PM for reviewing ‘extreme steps’ impacting economy Calls for end to transport ban; No coronavirus case was imported from China;


ISLAMABAD Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday stressed upon reviewing the “extreme steps” taken by the provinces to contain the spread of the coronavirus as these would “impact the economy drastically”. Addressing a parliamentary leaders’ conference in Islamabad, Imran called for the lifting of the ban on transport, saying it would badly affect the supply of essential items in the country. Imran Khan said that in the prevailing circumstances, national consensus and solidarity by all segments of society including political parties is needed to fight and win the war against coronavirus. “Gilgit-Baltistan is facing fuel shortage and yesterday, supply from the port was stopped due to the lockdown in Karachi and we had to take necessary steps in this regard,” the prime minister said. He added there was no precedence in the world of such a lockdown. “The federal government cannot do this alone; we have to have a national response to fight the epidemic,” the premier said. Requesting the political leadership of the country to give their in put and suggestions, the prime minister said, “We have a meeting of National Coordination Committee tomorrow where we will review the situation arising after the lockdown.” “There are multiple levels of lockdown and a curfew is the last stage,” the premier said, adding that his concern was the poor section of the society which will bear the brunt of such measures. “Sindh was the first province which announced it is imposing a lockdown and then under pressure from the media, all the other provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir followed suit,” said the premier. Addressing the Taftan controversy, Imran said the army and Balochistan government made great efforts in taking care of pilgrims coming from Iran. Iran could not deal with the situation and then brought our nationals to the border, leaving us with no option but to allow them back into the country, he said. The prime minister added, “Our decision to not evacuate students from Wuhan proved right. We received criticism from everyone but you see, there is no case of coronavirus from China.” “We must not take decisions under fear,” he said. “We have to win the fight against coronavirus and we can do this together.” Imran Khan said that we have homegrown cases of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan and not a single case was imported from China. You would be happy to know, that till yesterday, only 153 cases were of local transmission and the rest were people who entered the country from abroad.” Reiterating that the biggest challenge during a lockdown would be to ensure the well-being of daily wagers and those living below the poverty line, the prime minister said the federal government will “reassess and discuss and come up with solutions”. “Even in the western world, there is a debate on whether coronavirus comes first or the economy.” He added that the government would again review the situation on Thursday and if a curfew needs to be imposed in the country in the coming days, the government should be prepared for it. The premier also requested national leaders to unite in their mission to combat the deadly coronavirus. “Only the people can fight this war, no government can,” said the premier and urged people to take appropriate precautions. Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari walked out of the conference, citing the absence of the premier, who had left the session after a brief appearance. “Is this his level of seriousness? He did not think it important to participate in the full session,” remarked Shahbaz. “The country is faced with the worst calamity in history and the premier is absent.” “If this is his level of seriousness, we too will not participate in the session,” said Shahbaz. He regretted that the premier “does not even realise that the session was meant to be a consultative one”. “We did not have political designs in coming here. We wanted to sit down to debate on how we can save the country together.” Other members of the PPP and PML-N, however, continued their participation in the session. Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser had called the meeting last week, inviting parliamentary leaders to parliament house for an in-camera briefing on the impacts of Covid-19. Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health and Director General National Disaster Management Authority had been invited to attend the meeting to brief the parliamentary leaders. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, reacting to the walkout of Pakistan Muslim League-N president Shehbaz Sharif said that the leader of opposition in National Assembly’s move is beyond comprehension. Briefing the participants, he requested Shahbaz Sharif to review his decision after he walked out of an important meeting that was held on the increasing cases of coronavirus in Pakistan.