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Opposition vows to protect 18th Amendment

Expressing their concern over controversial remarks by some federal ministers about the 18th Amendment, the opposition parties on Monday vowed to protect the provincial autonomy granted under the historic amendment and warned the government against any move to reverse or repeal it.
The pledge from the opposition parties came a day after federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said during a TV talk show that the 18th Amendment had some defects and called for reviewing it.
And on Monday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to reporters though announced, that the government had no plan to repeal the 18th Amendment, but at the same time declared that the provinces must sit with the federal government to discuss the issue of its implementation. He said there was a need to review it so that the provinces did not look towards the Centre.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman talked to Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and leaders of some other opposition parties to discuss the situation in the aftermath of the ministers’ statements and the crisis caused by the spread of Covid-19.
According to an official handout issued by the PPP media centre, Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman pledged to protect the 18th Amendment.
The PPP chairman said the democratic forces of Pakistan would never compromise on the 18th Amendment. He said democratic parties had restored the Constitution to its original form and shape through the 18th Amendment. He made it “loud and clear” that any attempt to reverse or repeal the 18th Amendment would not be tolerated and democratic forces would resist any such attempt with full force.
The PPP chairman also spoke about the serious situation in the country due to the coronavirus outbreak. He said the federal government should help the provinces instead of trying to tamper with the Constitu­tion in this crucial time.
Earlier in the day, in an interview to BBC, Mr Bhutto-Zardari alleged that the federal government, instead of working with provincial governments, was trying to sabotage the good work done by the Sindh government.
The PPP chairman said the federal government could not absolve itself from responsibility of chalking out a strategy by wrongly explaining the 18th Amendment.
He said it was a responsibility of the leadership to take difficult decisions in times of national crisis, but the federation and the prime minister had shown no empathy with the provinces.

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PPP asks Centre to give Rs17,500 to families hit by Covid-19

“The relief package announced by the federal government is not enough,”
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has asked the federal government to increase from Rs12,000 to Rs17,500 the amount of cash being given to families affected by the economic crisis caused by the lockdown in the wake of Covid-19.
Presiding over a meeting of the party’s economic team on Tuesday through video link, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari questioned the role of the Centre in the ongoing relief and effort to minimise the spread of the virus, saying the provinces were performing more than their capacity with no support from the federal government.
He warned the federal government to stay away from any such move which challenged the authority and constitutional powers of the provinces.
“The relief package announced by the federal government is not enough,”
said a statement issued by the Bilawal House after the meeting.
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“The government should increase the cash relief to the affected families from Rs12,000 to Rs17,500 which is the minimum wage in the country. The federal government has abandoned the provinces in this crisis and is blaming the 18th Amendment for all its mismanagement.”
The meeting agreed that the federal government had failed to channelise its efforts and contribute to the provincial affairs of health in these challenging times when the world’s greatest economies were down to their knees. Around the world, it said, the centre was supporting its provincial governments and leading the role of governance from the front, but in Pakistan the provinces were left alone to face the crisis.
 

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Bilawal instructed to spend money on purchasing ration rather iftar party: Shah

