ISLAMABAD - The special session of National Assembly summoned to debate the coronavirus [COVID-19] crisis on Monday saw political tension between the government and opposition on how the pandemic has been dealt with in different parts of the country.

Though members from government and opposition expressed willingness to jointly

 win the war against coronavirus, they did not refrain from targeting each other in their speeches.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, kept instructing the members to wear masks and keep social distance with each other to save themselves. Meanwhile, the house echoed with slogans during the speeches of members from both sides.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi, opening the debate, said that coronavirus would be defeated with mutual efforts of all the provinces. “We have to play the Pakistan card to defeat this war, as provinces need to avoid prejudice in this crisis situation,” he said and feared that the peak of the virus had yet to come in Pakistan.

He said that the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity stands at 20,000, and is increasing with the passage of time.  Supporting the policy of relaxing lockdown, he said that they had to take care of poor people of society. “The idea of relaxing lockdown went in favour of large number of people living below the poverty line,” he argued.

 

“In case the loss of lives in Smart Lockdown increases, then they have the option to review the decision,” he remarked.

 

About 18th amendment, he said that PPP in Sindh was responsible for the health sector, going on to criticise the lockdown policy of Sindh.

 

 

He further said that the impression that Sindh has been abused or neglected is completely wrong; the relief program has been started in all the provinces according to their share.

 

He claimed that the Sindh government was given the highest number of protective clothes in proportion to its medical staff. He said there was need to stand united to fight the pandemic. He said that Rs75 billion has been allocated for the unemployed, while relief has been given to all the provinces in electricity bills.

 

Qureshi also deplored the fact that Modi’s RSS government in India is holding Muslims responsible for the spread of coronavirus and Pakistan condemns the Hindutva mindset.

 

PML-N’s parliamentary leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif criticised the government for alleged political victimisation during the COVID-19 crisis. Opposition leaders were arrested during the outbreak and no leaders were released to send a positive message to the opposition.

 

Asif said that the Foreign Minister had called for national unity but how could the nation stand united when the opposition leaders were arrested in the name of accountability.

 

He was of the view that the government was directionless and the Prime Minister was a following a policy of vengeance.

 

He said the government itself had admitted that 78 percent of the infections came to the country due to return of Zaireen from Iran, and as such the government had failed to take precautionary measures.

 

He lauded Sindh and Gilgit Baltistan governments for tackling the deadly virus.

 

The PML-N senior leader remarked that the peak of coronavirus was yet to arrive but the government had already decided to ease restrictions.

 

 

PPP-P’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari paid tributes to the doctors and paramedics for fighting the virus on the frontlines. He pointed out the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan and criticised him for not attending the National Assembly session on such an important matter.

 

“It was a part of his job to remain present in the House as leader of the House,” he said and offered cooperation to the federal government in joint battle against coronavirus.

 

“Sindh government is ready to frame Confidence Building Measures (CBMs),” he said, adding that making political statements against provinces would expose the fault-lines of the federation and blaming provinces in this war against coronavirus would undermine the national unity. He blamed federal government for not signing the Sindh Relief Ordinance and demanded immediate signing of the law.

 

Bilawal said that he did not want to enter into an argument with federal government on issues of the NFC Award and the 18th Amendment as he wanted to forge unity in fight against the pandemic. He said that the PPP was ready to hold talks on all forums to jointly take the fight against pandemic to the next level.                

 

PPP-P’s chairman, amid desk thumping from opposition, said that Imran Khan should have acted as Prime Minister of the country and not as the PTI Prime Minister.

 

He admitted that Pakistan’s testing capacity is the greatest in the region, even better than India and Bangladesh, and its credit went to provincial governments. He said Sindh government had increased its capacity to 5000 tests but added that the federal government didn’t fulfill its commitment of providing resources to Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

 

Bilawal asked the federal government to provide resources to its provinces and its doctors and paramedics. He said that doctors were going on strike due to non-provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

 

The opposition members after the speech of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari left the house, which was criticised by Murad Saeed in his speech.

 

Earlier, Minister for Commerce Hammad Azhar said that smart lockdown was being adopted in modern world and it may be a new phenomenon for the opposition leadership. He said that opening of lockdown was based on the Gallup survey data about how poor were suffering from the lockdown.