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March 25, 2020

Shahbaz urges PTI govt to convene CCI moot on virus

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March 25, 2020

Ag Agencies

LAHORE: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has urged the federal government to convene a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and take all the provincial governments into confidence on a nationwide strategy to deal with coronavirus.

“A national taskforce should be constituted with representation from all the political parties,” said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president in a video conference on Tuesday, where he struck a conciliatory tone with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the face of the pandemic and made a series of specific recommendations.

Discouraging playing politics during this period as “a sin”, Shahbaz said collective efforts could help convert the challenge into an opportunity and for that, everyone would have to play their role to fight the pandemic.

“We want to facilitate the government in every regard. I believe that all political parties should put politics aside and work for public welfare. We are fighting coronavirus despite all the challenges,” he added.

The former Punjab chief minister then called for decreasing petroleum prices to Rs70 per litre as it might help control inflation in the country. He also recommended interest rates be brought down “by 3-to-4 per cent”, as well as the deferment of payments on utility bills up to Rs5,000. “They can save Rs80 billion by reducing the interest rate,” he added.

Shahbaz urged the government to ensure medical staff has all the required medical equipment, including safety kits, and ventilators for the patients. The PML-N will provide 10,000 safety kits to medical staff treating Covid-19 patients in hospitals, he announced.

“The underprivileged should be tested for coronavirus free of charge, as well as financial assistance,” he added. The government should give labourers who came to the cities for their livelihood Rs3000 per month in assistance through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) until the coronavirus outbreak is overcome, he said.

The opposition leader said the delayed lockdown by the government “deteriorated the situation further”. “Had the federal government ensured proper arrangements at the Pakistan-Iran border in Taftan, the outbreak would never have accelerated to this extent,” he added.

In the absence of any vaccines to treat the virus, Shahbaz said, the people should fully follow the directives and guidelines issued by the government to curb the spread of the contagion. The opposition leader also lauded the role played by the media in leading the information campaign. “The government right now should develop a large (information) campaign and launch it with the help of the media,” he suggested.

Rounding off his video conference, the PML-N leader said the nation had overcome many challenges before and would do so again this time. “In the past we had bigger challenges like earthquakes. Now we will get out of this pandemic. In this difficult time, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the government and will work with them.”