PM pleads for smart lockdown instead of shutdown
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday said the government was considering the option of imposing a smart lockdown in the country to wisely provide relief to the labour class, daily wagers and lower-middle strata of the society and protect the masses from the virus.
Speaking here at the Ehsaas Telethon, telecast live on the state-owned and private media, Imran Khan said imposition of a balanced and smart lockdown’ on the pattern of the Western countries would be an effective and viable option under the prevailing situation in the country. He explained that a smart lockdown was closing the areas, where there was outbreak.
Former cricketing greats, including Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis also called in the telethon to express their views and wished best of luck to the country and prime minister.
Senior journalists urged the prime minister to take ownership of the donations, as transparency had been his strength in the context of the SKMT. They also noted that the country was passing through the most testing times of its history and that the crisis should be viewed above any kind of division, as a nation.
However, the prime minister made it clear that an indefinite lockdown was not an option and any decision on a smart lockdown should be for all Pakistanis and not just the elite.
He insisted that they would have to live with the virus, as it was impossible to predict for how long it would persist. The prime minister maintained that even if the entirecountry was locked down, the virus could not be stopped. However, he sounded optimistic that unlike in the West and the US, the coronavirus cases would be lesser.
To a suggestion by a journalist that the government should also take along opposition leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari and Shahbaz Sharif, at this critical juncture, the prime minister remarked, “If I take them along, then the donations will drop”. He also said fund-raising was not a T-20 match, as none could predict what would be the situation after two weeks or two months.
He emphasized that the largest Ehsaas Cash Relief Programme was completely transparent and digitalized, beyond political consideration or interference. He added that assistance had been sought from the FIA, ISI and the police to make the initiative totally transparent. He was hopeful that every segment of the society would contribute to the fund raising for the poor and vulnerable segments of the society.
The prime minister said in view of the present ratio of cases, they had space in hospitals to deal with cases till Mary 15-20 while President Trump had offered ventilators.
From day one, he said his biggest concern was the labourers, daily wagers, vendors and those living in katchi abadis in the backdrop of the lockdown. He said among other steps, the government was working on provision of relief to the SMEs.
So far, through telethons, a total of Rs2.76 billion has been collected, while in the Thursday’s telethon, Rs557.5 million was collected. Advising utmost precaution for protection against the coronavirus, the prime minister asked the nation to act responsibly in the prevailing challenging situation, as no government could overcome the pandemic alone.
“The government has not that much capacity to handle the situation alone rather the whole nation will have to take the responsibility. While going to the mosque, you must understand that it involves risk to your life and for others too,” he said.
The prime minister said coronavirus was a challenge to test any nation’s capability to stand up to it and hoped that Pakistan would rise as a greater nation after sailing through the ordeal.
He said the economic impact of the pandemic would increase in future, as people would exhaust their savings and need support. In such a scenario, the nation would have to face the situation collectively, he added.
He said after scraping, the government had announced Rs144 billion Ehsaas Emergency Cash Scheme to support around 12 million families in a transparent and apolitical manner. He advised the people not to fall prey to any misunderstanding or notions of stronger immunity among the Pakistanis against the virus rather take all the precautions advised by the doctors.
He said before launching the fund-raising, the government had completed its financial controls to ensure that the donated money was spent transparently. He said the government had already started reopening some industries and the donations would help support the people until they resume their earnings.
To a question, the prime minister reiterated his stance that there could be no lockdown or even social distancing in the slums like Machhar Colony or Liyari areas of Karachi where multiple family members shared a single room and also lacked clean water.
The prime minister said perceiving the nation’s mindset of preferring to pray at mosques, particularly during the holy month of Ramazan, the government agreed upon 20-point guidelines with the religious scholars who now owed responsibility for its true implementation.
However, he advised the people to prefer praying at home during the holy month as other Muslim countries had not allowed prayer congregations. He agreed that the reopening of businesses would increase the risk for coronavirus transmission, but the government would adopt track and trace method to contain the diseases.
He said the government was expecting the coronavirus cases to reach around 15,000 by next week and the second half of May could be difficult when the hospitals could face pressure.
To a question, the prime minister assured the donors that their donations would be spent transparently as the government had established a complete database of the needy people and had also de-listed around 0.8 million non-entitled ones.
He said all the government agencies, including the Federal Investigation Agency, police and Inter Services Intelligence, were engaged under the Ehsaas Progamme to detect and apprehend any corrupt elements.
The main chunk of the cash scheme went to the opposition-led Sindh province which was ample to manifest its apolitical execution, he added. The prime minister said so far, it was the poor class that was bearing the brunt of the situation and the affluent class should come forward to give out to the country in need of the hour.
He said the government was alive to the difficulties being faced by the overseas Pakistanis and was deliberating a strategy for their repatriation which was linked with sufficient quarantine facilities.
The transmission was concluded with the special prayer by Maulana Taiq Jameel, who also advised the people to recite supplications like Ayat Kareema to seek Allah Almighty’s forgiveness and blessings in the distressing situation.