Information minister says commentary from federal government is encouraging common man to violate movement restrictions
Responding to recent criticism from the federal government that the ongoing lockdown imposed in Sindh to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus is “elite-centric,” provincial Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah on Sunday said such commentary could prove detrimental to the fight against COVID-19.
“What do such statements convey to the common man?” he said at a press conference. “If the P.M. continues to make such comments, who would abide by the lockdown?” he added, referring to statements issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week in which he claimed the lockdowns had been imposed on the country by “the elite.”
Khan did not make any mention of his own government—which is also ruling in three provinces as well as at the center—imposing the same lockdowns to curb the spread of the disease, suggesting that the response is only “elite-centric” if the province is ruled by any party other than the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Minister Shah said the Sindh government was fully aware of the problems being faced by the impoverished, adding that authorities were taking all necessary steps to save lives amidst the ongoing pandemic.
The information minister also slammed various federal ministers for “baselessly criticizing the Sindh government,” while echoing the prime minister’s allegations. He claimed the media’s praise for the Sindh government’s response to the coronavirus had been “intolerable” for them and prompted them to try and tear down the provincial authorities. As a result, he claimed, the ministers were misleading people with falsehoods, forcing Sindh lawmakers to respond and clarify the on-ground realities.
“We have been blamed for creating controversy when we have no such intention,” he said, adding Sindh authorities were not concerned about the federal government’s criticism of its lockdown, as it was necessary to save lives. “We have been saying from day one, when the first coronavirus case was reported in the country, that we do not want to get involved in a blame game,” he said. “It is time to make prompt decisions and take immediate steps to save lives,” he added.
The minister also reiterated an accusation previously suggested by opposition lawmakers, including Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, that the federal government had provided “no support” to provinces to curb the spread of the virus. He claimed the situation would have been drastically different had the federation accepted the Sindh government’s proposal to impose two complete lockdowns, for two weeks each. He warned that now the battle against coronavirus would be far longer, and could span months.
Pakistan on Monday crossed 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 5,590 recoveries and 462 deaths. Nationwide, there are presently 14,134 active cases of the virus, with a fatality rate of 2.3 percent and a recovery rate of 27.7 percent.