LAHORE - The Multiple Parties Conference called by the Opposition parties on Tuesday demanded formulation of a National Action Plan after due consultation with the opposition to cope with the coronavirus challenges.

The MPC was co-hosted by Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The leadership of mainstream opposition political parties also participated in the conference through video link.

The MPC primarily demanded the constitution of a National Task Force having due representation of the opposition parties to oversee the process of coronavirus response.  It also suggested convening meetings of Council of Common Interest (CCI) on a daily basis.  It asked the government to form Crisis Management Committees at all levels, from the provinces to the Local Bodies tier, to manage the ravages of this unprecedented risk to Pakistan and all humanity. Local bodies should be used for outreach besides streamlining philanthropic and volunteer efforts.

The MPC further demanded a countrywide lockdown coupled with expanded capacity for testing, beds, ventilators, ICU facilities, PPEs, and isolation centers. It called for immediate steps to give daily-wagers, small businesses and all vulnerable groups’ real relief, not just token announcements made too little, too late. This, they agreed will only be made possible by making timely, coordinated policy in consultation with all provinces.

The meeting also urged to pay all the dues of media on urgent basis so that they can effectively play their role as fourth pillar of the state. Earlier, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly demanded implementation of a financial emergency, reducing the policy rate by at least four percent and interest payments to create a fiscal space to provide financial relief to vulnerable segments of the country.

“We are all together, irrespective of political affiliations, in the fight against the pandemic of coronavirus, and it will be a sin to bring politics into a national cause to protect our people from the scourge of COVID19,” Shehbaz Sharif said while addressing a press conference.

Supporting Punjab government’s step to enforce a partial lockdown, he urged calling armed forces to augment the efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus. He demanded reducing the price of oil to Rs 70 per liter, which will reduce the cost of inflation and provide immediate relief to the people.

He urged the government that the welfare funds of federal agencies like Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI) should be used to solve the financial problems of Pakistanis. He called upon the government to include an additional three million women in the BISP and the poverty score should be raised to bring down the poverty line. Also, he proposed that those involved in the program should be paid with Easypaisa so that the banks are not crowded and immediate distribution is initiated. He proposed to double the salaries of all doctors, nurses and health workers in provincial and federal employment immediately.

In households whose electricity bill is less than Rs 5,000 per month, he said that the government should take the responsibility to pay the children’s school fees.