Sindh Minister for Information, Local Government, Housing &Town Planning, Religious Affairs, Forest and Wildlife Syed Nasir Hussain Shah has said that no official Iftar party will be held during Ramadan this year due to coronavirus outbreak.
The provincial information Minister said that politicians belonged to Pakistan People’s Party would also not arrange for any Iftar party during Ramdan this year. He said that the entire focus of the Sindh government during this Ramadan would be on protecting the lives of the people from the coronavirus pandemic.
Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has instructed that the politicians who used to give Iftar parties during Ramdan should spend the same money on purchasing ration and distribute it among the people who had been affected severely by the lockdown.
The provincial Information Minister said that after the directives of the Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had also confirmed that the no Iftar party would be held at official level this year during Ramdan. He said that all the ministers of the Sindh Government as well as the members of PPP in the provincial assembly would distribute rations to the people in their respective constituencies during Ramadan and would help the people affected by the lockdown.
Commenting on closure of Mosques and Traweeh during Ramadan, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that it was wrong to give the impression that if the Sindh Government talked of closing mosques, it meant that the coronavirus had been spreading from the mosques. He said that this was not the case at all, adding that, the government was requesting the Ulema to close the mosques and ask the people to offer prayers at home during this Ramdan as a precautionary measure.
The provincial Information Minister said that because medical experts believed that there was a high risk of spreading of coronavirus wherever there was a gathering, therefore, religous scholars were repeatedly being requested by the Sindh Government to take precautionary measures and ask the people to offer prayers at home. “We have the realization that it is very difficult for us create a consensus in this regard, especially when it is the month of Ramadan, but we still humbly request our respected clerics and religous scholars to follow the government’s health advisory and tell the people to offer prayers at home during this Ramadan,” he said. He hoped that just as the religious scholars had helped the Sindh government before Ramadan and told people to offer their prayers at home, including the Friday prayers, they would help us again during this holy month of Ramdan too.
Syed Nasir Hussain Shah clarified that the Sindh government had no differences with the federal government, and the Sindh government wanted to coordinate and cooperate with the federal government in the time of pandemic, but when federal ministers and federal spokespersons make statements against the Sindh Government only then they had to respond, but even then the spokespersons of the Sindh Government tried utmost not to create any controversy.
The provincial Information Minister said that the situation demanded and the need of the hour was that at a time when the country was facing a scourge like the coronavirus, they should work together as a nation and avoid making unnecessary statements against each other. He said that being the Prime Minister of the country Imran Khan was very respectable for us, but if he made any statement against the Sindh Government then they had to clarify their position. Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that it was being said that the doctors held a press conference in Sindh on the backing of the Sindh government. He said that, if this was true, then would anyone tell who was behind the press conference of doctors in Punjab? Was that too was done on the backing of Sindh government? he asked. The provincial Information Minister said that the real point was that as the people were praising the Sindh Chief Minister for taking the right steps at the right time to stop the spread of coronavirus and this was something which was untolerable for some federal representatives.
“At least at this moment in time we should not engage ourselves in politics of blame game, rather we all should focus on saving people’s lives,” he said.
Referring to the issues of business community, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that a very detailed meeting had been held with the representatives of the traders, adding that, Standard Operating Procedures regarding their businesses were being finalized and a notification would be issued soon in this regard.
The provincial Information Minister said that Sindh Government was well aware of the problems and difficulties of the people of the business community, but in difficult situations the government had to make extraordinary difficult decisions. He said that even in these difficult circumstances, the Sindh Government was giving as much relief as possible to the business community. Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the next 15 days were very important regarding the possible spread of coronavirus, adding that, all of us had to be extremely careful in these 15 days, otherwise the situation could get worse.
The provincial Information Minister said that the Sindh Government had not happily taken all drastic decisions in the last month or so, but the government had left with no other choice. He requested that the Sindh government should not be portrayed as a villain, but everyone including the federal government should help the Sindh Government in its efforts of preventing the spread of coronavirus in the province.
“This is is the time to put politics and differences in Quarantine and work together”, he added.

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Bilawal urges people to spend Ramazan at home

Talking to media persons in Islamabad, Bilawal said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s logic and reasoning to change the restrictions that were already in place were beyond comprehension. He said that for the first few weeks the lockdown went relatively well and the people were abiding by the restrictions. Only five members of mosque staff were allowed to offer prayers and people were urged to pray at home.
The PM eased some restrictions, including allowing barbers and tailors to reopen their shops in the country, so it was difficult to convince the clerics to follow the same restrictions about prayers. Before the PM’s easing of restrictions, the clerics were cooperating, he said, adding that there was no need to ease those restrictions. “However, now the PM is justifying his decision, risking the lives of the people.”
The PPP chairman said that Sindh was the first province to impose the lockdown and the Sindh government had engaged the religious community because “we do not have the capacity or police to stop congregational prayers in the mosques”, because mixed messages were coming from the federal government. “We are still trying to engage the religious community, but it is now difficult when the PM is making an issue about freedom,” he added.
“I think this is a colossal failure of leadership,” he said. “When we compare ourselves to the rest of the Muslim world, like Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, they are taking steps to save the lives of their citizens. This is not the time for populous electoral decisions. It is time to take decisions on the advice of doctors and health experts. Doctors of Pakistan from Lahore to Karachi are protesting or holding press conferences, appealing to take those necessary steps to protect them and ease the burden on our healthcare system,” he maintained.
He said the federal government had the responsibility of running the economy, and now it had also the responsibility of protecting the lives and health of the people and securing their livelihood. It was ironic that the first relief package by the federal government was for the construction sector instead of doctors and nurses who risk their lives every single day, he said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Pakistan would regret not spending a higher ratio of GDP on health. Whenever the PPP came to power, it drastically increased the spending on healthcare, he recalled.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that he was not only worried for Pakistan but also for other developing countries at the time of the global pandemic.
“We as a global community were not prepared to deal with such a pandemic, and unfortunately, Pakistan did not forge national unity required to fight this pandemic.”
 

