PMLN President Shahbaz Sharif brands cessation of inoculations ‘criminal negligence’ and accuses government of corruption in utilizing COVID-19 relief funds
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday sounded alarm over reports of coronavirus vaccine shortages across Pakistan, accusing the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government of “criminal negligence and incompetence.”
“The government must change its shallow-minded approach of ordering a few million doses and working with the vaccine supplies given to Pakistan as charity,” he said in a statement issued by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). “The unavailability of the vaccine is another proof of the government’s criminal negligence and incompetence,” he added, as Planning Minister Asad Umar announced on his Twitter account that 1.5 million doses of vaccines had been received from China.
In his statement, Sharif stressed that the opposition had repeatedly warned that failure to procure vaccines in a timely manner would endanger the lives of the Pakistani public. He recalled that the government had a habit of delaying action on securing supplies, comparing the way it had mismanaged LNG procurement last year “resulting in massive losses” to its vaccine procurement. “This time it is a matter of life and death,” he added.
The PMLN president also accused the government of “corruption,” claiming it had netted billions in profits during the sugar and flour crises. “[They] are now trying to make money at the cost of lives,” he alleged. “It is unfortunate that the government is showing the most serious display of criminal negligence in the matter of people’s lives,” he added.
Sharif highlighted allegations of governmental corruption in the utilization of its Rs. 1,200 billion COVID relief package, reiterating that the theft of public funds was rampant in the PTI government. He regretted that despite this, the provision of services to the public was zero. “The people of Pakistan are being punished for the government’s theft, incompetence and mismanagement which is regrettable and reprehensible,” he added.
Separately, Pakistan Peoples Party Information Secretary Faisal Karim Kundi also issued a video statement criticizing the PTI-led government’s handling of the pandemic. In it, he urged the anti-graft National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take notice of alleged corruption in the coronavirus funds and accused the government of “incompetence” in procuring vaccines.
Referring to media reports, he claimed the government had collected billions of dollars from international organizations for COVID-19 relief, but had been unable to explain how it was utilized. He claimed that the government had allocated Rs. 1,200 billion for COVID-19 relief in the previous fiscal, and had also received $1.386 billion from the International Monetary Fund; $153 million from the World Bank; and €150 million from the ambassador of the European Union to deal with the pandemic. The Economic Advisory Division also signed an agreement with the Asian Development Bank for $300 million, he added.
He pointed out that Accountant General Pakistan Revenues had questioned the utilization of the COVID relief funds and questioned why this matter had not been investigated further. He said an independent audit of the coronavirus funds accounts should be undertaken, claiming this would reveal all facts to the nation.