KARACHI. MARCH 25: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has termed the relief package announced by the Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan as inadequate and says the PM does not seem to be aware of the exact situation with regard to 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.
The state can not give the impression that 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.
He expressed these views while addressing a press conference after a walkout protesting against the Prime Minister’s inappropriate behavior at the all parties Parliamentary meeting.
Addressing a video link press conference at 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 to not listen to the viewpoints of opposition parties after inviting them to speak. Imran 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 the Prime Minister left the meeting as Leader of the Opposition Mian Shahbaz Sharif was giving his point of view.
He added that the PM Imran Khan has once against conveyed the message that he is not interested at all in promoting national unity and harmony.
We appeal that the PM should review his approach and that as PM of the country, he is not doing anyone any favors by meeting the opposition, but it is his responsibility and duty as PM. 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 that 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 the coronavirus, 94 of which are local transmitted. This holds especially in Karachi where 64% 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 1000 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 this 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 the virus, test for and isolate those effected across the country, and in the meantime, we should increase the number of our hospitals, increase the number of diagnostic kits, increase the number of tests a day, and train 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 in the country 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 on his behalf, 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 Rs.15,000 monthly. Loadshedding must be eliminated for effective isolation of citizens. Electricity bills up to Rs.5,000 and gas bills of up to Rs.2000 will have to be waived. The interest rate has to be dropped to a single digit.
Government of Sindh first established relief fund in view of the current situation and after that other provinces have taken similar steps. We have to take such steps quite urgently and in war footing basis.
In the present case, the message of the state should be that the citizens’ health and their lives will be taken care of by the state and will cater to their economic issues and needs.