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Sherry Rehman urges the Federal government to listen to the doctors

Islamabad, 24 April, 2020: “Within the span of this week alone, Pakistan’s medical community has asked the government three times to reconsider its decision to ease lockdown measures. But is the government paying any heed to these requests? No. The Federal government needs to stop playing pandemic politics and get serious about saving lives.” PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said.
She added, “Unlike what the Federal government says, the doctors have not gotten together in different cities to raise the alarm on any party or province’s behest. They are health professionals and basically at this point they are sending a warning to the leadership of this country that this situation will get worse”.
Rehman commented on Sindh’s progress and said, “From day one, Sindh government has given priority to what the health experts have said. We had to take the tough decision that taraweeh prayers will only be offered by mosque’s administration as it is the government’s responsibility to take these difficult decisions but we did this especially keeping in mind doctors’ recommendations. Sindh has also established Pakistan’s biggest testing laboratory’, with a capacity to conduct 800 tests on a daily basis”.
“Sindh government is trying its best to make Ramzan easy for people and have decided not to set up ‘Ramazan Bachat Bazars’ in the province to avoid gathering of customers during these testing times. Supply of fruit and vegetables would be ensured at shops and stalls, and people would also be able to place online orders for fruit and vegetable on official fixed prices during the Holy month of Ramazan”, she added.
“Federal government needs to treat this as a medical emergency. Pakistan’s underfunded health sector is barely able to cope with the regular caseload, let alone an exceptional emergency like the present. We need to listen to our medical community and ‘flatten the curve’ by enforcing a strict lockdown. It is high time that we upgrade our healthcare infrastructure. Once this pandemic is over, we need to review our spending on health, which is less than 1% of GDP – the lowest in South Asia” the Senator said.
Commenting on the spike of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan, the Senator said that,” What is even more shocking is that 79% of the total COVID-19 cases are locally transmitted. Health Experts predict that the situation has become a national health emergency and soon will be out of our hands”.
Senator Sherry Rehman concluded by lauding the efforts of the medical community and said, “Each day medical professionals are putting their lives on the line as they come into contact with those infected by the virus, from the initial testing stage and throughout treatment. Yet they are not being provided with enough PPEs and masks and are being told to ration them. Some of them are forced to buy from their own money. Is this how we should be treating our heroes? The Federal government needs to understand that this is a matter of saving lives and the doctors know best. There is no denying that.”.
 

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Poor must be protected against corona-virus, says Bilawal

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari yesterday said that the poor must be protected against the coronavirus pandemic. Chairing a party meeting here, he said that at the moment the priority was to save lives from Covid-19.  The meeting was attended by former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Senator Farhatullah Babar and Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar while Senator Sherry Rehman attended the meeting via video link.  The meeting discussed in detail the situation amid Covid-19.
The meeting also discussed the upcoming session of the Parliament. Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari briefed the PPP Chairman about the relief activities by the party.  Bilawal said that it was the responsibility of the party to help the people in this hour of need. He said that while helping those in need, their self respect should not be compromised.  Meanwhile, Secretary Information Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Dr. Nafisa Shah said that Prime Minister Imran Khan should clear his mind about Covid-19 because he had been recently urging people against the lockdown.
“The business should be open and on the other the PM asks people to keep social distance. It is impossible to keep at a distance of 6 feet in the markets. Social distancing was violated in the name of distributing amounts of Ehsas programme.

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Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spoke to British High Commissioner to Pakistan

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari spoke to British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Dr Christian Turner in an effort to share information about the Coronavirus pandemic, and especially about British-Pakistani victims of the disease.
In a telephonic conversation, Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the Sindh government was the first in the country to have taken swift action by closing down educational institutions and subsequently initiating a strict lockdown, after gauging the substantial threat. He also thanked the UK for DFID support to Pakistan in the fight against COVID19,  and appreciated the High Commissioner’s role in facilitating the return of overseas Pakistanis.
Dr Turner appreciated the timely efforts taken by the Sindh government, and both stressed the need for global cooperation and coordination, to save human lives from the deadly virus.
 
 
 

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Sherry calls for national unity in the fight against Coronavirus

