Sindh and centre disagree on province wide lockdown

Aug 1, 2021: It was announced by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah that on the first day of lockdown across the province, the Sindh government and the federal government disagreed on how to curb the fourth wave of the Covid 19 delta variant .

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab responded to calls from Federal Ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar, as well as Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, to reconsider the lockdown decision.

Rejecting the Centre’s criticism, Bilawal warned that the federal government would be held responsible if the situation in Karachi deteriorated further. Wahab, on the other hand, emphasized that instead of creating chaos, people should focus on encouraging co-operation.

Bilawal said that if it were left to Prime Minister Imran Khan and other ministers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to handle the situation of Covid 19 in Karachi, things would become as deadly as in India, which led to a catastrophic increase in corona virus infection.

Responding to Bilawal’s statement, Omar, who heads the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), emphasized in several tweets that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s strategy to curb the spread of the corona virus was yielding “dramatically superior results”.

Umar said that the complete lockdown policy was implemented by India and it caused “devastation” in the neighbouring country. “[It] was done in India & the world saw the devastation. Crores (millions) thrown into poverty from which they have still not recovered. Economy shrank 7%.”

In another tweet, Umar, while recalling a meeting last year, stated that the PPP leader had told him that he believed in “imperial study which had predicted 78 thousand deaths in Pakistan in a single day”. He added: “This is obviously a subject that you do not understand very well. Please do not politicise the Covid response.”

“Strategy based on PMIK [PM Imran] vision of protecting both lives and livelihoods, produced dramatically superior results. Indian economy had the worst year since independence and Pak[istani] econ[omy] grew 4%. At the same time Indian per capita Covid mortality is 3 times higher than Pakistan,” he added.

Also on Saturday, Information Minister Fawad and Sindh Governor Ismail demanded a review of the lockdown decision, warning that it would affect people’s livelihoods. Addressing a news conference, Wahab defended the decision to lock down Karachi, saying it was a public health issue.

Wahab also announced some easing of the partial lockdown, which closed shopping malls and government offices. He said that the ban on double riding was being lifted in the province. “Violations of shops, hotels, wedding halls, or SOPs will be sealed for 30 days,” he warned.

The news conference came after an interview with Information Minister Fawad on a private TV channel in which he said that the unilateral decision of the Sindh government regarding a complete lockdown in the province was unconstitutional and would deal a severe blow to the economy.

He said that curfew-like situation in Karachi, the economic hub of the country, was unacceptable. He asked the Sindh government to immediately end the complete lockdown on the industrial sector, adding that the provincial government could not take unilateral decisions.

Later, addressing a news conference at the Governor House, Governor Ismail advised the Chief Minister to avoid complete and curfew-like lockdowns in the province and ensure implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He clarified that the federation was against extreme measures to control epidemics as the national economy could not afford to shut down industries and business activities, especially in the country’s economic hub of Karachi.

“The Sindh government has neither taken the federal government on board while taking the decision nor it had consulted with other stakeholders, including the trade and industrial community,” the governor said, adding that the decision also violated a relevant Supreme Court judgment.

Responding to the criticism, Wahab said that issues related to humanity should not be turned into a political war. “We have to think about protecting people from disease,” he said. “It’s not about the economy, it’s about health. The focus should be on persuading people, not encouraging chaos.

He pointed out that no one from the PPP had issued statements on the announcement of lockdown in Punjab because the people of Karachi could not understand the situation in Punjab. “Similarly, those living in Islamabad cannot understand the ground realities of Karachi,” he said.

Wahab stressed that the provincial government intends to work with the federal government. He also said that Chief Minister Shah had spoken to NCOC chief Asad Umar and SAPM Dr Faisal Sultan and “nowhere during the talks did they object to the lockdown”.

Chief Minister Murad on Friday announced a partial lockdown across the province, especially after the alarming rise in cowardly cases in the provincial capital Karachi. “If the ban is not lifted, health facilities will reach the point of saturation,” he said.

Shah announced that the lockdown was aimed at reducing pressure on hospitals and improving health facilities, curbing the spread of Indian-origin Delta variants and increasing the number of vaccinations.

The NCOC, meanwhile, said in a statement on Saturday that the lockdown would not apply to sectors of the federal domain, adding that the federally administered sectors would also continue to operate in accordance with the Covid 19 SOPs.

The NCOC said air operations and railways would continue to operate as per the Corona virus protocol. The statement added that the railways could run passenger trains with 70 per cent occupancy.

The NCOC said that instructions have been issued to the federal government offices in Sindh to ensure that Covid 19 SOPs work with a minimum of workers.

He added that the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) and related services would also continue to function as usual.

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