In meeting of PTI core committee, Pakistan’s prime minister directs strict action against anyone found hoarding or profiteering during pandemic
The Government of Pakistan on Sunday decided to remove all restrictions on the country’s roadways, including national highways, to ensure the smooth supply of essential commodities throughout the country amidst the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Chairing a meeting of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s core committee at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated his commitment to ensuring all low-income segments would be provided rations so they do not suffer from the lockdowns being enforced across the country. He said the Coronavirus Relief Tigers, a force of young volunteers distributing food door-to-door, would be formally launched today (Monday) to aid in these efforts.
“The core committee was informed that while the prime minister had ordered restoration of movement of goods transport in the whole country a couple of days ago, almost 80 percent of goods transport was still off the road due to certain restrictions made by provincial governments, including blocking of national highways,” Special Assistant to the P.M. on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan told a press conference after the meeting.
She said Khan had expressed concerns over reports of food shortages in many parts of the country, and had ordered strict action against anyone involved in hoarding, profiteering, or black marketing. She said the prime minister had held consultations with the provinces and would shortly announce a roadmap to ensure smooth supply of essential items across the country.
According to Awan, the meeting learnt that there were sufficient quantities of food items in the country, including wheat, rice, pulses and grains.
Referring to the youth volunteer force announced by the prime minister last week, Awan reiterated that it would be called the Coronavirus Relief Tigers. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again expressed confidence in the youth of the country and hoped that they will help the government in meeting challenges coming due to the deadly virus,” she said, adding that the force would distribute rations to the impoverished at their homes to encourage social distancing and ensure no one went hungry during the ongoing lockdowns.
The de facto information minister told journalists Rs. 10 billion had been allocated for the supply of rations to the country’s lowest income segments, adding Rs. 4,000 would be provided as a monthly stipend. “In the first step, 2.5 million people already registered under the Benazir Income Support Program would get Rs. 4,000 per month through Easypaisa and those who are not in the database would get the money through relevant deputy commissioners,” she said, adding that this would not apply to people who were already BISP beneficiaries and would specifically target daily wagers who had lost their incomes due to the countrywide lockdowns.
The core committee meeting also learnt that the government has started to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) to all medical practitioners currently performing duties for coronavirus patients in hospitals and quarantines across the country. The family of any medical practitioner who dies during this duty would be granted a shuhada (martyr) package, said Awan, adding that Punjab province aims to expand its capabilities to conduct 3,200 COVID-19 tests daily to determine the exact number of patients in the province.
According to the Special Assistant to the P.M., the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has allocated Rs. 32 billion to fight COVID-19, of which Rs. 11.4 billion would be spent on rations and a stipend for 1.9 million poor families. The provincial governments of KPK and Punjab would give additional Rs. 2,000 per month to BISP beneficiaries, she added.
As is routine for the PTI, which has repeatedly claimed it does not wish to play politics on the coronavirus situation and yet has continued to take potshots at the opposition, Awan concluded her press conference by accusing opposition politicians of criticizing medical professionals every time they criticized the government’s response to the pandemic.
She claimed the prime minister was treating all provinces equally—even as it is clear he has yet to praise Sindh’s response to the outbreak.