THE interaction of the Prime Minister with the people in a live question-answer session through telephone on Sunday reflected once again his deep commitment to the welfare agenda his Government has long been promising to the people of Pakistan.
He spoke against lock-down in Sindh in view of economic and financial woes of the people as well as the country; made known plans of the Government to alleviate poverty through targeted subsidies; vowed to eradicate corruption, expressed determination to focus on promotion of sports in the last two years of his tenure; and dilated upon the need for electoral reforms to take care of the unending culture of stigmatizing the electoral process on the plea of rigging.
The idea of live interaction is aimed at affording an opportunity to the chief executive of the country to have firsthand knowledge of problems and difficulties of the citizens as well as their perception about performance of the Government.
Together with the PM’s complaint portal, it also serves as deterrence against bad governance and otherwise careless attitude of the bureaucracy.
Things would surely improve if the issues highlighted by the people form the basis for proper review of the performance and delivery of the Government and therefore, the exercise needs to be followed up in terms of provision of relief to the aggrieved and implementation of the directives of the Prime Minister.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister dwelt at length on the issue of lock-down in Sindh and his posture was in line with the stand he took all along ever since the beginning of the pandemic.
He advised the Sindh Government against the lock-down, saying hungry people cannot be forced to go under a complete lockdown.
He called for partial lock-down in areas of virus concentration, action against violators of SOPs and favoured closure of schools until students and teachers are vaccinated.
This is a plausible approach as the research so far carried out by medical experts around the globe indicates greater degree of effectiveness of the vaccination against the spread of the virus.
There is no shortage of vaccines in the country and now it is for the citizens to cooperate and get themselves vaccinated to stay safe.
However, the war of words between the federal and the provincial government on the issue of lock-down is unfortunate as the plan was discussed at the forum of NCOC and a consensus decision should have been taken there rather than trading barbs.
Responding to a question, Imran Khan said the Ehsaas Program is being expanded and data of the entire Pakistan has been compiled for the purpose and direct subsidy would be provided to 40 percent people by December this year.
Only fuller details of the programme and its actual implementation would give an idea about its efficacy and contribution to the cause of poverty alleviation as much depends on the quantum and nature of the subsidy to be provided to the targeted families.
No amount of subsidy can counter the negative effects of the sky-rocketing prices of almost all items and services but even if the poor families get the necessary support, what about the middle class that too has badly been affected and forced to compromise on the quality of the life.
The sure way to provide relief to the masses is to take tangible measures to arrest the inflation, which is triggered mostly by actions and policies of the Government.
Similarly, it is also a misnomer that a country’s economy is devastated not when there is corruption at the lower levels, but when the nation’s prime minister and ministers are involved in the menace.
Of course, corruption gets breeding ground in case of its prevalence at the upper levels but the economy is ruined and people are wronged because of corruption at the lower levels.
This, in other words, is an admission on the part of the Government about its inability to curb corruption from the society.
The Prime Minister deserves credit for taking up the plight of Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia with the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom during his recent visit to Pakistan and securing a commitment for resolution of the problem as thousands are unable to resume their work because of Covid-related restrictions.
It is now for our Foreign Office and embassy in Riyadh to pursue the matter further on a top priority basis because of its significance for families and the overall economy of the country.