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I’d have never endorsed lockdown had provinces asked: Imran thankful he fought off pressure for Modi-like lockdown

By our correspondents
June 23, 2020

Ag agencies

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday said if the provinces had asked him for the lockdown option, he would have never endorsed such a step because Pakistan had a very different situation compared with Wuhan.

He was speaking at a ceremony held here for the launch of three Ehsaas initiatives – Ehsaas Rashan Portal, Ehsaas Langar, and Panagah App – and PM’s COVID-19 Relief Fund website. Sharing his experience during his recent visit to Sindh, the prime minister said in Larkana alone about 20 percent people among those affected by the pandemic were vendors.

“The decisions were taken in panic due to the pandemic, he said, and mentioned India where the Modigovernment enforced a complete lockdown with the statistics now showing that another 34 per cent chunk of the population had been pushed below the poverty line.

Imran said the service sector in the country, including hotels and marriage halls, suffered badly because of the lockdown. The prime minister reiterated his resolve to transform the country on the model of world’s pioneer welfare Madina state in which, for the first time, focus was made to improve the conditions of the neglected and downtrodden segments.

Imran said the government had to protect people from the pandemic, poverty, and hunger. He said the government implemented smart lockdowns in corona hotspots countrywide to protect the most vulnerable people adding that they wanted people to ply their businesses in accordance with the SOPs.

Imran said the elderly and those already suffering from serious diseases were the most vulnerable people, and if they were protected, the impact of the pandemic would reduce considerably.

He said the upcoming month of July would be difficult in terms of confirmed cases and deaths. Speaking about the Ehsaas program, Imran said the policy of soft lockdown had contributed a lot towards reducing the severity of the pandemic.

Imran thanked Allah Almighty that Pakistan had not taken its cue from India. He said complete lockdown in India had severely affected poor people making around 34 percent people either hungry or vulnerable to diseases.

Imran said the Coronavirus Relief Fund was introduced to financially help those who had lost their jobs due to the lockdown.

He said the government would add four rupees against each rupee donated to the fund. He said the website of the Fund would help donors reach the deserving people adding that the donors would be informed about their every penny donated for the welfare of people.

Imran said the government would continue to facilitate a connection between the donors and the deserving people. He said the government would widen the network of Panagahs and Langarkhanas.

Special Assistant to the PM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the prime minister on the Ehsaas Rashan Portal, Ehsaas Langar and Panagah App and PM’s COVID-19 Relief Fund website.

Meanwhile, the prime minister chaired a review meeting on the coronavirus situation and the strategy adopted for the prevention of the virus and expressed satisfaction over the measures being taken to meet the needs of beds and oxygen.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Shibli Faraz, Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah, Planning Minister Asad Umar, Economic Affairs Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Industry and Production Minister Hammad Azhar, Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Special Assistant for Health Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant for Information Lt. Gen (R) Asim Saleem Bajwa, Special Assistant Dr. Shahbaz Gill, Special Assistant Dr. Moeed Yousaf, Focal Person for Covid-19 Dr. Faisal Sultan, Chairman NDMA Lt. Gen. Muhammad Afzal and others senior officers participated in the meeting.

The virus situation, increasing number of oxygen beds in hospitals across the country, demand and supply of oxygen, implementation of smart lockdown in affected areas of major cities of the country and preparations for Eidul Azha came under discussion.

Imran said in view of the regional and international experience, it had become clear that steps had been taken to prevent the pandemic.

The prime minister emphasized that in order to ensure the implementation of this strategy, the services of Corona Relief Tiger Force should be sought in this regard.

He said they should work with the administration not only to make the public aware of the smart lockdown, but also to assist the administration in its implementation and achievement of its objectives.

The prime minister directed that in view of the upcoming Eidul Azha, SOPs should be finalized as soon as possible in consultation with the provincial governments and their implementation should be ensured. He said this time Eidul Azha was being celebrated under extraordinary circumstances.

“The present situation demands that clear SOPs be formulated as soon as possible for protection of the people and their strict implementation be ensured,” he stressed.

Chairman NDMA briefed the prime minister on the efforts being made to increase the number of beds reserved for the COVID-19 patients in the hospitals of the four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and the progress made so far.

He said arrangements had been made to add 2,150 beds across the country by the middle of next month. In this regard, he briefed the meeting in detail on the demand presented by various hospitals in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the Federal Capital territory and the situation of availability of beds so far.

Minister for Industries and Production briefed the meeting on the steps being taken to meet the oxygen requirements.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday chaired a meeting to review progress on the development of merged tribal areas.

According to a press release of the PM Office media wing, the meeting was attended by Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz, Adviser on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Special Assistant to PM Dr. Shahbaz Gill and senior officials.

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan, KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra and Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht attended the meeting through video link.

Later, in a video press briefing, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said during the meeting, the prime minister reviewed the pace of progress on the development projects of erstwhile Fata. He laid emphasis that the people of merged areas and their youth were very dear to him and he desired their immediate development and progress.

Under the 2018 arrangements, the federal government had already released funds allocated for the uplift of these areas, he said.

The minister further informed that a committee had been set up under the finance minister to look after the other issues and it would in coordination with other provinces ensure availability of funds for the development of these areas.