Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

25 March 2020, Sunday 

Multiparty conference blames Imran Khan

Pakistan seeks diaspora’s aid on Coronavirus; allocates Rs 1.13tr ; and wants clarity on Saarc’s coronavirus fund

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Multiparty conference blames Imran Khan

Lakshmi V Menon

On 24 March 2020, a multiparty conference, co-hosted through video-link by National Assembly opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif and Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, issued a joint declaration calling upon PM Imran Khan to act as the Prime minister of Pakistan instead of just the head of Islamabad Capital Territory and announce a complete national lockdown to control the highly proliferous coronavirus. (Dawn, 25 March 2020)

The conference demanded that PM Imran Khan call for daily meetings of Council of Common Interests (CCI) to update all federating units; endorsed Shahbaz Sharif’s and PML-N’s national corona strategy reconnections (appreciated by many political leaders); and restoration of Punjab’s local governments to enhance community related effectiveness.  
The committee suggested providing stimulus package to requiring industries while calling for quick steps to aid small businesses and daily wagers. They further demanded that in the future when a vaccine is made available, it must be directly provided to the provinces. Taftan quarantine facility, which has become a point of contagion, requires immediate revamping, they added. 

The attendees agreed social distancing and national lockdown were critical and stated that the Centre should have already commenced a National Action Plan involving all stakeholders; suggested the use of all TV channels and ulema for changing social attitudes regarding public safety and social responsibility; called for a National Task Force with representatives from across all parties; demanded immediate economic management, streamlining of volunteer and relief efforts, health sector actions and formation of multi-level crisis management committees. The Opposition condemned the Center’s leadership deficiency. 

Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah briefed the meeting on the necessary steps to be undertaken to fight COVID-19. The participants appreciated Sindh government and CM’s efforts. All attendees endorsed Sindh’s charter of demands: immediate national lockdown with expanding medical capacity for beds, personal protective equipment (PPE) for health professionals, ventilators, testing, ICUs and isolation centres; immediate identification and awarding of Rs.15,000 to teach household of the poorest classes (Sindh has identified 40 per cent); allowing provinces to directly engage with international donor agencies; bearing of gas bills upto Rs.2000 and electricity bills upto Rs.5000 by the State; slashing of oil prices and interest rates to promote economic activity; and continued payment of daily wagers who are unable to come to work by companies. 

Participants included Hasil Bizenjo (National Party), Sirajul Haq (Jamaat-i-Islami), Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (Pakistan Muslim League-Q), Akhtar Mengal (BNP), Abdul Ghafoor Haidery (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl), Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Faisal Sabzwari (Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan), Aftab Sherpao (Qaumi Watan Party), Mian Iftikhar (Awami National Party), Senator Usman Khan Kakar (Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party), PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb and Ayaz Sadiq, Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, Sherry Rehman, and Raja Parvez Ashraf.


In brief

Coronavirus: Pakistan seeks diaspora’s aid

Lakshmi V Menon

Pakistan’s federal government is seeking aid from its diaspora across the globe to battle the proliferation of the novel coronavirus. It is normal for governments to seek help from diasporas in times of need. It is often monetary aid. In this case, Pakistan’s federal government has sought medical equipment, or details of its suppliers or manufacturers via diplomatic missions abroad. 

The News International (25 March 2020) was informed by Diplomats that the Foreign office had requested Pakistani communities abroad to support the country by providing medical stocks, ventilators, masks, associated supplies and items. 

As per reports, on receiving the letter from the federal government, Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE Ghulam Dastagir requested affluent Pakistanis in the emirates to extend their support. Generally, home country’s governments contact the mission’s commercial division. However, since the corresponding section in Abu Dhabi’s Pakistani Embassy had closed down, that could not be done.

Due to the high demand of these items, their arrangement could prove challenging. One Pakistani community responded saying that the quick allocation of medical equipment could not be done. Nevertheless, financial relief could be extended.


In brief

Coronavirus: Pakistan allocates Rs1.13tr 

Lakshmi V Menon

On 24 March 2020, PM Imran Khan announced a Rs1.13 trillion multi-sectoral stimulus and rescue package to help Pakistan absorb detrimental effects of coronavirus. He said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) was asked for deferred repayment of bank loans and would reduce the key policy rates; SBP slashed the rates by 150 basis points to 11 per cent immediately after the PM’s televised session. (Dawn, 25 March 2020)

As per reports, Rs200bn has been allocated for labour force; Rs150bn to support vulnerable households by increasing stipend to Rs.3000 from Rs.2000; Rs100bn for refunds to export sector to keep the cash flow to labour force going; Rs100bn for future emergencies; another Rs100bn for deferred loan repayment of agricultural sector and SMEs; Rs50bn to the Utility Stores Corporation to keep rates affordable to the middle class; another Rs50bn to support and expand medical staff; Rs25bn to National Disaster Management Authority to expand rescue and medical equipment; and prices of all petroleum products have been slashed by Rs15. 

PM said that panagahs (shelter homes) were being expanded to accommodate the weak and unemployed. He added that a separate package for construction industry would be soon announced.  Addressing concerns regarding the economic state and peak in interest rates, the Premiere said there were no straight forward answers. Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, PM’s economic adviser said the package aimed to pacify coronavirus related problems and economic issues despite limited resources. He reminded the critics that the federal government had paid Rs5tr loans in the duration of two years and only had Rs1.6tr out of the Rs4tr. Considering the artificially controlled exchange rate, swelling current account deficit and falling exports the ruling PTI government inherited over 19 months ago, mobilization of resources remains a challenge.


In brief

Pakistan wants clarity regarding Saarc’s coronavirus fund

Lakshmi V Menon

Pakistan has sought clarity over the utilization of the Covid-19 Emergency Fund of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (Saarc) announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the March 15 video conference of Saarc leaders on COVID-19. It was discussed during the telephonic conversation between Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Bangladeshi counterpart A. K. Abdul Momen. 

Although, the emergency fund is aimed to assist regional states to deal with coronavirus, nothing regarding its administration and modalities were mentioned. All states in Saarc except Pakistan had announced their pledges to the fund. India had pledged $10 million for it, Sri Lanka’s $5m, Bangladesh’s $1.5m, Afghanistan’s and Nepal’s $1m each, the Maldives’ $0.2m and Bhutan’s $0.1m. Cumulatively it tallies to $18.8 million. Pakistan, also supposed to contribute, had not. However, it is feared that considering the current scenario, the pledges by countries would not materialize.  

Qureshi also expressed Pakistan’s interest in hosting Saarc health ministers’ conference on Covid-19 to enhance regional cooperation. FM Momen expressed readiness to participate in the video conference. Mr Qureshi has had bilateral dialogues with his counterparts in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives; all Saarc states except Afghanistan and India.

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