- Arbitrary decisions can divide the nation
Pakistan discovered its first coronavirus patient in Karachi on February 26. The Sindh CM declared lockdown in the province for 15 days from March 23 with the rest of the provinces following suit with a less stringent version. The PM however continues his opposition to lockdowns. This has led Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif to call upon the National Security Committee to clarify its position on the issue.
The PM has on several occasions underlined the need for national unity to deal with the challenge posed by the pandemic, maintaining that the government alone cannot cope with the disease. On Monday, he announced a virus relief fund while the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) approved a Rs 1.2 trillion stimulus package. The PM also announced the setting up of a Corona Tigers Relief Force meant to distribute food to unemployed daily wagers. In his latest address the PM again failed to announce the government’s overall strategy to deal with the virus that he had promised earlier. Meanwhile policies continue to be announced and actions taken without any attempt to create a national consensus. This has led to accusations that the government is more interested in seeking political mileage from the situation than in responding to the challenge through a commonly agreed policy.
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and PPP Senator Sherry Rehman have accused the government of acting arbitrarily. The latter has complained that the government is taking decisions that impact provinces without consulting provincial governments. She has questioned how the government was going to determine the provinces’ share in the Rs1.2 trillion stimulus package announced by the ECC. The PML-N chief has demanded the formation of a parliamentary monitoring committee to ensure oversight and transparency in the government’s dealings and to restrain it from using relief funds for advancing its political agenda. Both leaders have opposed pushing inexperienced and untrained youth into the fray, calling instead for distribution of food to the vulnerable sections of population through local government bodies like Mohalla committees.
It is time for the entire nation to single-mindedly face the challenge posed by the deadly virus. For this the government needs to take the opposition into confidence and stop its war against the media.