Special Assistant to the P.M. on Youth Affairs says volunteers would be utilized at federal government’s Ehsaas centers, Utility Stores
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday placed the 156,557 members of the Corona Relief Tiger Force from Sindh province under the control of Governor Imran Ismail, also a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
According to Special Assistant to the P.M. on Youth Affairs Usman Dar, the decision was taken because the Sindh government had refused to avail the services of the volunteers despite being provided two weeks to determine their utility. He told a press conference in Islamabad that it was unfortunate the Sindh government had sought to politicize the Tiger Force.
He said that Governor Ismail would now lead the force in Sindh, adding that its services would be used only when required. In the first phase, he said, they would be deployed at the federal government-operated Ehsaas Emergency Cash Centers and Utility Stores across the province.
Dar slammed the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government in Sindh during his press briefing, singling out PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. He said Bhutto-Zardari claimed to want to work with the federal government to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, but refused to avail the services of those who wanted to serve without getting any financial benefits.
He claimed the Tiger Force comprised volunteers with a strong national spirit who would contribute to relief activities apolitically. He said the volunteers already deployed in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had helped local district administrations collect data on laborers; maintain Standard Operating Procedures in mosques; help people at quarantine centers; monitor subsidized items at Utility Stores; and facilitate people at Ehsaas Emergency Centers.
Reacting to Dar’s press conference, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said he differed with naming the force ‘Tigers,’ a word often used by the prime minister to describe PTI loyalists. “There is nothing but bluster surrounding the force […] they will likely not make a real impact,” he said, adding that he would welcome being proven wrong.
To a question, Dar claimed it was untrue that the federal government wanted to impose Governor’s Rule in Sindh, adding that there was similarly no desire to “attack” the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan.
He claimed, wrongly, that only the PPP-led Sindh government had been talking about the constitutional amendment. In the past week alone, Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Planning Minister Asad Umar, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi have all expressed “concerns” about the 18th Amendment.
According to Dar, the incumbent government wanted to open a discussion on the 18th Amendment in Parliament so people could learn the performance of the Sindh government. He alleged that the 18th Amendment had only benefited the rulers of Sindh, and not the average citizen.
Earlier, during his meeting with the P.M., Dar informed Khan that 115,000 volunteers of the Tiger Force—93,000 in Punjab, 19,000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 1,500 in Balochistan—were currently involved in relief activities.
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the formation of the Corona Relief Tiger Force on March 27, claiming the youth would help fight the ongoing pandemic because they were less vulnerable to the virus. Opposition forces have slammed it from the start, claiming it is a political gimmick and would operate as a personal army for Khan that was not acceptable to rival groups. Khan has denied these claims.