Science and technology minister says privately available vaccines are for the ‘two percent’ who don’t wish to stand in queues
Science and Technology Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Thursday defended the government’s decision to allow the sale of privately imported coronavirus vaccines, saying around 98 percent of eligible Pakistanis will be inoculated completely for free.
“However, the remaining two percent that do not wish to stand in queues can now pay and get themselves vaccinated from private hospitals,” he told a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting of the federal cabinet.
Referring to the PTI-led government’s efforts in the first wave of the pandemic—which received some praise from the World Health Organization—he claimed that Pakistan was “one of the few countries that received praise from the world for tackling the coronavirus situation in an effective manner.” More recently, the World Bank has noted that Pakistan has the second highest case-to-fatality ratio in South Asia, trailing behind Afghanistan, adding that Islamabad’s statistics are also higher than the global average.
Hussain, however, vowed that that the government was determined to overcome the ongoing third wave just as it had the previous two.
Updating media on other decisions taken by the federal cabinet, the minister said that the government had decided to ensure health insurance cards for all citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad, just as had already been done for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Additionally, he said, prices of 43 medicines had been notified, with none showing any new increase.
Hussain said Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the cabinet to examine the functioning of their respective ministries and departments and expel any officers who were not delivering. He claimed the government had already enacted rules for this purpose.
The minister also confirmed that the cabinet had decided to initiate criminal proceedings against five people identified by the Broadsheet Commission as having been responsible for the payouts Pakistan had to pay the U.K. company. He said Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Hassan Saqib Sheikh of the Federal Bureau of Revenue, Ghulam Rasool of the Ministry of Law and Justice, former ambassador Abdul Basit, Shahid Ali Baig of the High Commission in London, and Tariq Fawad Malik would also answer for their alleged crimes.
Referring to the report prepared by former Justice Azmat Sheikh, he said the records of Swiss accounts of former president Asif Ali Zadari had been “lost” due to criminal negligence of NAB officials. The commission has recommended fixing criminal liabilities on those officials, he said, adding that the government could soon reopen the case against Zardari.
According to Hussain, the cabinet also decided to take action against the sugar mafia and the companies who had been responsible for last year’s petroleum crisis. He said changes had been approved to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority law to maintain balance between OGRA and the Petroleum Ministry.
Among the changes advised by the cabinet are the removal of the incumbent director-general Oil and several officials of Port Qasim; the appointment of professional officers at technical positions; and the creation of a monitoring cell in Petroleum Division to ensure reliability of data.
On electoral reforms, the minister said Khan had appreciated the locally electronic voting machines locally produced by the Ministry of Science and Technology and asked the cabinet to ensure that overseas Pakistanis could participate in the election process. “We invite opposition parties to develop consensus on using EVM in election to bring transparency and end disputes,” he added.