KARACHI: Sindh education minister Saeed Ghani on Sunday alleged that the federal government instead of lending a helping hand, is creating obstacles “at the behest of the prime minister”, as PTI and PPP ministers locked horns over the coronavirus response in Sindh.
“Instead of being helpful, PTI leaders are becoming obstacles to the work,” Ghani said at a press conference, flanked by Sindh information minister Nasir Hussain Shah. “And this is happening at the behest of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has let them loose to become hurdles in Sindh government’s work,” he added.
Ghani’s remarks came after PTI ministers Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Firdous Shamim Naqvi and Faisal Vawda held a press conference in the city and slammed the PPP government for their response to the virus as the number of cases in Sindh continues to rise.
The criticism came as the number of cases in the province rose to 1,411 with two new deaths on Sunday. The surge in cases a day earlier had prompted the Murad Ali Shah-led Sindh government to quarantine several areas of Karachi to prevent the further spread of the virus. The government subsequently backed away from sealing off entire neighbourhoods, opting instead to quarantine specific areas with large numbers of cases.
‘Sindh failed to implement lockdown’
“Because of the Sindh government’s incompetence, the number of cases is rising,” Vawda said while addressing the PTI press conference. “The Sindh government needs to see what is happening in Hyderabad, Larkana and Jacobabad.”
Criticising the provincial government over its move to seal 12 union councils in the metropolis, the federal minister said, “How can the government seal 12 UCs? People will come out on the streets.”
He added the government had failed to implement the lockdown. “I don’t want to engage in politicking at such a time, but I had no choice. I assure the residents of Karachi that the PTI stands with them.”
“Where is the Rs2 billion that was given to help the people? The people are dying of hunger,” he added.
Separately, Zaidi slammed the PPP over its “lax attitude” towards the province’s health sector. The minister said after the 18th Amendment, health is the responsibility of provincial governments.
Factories which could implement guidelines should be allowed to operate, said Naqvi. “The government is taking decisions without homework and then takes them back,” he said. “Industries are open in US and Europe,” the PTI leader claimed.
The lawmakers’ calls to allow factories to function echo their party chief’s opinions on the matter. Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly refused imposing a nationwide lockdown, citing the impact on the economy.
‘Prime minister and his ministers will be to blame’
Meanwhile, Murtaza Wahab, who is the adviser on law to the Sindh chief minister and Nasir Hussain Shah, who is the Sindh information minister, held a press conference in the evening to respond to PTI’s “fault-finding” briefing.
Addressing Vawda, Wahab wondered what opinion the PTI minister has of the other provincial governments. “Have the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments brought the situation under control?”
“The minister raising a hue and cry over the non-availability of food to people in Sindh seems to be blind to Punjab’s problems,” he said.
“KP’s hospitals paint a very sorry picture of the government’s neglect,” he added.
“The prime minister’s team suffers from a Sindh-government phobia,” said Wahab.
He said that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto has asked all party members to refrain from political mudslinging otherwise if the truth behind the federation’s failures was laid bare, it would make people forget the coronavirus even.
He said that the Sindh government cares for its people, whereas the PTI ministers, “like always are the worst enemies of people”.
Citing the Ehsaas Programme whereby people received relief funds from the government to sustain themselves during the lockdown, the minister said that the programme lacks a sense of “compassion”.
“The programme is simply being used as an excuse to let people out. The federal government is encouraging people to come out and ruin the lockdown.”
Nasir Hussain Shah regretted the duplicity in the PTI ministers’ thinking when it comes to sealing off of areas. “When Lahore’s union councils are sealed off, there is nothing but praise for the decision. When Karachi’s union councils were cordoned off there was only criticism.”
“The union councils in question had more than 150 virus cases… our lawmakers are actually doing work. We are doing whatever we can to address the coronavirus crisis. Decisions have to be taken according to the coronavirus situation,” said the information minister.
He questioned the wisdom behind having people gather to collect funds when that could be the biggest source of spread for the virus.
Shah said that if the situation aggravates, the prime minister and his ministers will be the ones to blame.
‘Of no use’
In a subsequent development, later in the night, Wahab said that the quality of kits sent by the federal government is such that they are “not fit for clinical examination”.
Sharing images of text accompanying the kits, he said that the batches of 3,000 and then 17,000 kits sent “were of no use” since they did not contain the VTMs and swabs necessary to conduct tests.
Wahab said the federal government “should be ashamed for what you people have done and what you preach”.