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March 26, 2020

PM’s relief package inadequate: Bilawal

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March 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan People's Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has termed the relief package announced by the Prime Minister Imran Khan as inadequate and claimed the prime minister does not seem to be aware of the exact situation about the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we fail to take it seriously and if we do not cope with the outbreak immediately, our public health system would be overwhelmed by the virus and we would not be able to handle the situation,” he said while addressing a video link press conference at the Bilawal House, Karachi, after staging a walkout, along with Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif at the parliamentary leaders’ meeting in Islamabad through video conference, to protest against Prime Minister Imran Khan who left the meeting after completing his speech. He said the state cannot give the impression it believes that if you are rich enough to self isolate and pay for medical treatment, you’ll be fine whilst the poor will have to work to survive as the virus ravages their communities and picks them off. Addressing a video link press conference at the Bilawal House, Karachi, the PPP chairman said that he accepted the invitation of the parliamentary leaders meeting organised by the government, despite his differences with the government. It is disrespectful and inappropriate for the prime minister not to listen to the viewpoints of opposition parties after inviting them to speak. Khan's attitude can only be described as callous and negligent in these trying times.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the protest against the prime minister's "display of pettiness" started after Imran left the meeting as Leader of the Opposition Mian Shahbaz Sharif was giving his point of view. He added that Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again conveyed the message that he is not interested at all in promoting national unity and harmony. "We appeal to the prime minister to review his approach and that as the country's prime minister, he is not doing anyone any favors by meeting the opposition, but it is his responsibility and duty as the prime minister. He should talk to all political leadership. We are still ready to work together with him and his administration to fight the challenge we face."

He said the prime minister's statement about us not having to worry about local community transmissions contradicts all research and flies in the face of warnings by global organisations that the prevalence of the coronavirus within our communities is quite high. According to the World Health Organization figures, Sindh has had 148 positive cases of coronavirus, 94 of which are local transmitted. This holds especially in Karachi where 64pc of cases are locally transmitted.

In a comparative review of the medical facilities in Pakistan from different countries, the PPP chairman said that 2.8 hospital beds are available for every 1,000 citizens in the UK, 3 in Spain, 3.4 in Italy and 2 beds in China. Only 0.6 hospital beds are available per 1,000 citizens in Pakistan. In this situation, we have to take very quick and effective steps to prevent the deadly outbreak. The establishment of quarantine centers and implementation of lockdowns has to be taken seriously. The federal government should take steps to reduce the spread of virus, test for and isolate those affected across the country, and in the meantime, we should increase the number of hospitals, diagnostic kits, tests a day, and trained doctors and nurses. The state should focus on only two things at the moment. We will have to increase the capacity of testing the coronavirus infection and enhance our existing medical facilities that are very limited, as well as adopting a mechanisms to protect the most marginalised and vulnerable in our communities. He was of the opinion that, "lockdown will not be effective unless we all take steps together." How it is possible that the lockdown in Punjab will be beneficial if the capital of the country is kept open and there is no lockdown.

The PPP chairman, while giving suggestions to the government, said that after the announcement of the relief package by the prime minister, the reaction of the stock exchange is clear that this package is insufficient. "We have to take care of the poor's health and their lives as well as their economic conditions. Every poor family should be given at least Rs15,000 monthly. Loadshedding must be eliminated for effective isolation of citizens. Electricity bills up to Rs5,000 and gas bills of up to Rs2,000 will have to be waived. The interest rate has to be dropped to a single digit."

He said the Government of Sindh first established relief fund in view of the current situation and after that other provinces took similar steps. "We have to take such steps quite urgently and on a war-footing basis," he said. In the present case, he said the state's message should be that it will take care of the citizens' health and their lives and will also cater to their economic issues and needs.