ethno-nationalistic forces triggered by anti-Pakistan elements.

The PML-N president also expressed deep concern over the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country during the past 48 hours. “This jump from hundreds to thousands is extremely alarming and by the time this government understands the trend of coronavirus infections, it might be too late,” he warned.

It is worth noting that the developed world has been hard hit by the outbreak of Coronavirus. Globally, more than 44,000 people have died, about 900,000 have been diagnosed with the virus, and some 190,000 have recovered, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

The coronavirus death toll in the UK rose by 563 in 24 hours, according to the health ministry, a record jump that brought the number of patients who died in the hospital to 2,352.

Read more: Threat is plummeting economy & not virus, says Shehbaz

The announcement on Wednesday came as Spain recorded its highest daily death toll – another 864 people – while infections jumped to 102,136, up from 94,417. In the United States, the death toll has exceeded 4,000 and the number of confirmed cases surpassed 200,000.

Iran’s death toll exceeded 3,000 with 138 new fatalities as the United Nations chief warned the pandemic is the “worst crisis” to face the world since World War II.

In this time of crisis which did not allow the established democracies and powerful economies to sustain, Pakistan appears to be on the right track. In the country, as official sources claims, things are under complete control of the government.

Does PM Imran stand vindicated?

Furthermore, Prime Minister Imran Khan was initially reluctant to announce complete lockdown in the country. He presented three reasons to justify his decision; 1) Coronavirus outbreak was under the control; 2) Pakistan’s economy does not allow it to close the country for 15 days; 3) a complete lockdown will ultimately create law and order situation because of the absence of food, the premier maintained.  However, opposition parties and some segments of media termed the premier’s policy ‘ill-thought’ and demanded immediate, complete lockdown. The reality on the ground is now unfolding and reaffirming PM Imran’s version.

Read more: You are setting a dangerous precedent, Imran Khan: Shehbaz Sharif warns

At the moment, allegations against the federal government are likely to provide some space to the anti-Pakistan forces to trigger ethno-nationalist forces amid this dangerous crisis. Therefore, the opposition leader, suggest experts, needs to be careful while attacking the incumbent government for his unstated personal political reasons.

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