Shahid Khaqan Abbasi slams ‘smart lockdown’, says government has no strategy to deal with coronavirus


Former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi hit out at the government and its “smart lockdown”, saying the Centre had no concrete plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The prime minister had said he would not impose a lockdown in the country because the poor and daily wagers would suffer as a result of it. He then said that the lockdown had been enforced by the elite. Who are these elite,” Abbasi asked, addressing the floor of the House on Wednesday.

“The day the prime minister said he would not enforce a lockdown, there was a curfew in front of his own house,” he said.

Abbasi continued, “Then a new word ‘smart lockdown was introduced. Where is the federal government’s decision about the lockdown? It was the provinces’ decision to enforce lockdowns.”

The PML-N leader added that the public needs to know if there is a lockdown in the country or not. “The public needs to know the government’s strategy. Just today the government threatened again that if the public does not follow safety precautions, the lockdown will be enforced once again in the country.”

Hitting out at a minister he did not name, Abbasi said, “Today a fourth minister from the government came and addressed the House, but did not speak about their strategy at all. If this House is to run, the opposition needs to speak first and the government shall answer then. All we need to know is what the government has planned when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.”

“There is no need to be afraid of criticism,” Abbasi said, adding that the prime minister had so far addressed the nation 12 times but no strategy had been presented. 

“In every address, the prime minister said there would be no lockdown, then he says there will be an ease in the lockdown. It seems like the prime minister and the ministers say one thing, but there is something completely different happening in the country,” Abbasi remarked.

“If the federal cabinet did not decide on the lockdown, where did the smart lockdown come from,” he wondered.

The former prime minister added that government websites were full of pictures of ministers but there was nothing about how they planned to deal with the pandemic.

“There is no plan and no lockdown in Pakistan. We have become a laughing stock in the world, everyone is laughing at the House because of this,” he added.

Speaking about the country’s testing capacity, Abbasi said there was no protocol when it came to conducting tests in the country. “The ministers have had two to three tests done. Those who need to have their tests done, they haven’t even had one done,” he said.

The PML-N leader added that the cabinet decided that they will not give PPEs to the provinces. “Price of the face masks was increased and commission is being taken for the ventilators. What we need to know is how many mask are there and where have they been sent.”

Turning towards the prime minister, Abbasi said Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that by the end of May there would more deaths from the virus. “Looking at the current figures, it seems what the prime minister said might be true.”

The PML-N leader added that Rs11billion had been allocated for the health sector, however, not even a rupee of that had been spent on that. “We need a national strategy. Instead of blaming the previous governments, the incumbent government should tell us what is there awareness strategy, containment strategy, medical response policy and economic management policy regarding the virus.”

Criticising the prime minister, Abbasi questioned why he could not take an hour to sit with the opposition and come up with a comprehensive strategy.

The PML-N leader also questioned the establishment of the Tiger Force and the reason behind it. “What is the Tiger Force, what does it do and who is paying for it? Nothing has been told to us about it,” he said.

“They have no strategy, nothing at all. I appeal to the government to look at these matters and make a strategy. A special committee of this NA should have been made which should have monitored what was happening in the country. We can talk the entire day, but talking is not the point. I just want to say, if the ministers want to talk they need to tell us strategy regarding containment about the pandemic. The strategy should be a unified one, same for the entire country,” he added.

‘Political point scoring will remove our attention from coronavirus’

Addressing the floor of the House, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that political point-scoring will remove our attention from the real issue which was the coronavirus pandemic.

“At this time we need to be united and work together to defeat the pandemic,” he said.

“The prime minister is the health minister as well and it is his responsibility to show a united front. The speaker has called for the national leadership and only through a national consensus will the issue be solved,” Ashraf noted.

He added, “The prime minister came, did a speech and left without listening to anyone. This attitude has put a mark on the way we are dealing with the pandemic. The National Assembly session was called so that we all could find a solution to the issues.”

‘Pakistan not as affected by coronavirus like other countries’

Earlier while addressing the floor of the House, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood said that the government has decided to take everyone along as we deal with the pandemic.

“Pakistan has not been affected with coronavirus as badly as other countries. Since we want to keep everyone on the same page, we established the National Coordination Committee and National Command and Control Centre,” he said.

Speaking about the criticism about the lockdown in the country, Mehmood said that those criticising it had no idea about the daily wagers and the poor. “Coronavirus has affected the poor the most. Because of the lockdown, the daily wagers and the labourers had been the most affected.”

He added the government has already launched Tele School, which was educating students of various classes from eight in the morning till six in the evening.

Mehmood added that all the decisions had been taken in consultation with provinces and other stakeholders regarding closure of schools and cancellation of board exams.

The minister said the government took precautionary measures like imposing lockdown and closure of educational institutions, marriage halls, and transport to prevent spread of the pandemic.

He added that said efforts were also being made to support downtrodden and poor people who had been affected due to lockdown.

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