Sindh, Centre have spat yet again over the curfew

Syed AhadWeb Editor

01st Aug, 2021. 08:14 pm

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: The federation and the Sindh government have once again spat over the latter’s announcement of a complete lockdown, for both sides jealously clinging to their respective positions and hurling barbs at each other.

Governor Sindh Imran Ismail was the first to react, advising Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to adhere to SOPs rather than imposing a comprehensive and curfew-like lockdown to deal with the situation.

Imran Ismail, speaking at a press conference at the Governor House here, made it clear that the federation was opposed to taking drastic measures to combat the pandemic because the national economy could not afford to shut down industries and businesses, especially in Karachi, the country’s economic hub.

“The Sindh government neither took the federal government on board while taking the decision nor did it consult with the other stakeholders including trade and industrial community,” he said.

He further claimed that the decision was in violation of a Supreme Court order that the NCOC rules be implemented in the case of a pandemic.

He stated that total closure of business and industry was not a practical option and that the provincial government’s unilateral action was a surprise to both the federal government and NCOC.

“It was better to sternly enforce the SOPs first and then opt for lockdown in hot spots. If the situation does not improve, move gradually towards the extreme measures,” he advised.

As a result, Imran Ismail added, the federal government and all of its institutions were prepared to provide the Sindh government with every possible form of help.

He stated that the federation does not support a comprehensive and curfew-like lockdown, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan believes that the national economy and the majority of the population would be unable to sustain the terrible consequences of such a lockdown.

“Prudent and far-sighted policies of Imran Khan leading the government to deal with the situation were globally acknowledged and admired because the closure of industries and markets is like cutting down the jugular vein of economy,” he maintained.

He stated that it was the chief minister’s and his team’s job to carefully follow the SOPs throughout the province and that the provincial executive’s failure looked to be the primary cause of the contagion’s spread, as the detection ratio had reached 30%.

“It is evident that the provincial administration failed to ensure observance of SOPs in markets and other public places during Eidul Azha. Even people in queues outside the vaccination centers were seen not wearing facemasks,” he noted.

The government-provided vaccine was being sold, according to reports, and vaccination cards were being issued without jabs, according to the governor.

“The Sindh government must refrain from depriving its people of their sources of livelihood and reconsider its decision,” Imran Ismail said.

Before making any such decision, he recommended consulting with business organizations, trade unions, elected officials, notables, and prominent others.

Replying to a query about the conduct of elections during the COVID situation, Imran Ismail said the government had requested the Election Commission of Pakistan for postponement of elections till improvement in the situation but the decision rested with the Commission.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry Saturday feared the Sindh government’s unilateral actions contrary to the federal government and National Command and Control Centre’s (NCOC) directives might cause immense damage to the economy.

In a video message, he emphasized that Pakistan successfully fought the first three waves of the pandemic with a strategy and that could not be changed.

The minister pointed out that the closure of industry in Sindh would harm the economy and create employment problems.

“The industries whose 100 percent workforce is vaccinated, should be reopened,” he added.

Fawad contended that the way the Sindh government was imposing restrictions would only add to the hardships of the common man.

He highlighted that, under Articles 149 and 151 of the Constitution, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision, provincial governments could not make unilateral decisions, but were instead required to follow the federal government’s instructions and the NCOC’s strategy.

The minister insisted, “The Sindh government, therefore, should immediately open industries, and not pressurize traders and daily wage earners, regretting that had the Sindh government implemented the standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to the coronavirus, the province would not have been facing the present situation.”

He added that the fourth wave of coronavirus originated in India, where the Narendra Modi government failed to take the necessary actions to stop the spread.

“Today, India has become a source of spreading Delta virus in the entire region. While the world economies are just recovering from the coronavirus successfully, they again came under stress due to the irresponsible policies of the Indian government.”

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar tweeted, according to sources.

“The decisions made yesterday, especially those pertaining to industries and transport, need to be reviewed. We put forth our point of view yesterday, as well as today, based on which a partial amendment has been announced, which is a welcome sign. But further amendments are needed,”

Pakistan’s clever lockdown policy, which protects both people’s health and work, was “praised across the world,” according to Umar.

“Such decisions were made after minutely reviewing ground realities,” he said.

“These decisions are taken via a platform where there is a presence of all federal, civil, military, and provincial institutions,” the federal minister said.

The NCOC chief said after a year’s performance, there should be no doubt that the forum operates “with no political bias” and makes decisions that are in the best interest of the nation.

“If every province had relied on its own resources and made decisions without consultations, then this could not have been possible,” Asad stated, It’s hard to beat COVID-19 without teamwork.

Asad Umar believed that the Sindh government will discuss the NCOC further on its decisions in a meeting tomorrow and that a policy would develop that would preserve citizens’ health and jobs.

To stop the spread of COVID in Karachi, the Sindh government should focus on SOPs execution and targeted interventions in high-risk situations, according to Energy Minister Hammad Azhar on Saturday.

“A blanket lockdown in the economic heart of Pakistan would endanger livelihoods of millions,” he tweeted.

Bilawal tweeted after his press conference in Islamabad that lives were in danger, but the PTI was engaging in hypocrite politics.

Bilawal also uploaded videos of the lockdowns in Lahore and other Punjab cities.

Bilawal tweeted, “Lockdowns were used to stop the spread of COVID in Lahore. Now PTI opposes and undermines all measures to contain the spread in Sindh. “If, God forbid, we see an India like situation arising PTIs disinformation and sabotage are to blame.”

Sindh Law and Environment Adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab defended their position on the lockdown, claiming that they initially shared the drafted notification [imposing lockdown] with the NCOC before issuing the order.

Murtaza Wahab, speaking during a news conference at the Chief Minister’s House, released documents relevant to the newest lockdown orders with the media, which he had previously shared with the federal government.

He recalled that after attending the provincial coronavirus task force meeting, CM Murad Ali Shah called Prime Minister’s Aide on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan and Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar to discuss the NCOC’s decision to issue its own notification (following the Sindh government’s notification to impose lockdown in Sindh). Instead of issuing the notification, the federal government’s spokesman afterward objected to the Sindh government’s jurisdiction to enforce the lockdown, he added.

Following federal objections to an inter-provincial public transportation prohibition, he claimed, Sindh submitted a revised notification to address those objections.

The NCOC, according to Barrister Wahab, never disputed their decision to impose lockdown in Sindh.

“We try our best to work in conformity with the federal government but it is unfortunate that these people come up with a different version when they appear on the TV screens,” he stated, referring to the federal authorities concerned.

“It is my request that this issue shouldn’t be politicized, as we are under obligation to protect the masses against this lethal epidemic. I call upon the people who issue statements that they should persuade the people (to adopt safety precautions). For God’s sake, they shouldn’t cause division among the people,” he said.

Nobody had objected when Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar ordered a lockdown in Lahore, he said, and they had also refrained from criticizing it.

“We know how serious the issue of coronavirus is, likewise, Usman Buzdar knows well the situation of Lahore. In the same fashion, the people present in Islamabad don’t know the severity of (coronavirus) situation in Karachi,” said Barrister Wahab.

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