Covid: Govt-people cooperation essential

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MINISTER for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhary has a point when he says the government was doing everything it could to check the spread of Corona Virus and that public at large should also extend necessary cooperation in this regard.

At a news conference on Tuesday after a meeting of Federal Cabinet, he argued that government has deployed troops and even went to the extent of arresting one of the top police officials for violating SOPs yet everything should not be done by force.

There is no doubt that government is followng an all-encompassing approach to contain the virus but key to success is voluntary implementation of necessary precautions by all segments of the society.

Government is taking measures on a day-to-day basis as per fast changing ground situation and cooperation of the people can help make a difference.

As part of precautionary measures, it announced a new set of restrictions on Tuesday, including a blanket ban on tourism and inter-provincial transport, in an attempt to contain a further rise in already mounting Corona Virus cases during upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.

According to Ministry of Interior, fresh restrictions also include closure of all tourist resorts, hotels, restaurants, shopping centres, parks, beaches and other public places from May 8 to 16.

Travel nodes leading to tourist destinations, particularly scenic valleys of Murree, Swat and northern Gilgit-Baltistan region that attract hundreds of thousands of tourists from across the country during Eid holidays, will also remain closed during the said period but understandably the ban would not apply on residents of GB who will be allowed to travel to their hometowns.

As government has taken necessary measures, we hope citizens would listen to the warning of office-bearers of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) who fear that ‘if we do not take appropriate measures, the number of cases and deaths could increase and pleasures of Eid could turn pale’.

The pace of vaccination has not picked up and with this in view the PMA has asked people to get themselves vaccinated at the earliest by registering themselves with the immunisation system, and advised government to increase the number of vaccination centres in the country.

Though the target of 70 million people that government has fixed for immunisation by year end is itself modest in view of the 220 million population of the country, even this target is unlikely to be achieved if supplies were not beefed up and people persuaded to go for vaccination.

As for Cabinet discussions on critical issue of mounting circular debt, it is alarming to know that it will increase to Rs1.5 trillion by 2023 owing to capacity payment charges as consequent to an addition of 40 to 50 percent surplus electricity by the previous government.

This is a classic example of bad planning and inability of successive governments to resolve problems of power sector on a sound basis.

Regrettably, the country, its economy and people of Pakistan suffered immensely due to power shortages and outages for a considerable long time but now the country is finding it difficult to consume electricity produced by all public and private sector plants.

It is unfortunate that instead of addressing root causes of the power sector woes i.e. theft and line losses, government is coming out with a novel idea of purchasing 11 private sector IPPs to save Rs60 billion, which was being paid to them on account of capacity charges besides deciding to close down government-owned inefficient power plants by September next year.

The Government needs to do this after minutely considering all pros and cons of the move, otherwise the country would plunge into same kind of crisis as witnessed in the case of wheat that was allowed to be exported without proper consideration of domestic requirements and then forced to import it to meet shortages.

We have invested heavily on making the country surplus in electricity and closure of eleven IPPs could prove to be a retrogressive measure.

As for introduction of e-voting and right of vote for overseas Pakistan, it is appreciable that government is seeking Opposition cooperation and input on these important issues so that a consensus is evolved on much-delayed electoral reforms.