Science and Technology minister praises Sindh government for proactive approach to dealing with coronavirus threat
A major reason behind the spread of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan is due to religious gatherings, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday.
Participating in a talk show alongside Adviser to the Sindh C.M. Senator Murtaza Wahab on Geo News about the measures being taken to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in the country, Chaudhry said it was ignorant people, and not the virus, that were God’s curse. “Conservative ulema destroy society; only the ulema that speak the truth are a blessing,” he said.
Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab last week banned congregational prayers to curb the spread of the coronavirus after ulema refused to close mosques, claiming it was necessary to have mass prayers to seek forgiveness for the COVID-19 outbreak. Under the new restrictions, no more than five people are allowed to offer prayers in mosques at one time.
The federal minister, a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said the Sindh government rightly deserved praise for tackling the coronavirus threat in the country. As of Monday afternoon, the government had reported 20 deaths from the virus, with 1,625 infections. The largest number of confirmed cases in the country is currently in Punjab province, which has been criticized for delaying its response to the threat, potentially endangering thousands.
“Some provincial governments have played a dynamic role but some did not; in this regard, Sindh government remained the most proactive,” Chaudhry said, adding that this was why Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah deserved appreciation… I congratulate him on that.”
The minister said a key problem was lack of communication between the provincial and federal governments. “There should have been better communication… there are many instances where they failed to carry out adequate communication that essentially was needed. The Taftan issue, too, is one of those instances,” he admitted.
Senator Wahab said that it was unfortunate that the federal government had not taken the lead in the fight against coronavirus. “The government of Sindh tried engaging with the federal government and put forth recommendations to it and the provincial governments but the response was unfortunately not what we were expecting,” he said, adding that border control was the responsibility of the center, and the federal government should have monitored and quarantined pilgrims returning from Iran.
Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated criticism of the term ‘lockdown,’ he said the PTI leader appeared to be confused about what it meant. “If the entire country decides today to regulate [a lockdown], we, the Sindh government, can explain and guide in detail what categories are exempted,” he said, adding that the center had thus far only ordered the suspension of train routes, while the provincial government had chosen to halt interprovincial travel and public transport. Had a lockdown been implemented a month ago, the situation would have been very different, he added.
To this, minister Chaudhry said that the biggest barrier to a national lockdown was “special trade traffic,” which if halted could lead to a wheat shortage. “The government only controlled oil and gas traffic for two days and there has been a shortage of petrol and diesel in Gilgit-Baltistan. How do you deal with that?” he said, adding that a curfew would just encourage large queues during hours it was not in effect, which would defeat the point of social distancing.
He said the federal government had decided not to “micromanage” and let the provincial governments decide how they should proceed.
To Wahab criticizing Prime Minister Imran Khan for leaving Opposition leaders midway through a video conference on the coronavirus pandemic, Chaudhry claimed contacting every political party during this emergency was a “waste of time.”