Politics versus pandemic

PPP Information Secretary Dr. Nafeesa Shah has called for convening sessions of the parliament to get approval of the Prime Minister’s relief package of Rs.1.2 trillion, supporting the vulnerable sections of the society and national output and employment providing sectors of the economy in the wake of coronavirus breakout. As per rules of business and constitutional provisions, the extraordinary relief package in the extraordinary circumstances was approved by the federal cabinet. It was the PPP leadership that made shady power sector deals with IPPs, having an international contractual dimension and inherent economic fall outs, and had not ratified them from the parliament in the normal conditions of 1994.

This sort of political point scoring by opposition at this point of time is uncalled for and is being made at a time when Pakistan has made an appeal for $595 million funding in collaboration with UN and its partner organisations to meet the urgent needs for combating coronavirus pandemic. The appeal was made by the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quershi at virtual launch, requesting the bilateral and multilateral donors to help it strengthen its health infrastructure, which was utterly neglected by all the past elected governments of other two mainstream political parties. The assistance is also sought for to create a fiscal space to deal with challenges that emerged in the wake of viral pandemic.

Before making an appeal for emergency economic assistance to multilateral lending agencies and bilateral donor, the government put in place multi-sectoral strategy and response plan to effectively and proactively combat Covid-19. No such plan had been drawn up by the PPP last government when the country had been hit by devastating floods in July 2010. As the credibility of PPP leadership regarding the utilisation of relief assistance to affected people has always been at the lowest ebb, therefore, the response of UN partner organisation and international NGOs was not encouraging. The friendly countries had spent the relief assistance through their NGOs. Because of credibility gap, the ruling political leadership did not dare launch a “Telethon” for donations to generate financial resources carry out relief and rehabilitation of people affected by the deluge of 2010. It were Imran Khan and former President Musharraf, who appealed for donation in “Telethons,” which received favourable response. Ironically, former President Asif Zardari hadleft the people amid of natural calamity of 2010 and went to France to enjoy vacations there.

There are now bold indications that prompt response in the shape of multi-sector relief package is addressing the financial difficulties of the people on the one hand and achieving the goal of economic recovery on the other. Moody’s Investor Services–one of the top three global credit rating agencies—has now anticipated that Pakistan’s economy will absorb the shock of steep downturn of global economy and decline in GDP growth will be in the range of 0.1-0.5 percent. Earlier, the State Bank of Pakistan, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund had predicted that economic growth will shrink by1.3-1.5 percent in the current fiscal year.

The minimal shock to the economy was made possible by avoiding complete lock down of the economy by the Prime Minister, while ignoring the suggestions of PML-N and PPP leadership. Labour intensive enterprises such as textiles, construction and agriculture have been allowed to resume operation with the condition to abide by the SOPs of social distancing and coronavirus testing of workers. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while speaking at BBC Television World New bulletin the other day, ridiculed the plan of smart lockdown of the federal government.

As far the demand of convening the session of the parliament, the government proposed virtual sessions of the legislature, which was a sane and safe proposal in the prevailing pandemic in which local transmission of the virus is on the rise. But opposition out-rightly rejected it; ignoring the fact that extraordinary situation necessitates extraordinary measure like calling virtual session of the parliament. Nafeesa Shah Critique appears to be linked with bail application rejection of PPP Senior leader Syed Khursheed Shah by the Sindh High Court Sukkar Bench in assets beyond source of income case the other day.