Addressing a press conference at the Media Cell in Bilawal House, the PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman urged the federal government to send out a unifying message and said that” It is the time to fight corona, and not each other. When national unity is required more than ever, the federal government must not fuel chaos and confusion. There has to be an end to political point scoring.  What we urgently need is a uniform strategy to tackle this growing threat as a provincial government, or a city alone cannot stamp out this deadly contagion”.
Addressing the unnecessary criticism on Sindh, the Senator said, “Despite criticism and no assistance from the federal government, Sindh has been leading from the front in the fight against COVID-19 and has demonstrated clear leadership in a dangerously confused policy mix. Federal government has not regularly facilitated the efforts of Sindh government and the BISP has been unconstitutionally rebranded  as the Ehsaas programme. However, we will not indulge in a war of words as this is the time for national unity where all of us must be on the same page”.
“Regardless of all this criticism, Sindh’s testing capacity has increased and it is exploring different avenues to increase testing facilities. Separately, all workers and leaders of the PPP are busy mobilising and providing aid to all provinces in forms of ration, and in places cooked food. Soon, we will be sharing details of how much and where,” Rehman added.
Commenting on the lack of unity among provinces in the fight against COVID-19 outbreak, the Senator questioned, “Where is National Action Plan ( NAP) on fighting the Coronavirus ? At that time all political parties, despite differences, all provinces were on the same page. We need a similar stance once again”.
Lauding Sindh government’s proactive efforts in containing the virus, the Senator said that” Since the beginning, Sindh has been clear and transparent about all facts and figures related to COVID-19, including numbers on how many ration bags have been distributed to the poor and vulnerable”.
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has instructed the party’s leadership to collaborate and fully cooperate with the federal government in the battle against the coronavirus. Since his first press conference, Chairman PPP clearly stated that he will not criticise the PM as this is the time for all of us to be united in the fight against coronavirus.
PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman concluded by saying that “It is important to remember that we have to fight the pandemic and not each other. For this, preparation and planning is needed and that is only possible when our policy is crystal clear and there is no confusion as we need to give a clear message to the public.  This is not common flu and we need to take it seriously.  WHO is constantly reminding us to “Test, Test and Test” as it is the way forward. In this moment of crisis, saving lives of our citizens must be our top priority”.

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Calls for dialogue with the tribal youth to address their grievances

Islamabad January 27, 2020: Pakistan People’s Party has condemned the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen head of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) last night and demanded his immediate release and initiation of a dialogue with the youth of tribal areas.
In a statement today General Secretary of the KPK chapter of PPP and former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi said that political arrests only aggravated the situation and did not help resolve political issues. It is most foolish and highly condemnable that the voice of tribal youth is being silenced through brute state force at a time when there is urgent need for a dialogue, he said.
Just a day before the Defence Minister Pervez Khattak publicly offered dialogue to the tribal youth he said and asked as to who had countered the dialogue offer and why? The Defence Minister owes an explanation to the nation, he said.
Faisal Kundi said that the demand of the tribal people for the reconstruction of destroyed homes of the people, return to their homes and honorable rehabilitation of the displaced people was a legitimate one that must have been acted upon long ago. This legitimate demand will not be swept aside by arresting Manzoor Pashteen, he said.
He said that after the merger of tribal districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the breaking of backbone of the militants as claimed it was incomprehensible as to why the tribal areas were still no go areas for the people of Pakistan and the policing still being done by non police security agencies.
He demanded that policing in tribal areas be entrusted to the police, the damaged homes, schools and properties be reconstructed and all the displaced people be sent back to their homes and rehabilitated. He recalled that during insurgency in Swat the PPP government arranged for the return of all internally displaced peoples soon after the militants were defeated and asked as to why the government did not want to send back the internally displace persons of tribal areas to their homes.
 

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Has the govt taken a U-turn on Kashmir? Sherry questions

PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate, Senator Sherry Rehman said, “Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Donald Trump in Davos this week but on an important international forum he clearly said his first priority was Afghanistan, not Kashmir. Has the government taken a U-turn on Kashmir? Should the pain and anguish of Kashmir not feature first in that scale of priorities? Unless it was one of our PM’s usual slip of tongue moments, it indicates a major shift in terms of our foreign policy, yet parliament has not been informed about it”.
Rehman added, “Instead of keeping parliament away from the making and unpacking of crucial policies, the Prime Minister should share priorities and knowledge with the parliament because it has the right to know as well as the right to move policy. The PPP has always respected the parliament’s right to decide because we believe in its supremacy. It was after parliamentary consultation that the PPP dealt with the Salala tragedy by insisting on an apology from the US and shutting down the Shamsi airbase and supply lines for seven months.
Now that President Trump has again insisted on mediating between India and Pakistan, we ask what terms of reference our side offered for such a critical discussion. My issue or question is not with the US administration but from our own government as to what such discussions lead to, and what do they convey. After the government’s celebrations on President Trump’s earlier offer of mediation, we saw no movement on any issue, because it seems we are only interested in headlines. This was followed by India’s arbitrary annexation of Occupied Kashmir”.
“We want to know what happened to solidarity with Kashmir?  Does anyone remember what happened to Fridays for Kashmir? Where did that go? What has emerged in its place? Our political parties have roots in Kashmir and we are asked questions about what we are doing. I certainly hope there has not been a shift in our policy towards Kashmir but it is clear that there is absolutely no transparency on the discussions that take place with any of the global leadership and what exactly our ask for a just peace in Kashmir  is squared with his generous and frequent offers for mediation. Either we are not able to take it forward or we exchange such goodwill for other concessions, we do not know, “she concluded.