Wednesday September 22, 2021

War of words continues between Sindh, Centre over lockdown restrictions

Murtaza Wahab requests matter of lockdown not be politicised
Web Desk
July 31, 2021
Sindh Governments spokesperson Murtaza Wahab speaking to a press conference on Saturday. Screengrab from the presser
Sindh Government's spokesperson Murtaza Wahab speaking to a press conference on Saturday. Screengrab from the presser

KARACHI: The Sindh government and Centre on Saturday once again engaged in a war of words over the matter of a lockdown in the city, where Sindh government’s spokesman and Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Murtaza Wahab requested the federal government not to politicise the matter.

Addressing a press conference, he stressed on not bringing the issue in the political arena as the focus must remain on saving people from the deadly epidemic.

The spokesman claimed that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has not said anywhere that the lockdown should not be imposed.

"It has always been our aim to work in conjunction with the federal government. Unfortunately, when these people appear on TV, their statements are different," said Wahab.

"I say to those issuing statements left and right: convince people to get vaccinated instead. Please stop creating chaos," he added.

Referring to when the Buzdar government imposed a lockdown in Punjab, Wahab said that Sindh government raised no objections over the decision since it knows the gravity of the matter.

"Buzdar sahab knows Lahore's situation better," he added.

Speaking of Islamabad, he said that urban flooding is an unfortunate reality, occurring throughout in the world.

"Neither I, nor the chief minister commented on the flooding in Islamabad."

Wahab said that the order issued by the home department was issued after consultation with the NCOC, and "despite this" Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry had "issued a controversial statement".

The Sindh government has announced a lockdown in the province from July 31 to August 8.

'Lockdown inappropriate'

Earlier, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said that the federal government is "concerned" about Sindh's decisions.

"We successfully combated the first three coronavirus waves [...] The Sindh government should clampdown on vaccinations. A lockdown is inappropriate," he said.

He said government of Sindh "cannot make decisions unilaterally".

Chaudhry suggested that the provincial government make a strategy in line with the NCOC’s and federal government’s guidelines.

“The steps taken by the Sindh government, which stand in opposition to the federal government, are causing losses to the industries,” said Chaudhry.

He said that a lockdown is "inappropriate" when efforts for economic growth are being made.

Curbs eased

Wahab also announced an amendment in lockdown restrictions in the backdrop of objections by the Centre over the potential impact on the economy.

According to the amended order, the restrictions have been modified as follows:

Essential services such as dairy/milk shops, bakeries, carriages for supply of daily and bakery products, as well as food delivery service of restaurants and e-commerce services will be exempt from the previous 6am to 6pm closure rule.

Restrictions on pillion riding have also been waived off, while the fertiliser/pesticide shops, godowns, and industrial establishments other than the export oriented industry and related to production of essential goods, have been allowed to function, provided the entire staff is fully vaccinated.

Small public transport such as taxis, rickshaws and Qingqis may move within the city with passengers not more than their prescribed capacity.

Big public transport vehicles, such as buses, mini-buses and wagons may run within the city, but exclusively to carry citizens to and from designated vaccination centres, with only 50% of their prescribed capacity.

Vehicle owners are supposed to acquire a temporary route permit from the concerned Transport and Mass Transit Department, which will be issued through consultation with the Health Department.

Moreover, the restriction of not carrying more than two persons in private vehicles has been lifted, restricted to the prescribed capacity of the vehicle concerned.

“We want the people to get out of their houses only to get vaccinated,” said Wahab.

According to Wahab, the government of Sindh’s warning that sims of unvaccinated people may be blocked helped in speeding up the vaccination drive.

He said 185,406 people got vaccinated within 24 hours in Sindh.