For the first time since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Imran Khan is on a two-day visit to Sindh, during which he is also expected to have a meeting with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, as the two have serious differences of opinion over the strategy to fight Covid-19.
Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab welcomed the prime minister and said, “if the PM invited the CM for talk, the provincial government will place its stance on the issue and try to reach a consensus”.
There are also reports that the chief minister would also remind the premier of his letter regarding the composition of National Finance Commission (NFC) and Sindh’s objection on it. The chief minister has said he has not yet received any reply from the Centre.
Besides, Sindh has also expressed its concern over the reports that the federal government in the budget has allocated funds for three hospitals in Karachi including Jinnah Hospital and National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (NICVD). But the focus of the talks would be on Covid-19.
While the Centre and Sindh differ on complete lockdown or smart lockdown, the fact remains that coronavirus or Covid-19, has not spread in Pakistan because of the confusion or the differences in approach, but mainly because of the weakness in taking certain crucial policy decisions when it matters most.
Had the government and the State established its writ in those decisions, things could have been far more different today as far as the cases of local transmissions were concerned.
You name it in whatever way you want but the fact remains that the decision to go hard in certain cities to prevent the spread of virus clearly indicates that some of the bad policy decisions are now causing panic among the policymakers.
The decisions like Taftan border, allowing Tableegi Ijtima, Youm-e-Ali processions and the worst disaster was the opening of markets, shopping plazas 15 days before Eid and that too for limited hours caused havoc as no one followed the SOPs, nor the authorities could enforced it.
Federal minister and one of the most trusted aides of Prime Minister Imran Khan, painted a scary picture of the pandemic on Sunday, saying, if people continue to violate the SOPs, the Covid-19 cases may hit 1.2 million by the end of July, which is much higher than predicted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
His statement came at a time when the Punjab government and its Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rasheed backed WHO call for complete lockdown for two weeks and ease it for next two weeks and follow the same practice. There were also reports that her ministry recommended strict lockdown but the decision was ‘veto’ by the prime minister, during his visit to Lahore.
Punjab government, which in March, also went for complete lockdown and appreciated Sindh’s decisions and now under pressure as they nearly closed major areas in Lahore but named it ‘smart lockdown’.
While Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and his team left with no other choice but to follow the PM’s directives, the officials concerned in Punjab are worried.
The situation in Sindh is not better either and one of the worst crises in Karachi is lack of health facilities in hospitals, government or private are not accepting coronavirus patients and there are also reports of doctors and hospitals asking for huge money for simple beds. Treatment of corona, from testing to ICO and vent, is getting out of the reach of common man.
One of the survey reports conducted on behalf of the Punjab government and based on some assessment warned about the possible cases of coronavirus only in Lahore up to six lakhs. The report was leaked by Geo Lahore Bureau chief and was never denied though the Punjab government did clarify it.
The prime minister, known for taking risk while keeping his cool perhaps is facing one of the toughest challenges of his life. With 22 years of cricketing experience and 24 years of politics, for the first time he has confronted a situation
where lives of thousands of Pakistanis are at stake due to global pandemic, whose impact is now felt strongly in Pakistan particularly in the last two months. So, what actually went wrong? PM Imran Khan needs to revisit policies adopted by his government other than the conflict over lockdown, smart lockdown or selective lockdown.
It is true that there is no point in going into debate on lockdown and on policy differences between the Centre and Sindh. But at some point this controversy could lead to some kind of conclusion as to what really went wrong and who should be held responsible.
Pakistan missed the chance of completely preventing the virus when the first case was reported of a man who returned from the US and tested positive in Karachi on February 26. Had some strict measures been taken like closing the border or suspension of flights for one week or 10 days followed by declaring an emergency health alert, things could have been controlled. One bad decision after
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