Sherry Rehman Questions the Lack of federal Leadership in these Trying Times

Mar 19 2020
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PPP Parliamentary Leader in Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said, “As the country goes through an unprecedented crisis in the shape of a global pandemic, it has become clear that there is an unfortunate and worrying leadership deficit at the Federal level. Pakistan’s coronavirus cases tally has crossed the 200 mark. Timely response has only come from Sindh. It is alarming that other provinces are slow to test and take the crisis less seriously than they should.”

The Senator added, “There’s a clear failure to recognise the magnitude of the crisis. As the number of cases in Pakistan tripled overnight, the cabinet apparently refused to disburse money to its own Health Ministry, and ignored calls from Sindh, which was the only province not in denial of the scale of the crisis. Sindh continues to test cases from the same border facility again, while coping with its own duty of care to the province”.

She questioned the screening gap at international borders and said, “The quarantine facility at the Taftan border has badly exposed the quality of emergency responses, where exposed pilgrims from Iran were clustered together in squalid conditions which bred high transfers of the virus. Where is the data on the pilgrims from Taftan who returned back to KPK, Balochistan or Punjab? Are screening facilities adequate in these provinces? Only Sindh has provided facts and figures on the Coronavirus cases and is being open about their treatment. We don’t want to make this anything but a national effort but it seems the political will right at the top is either missing or in a state of distraction”.

Senator Rehman also said, “At a time when the country is in need of unity, constant coordination, clear public messaging and cautionary advice, the Federal Government is criminally negligent in stepping up to its responsibilities to the nation”. Timing is crucial in flattening the curve of this kind of predatory virus because it waits for no one, and business as usual cannot be the norm. Citizens have to be guided; facilities have to be stepped up. Even an economy in lockdown will need help. She suggested that, “State Bank should slash interest rates much beyond the 75 points it has done, as even the USA’s Federal reserve and other countries are pumping stimulus into their economies to help them stay afloat”.

Commenting on the slow state of our economy, the Senator stated that” Businesses and the economy need help , as work from home will reduce growth. Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated that the virus outbreak could cost the Pakistan economy around $5 billion. But quite apart from the macroeconomic angle, we need to start planning for our poor, who will be the most affected by this crisis. An entire daily wage labour class is in need of urgent help. They neither have the luxury or water to wash hands half the time nor the ability to stay home from work. The Government must address their needs by immediately supplementing the BISP and social transfers, among other things.

“As it stands, the public needs a robust informational messaging campaign on how to cope with work, social and commuting pressures. People need leadership, not an absent Prime Minister. Given the human, social and economic costs that will burden Pakistan, we need a Government in Islamabad that will act, not dither or worry only about its political messaging”, Senator Rehman added.

“We must all do our part, as Chairman of the PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has appealed. At the same time, before anything else, the federal government must oversee proper, mandatory testing and quarantine facilities as per WHO guidelines”, said the Senator.

The Senator concluded by saying that, “Only Sindh government is taking a more proactive and hands-on approach in dealing with the crisis, with importing test kits and marshalling resources for quarantine. Daily meetings are crucial, but so far, we just see Balochistan struggling, KP and Punjab still thinking about banning congregations”.