Centre, Sindh lock horns over lockdown

The Nation  |  Aug 01, 2021

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI - Authorities on Saturday imposed a partial lockdown across Sindh province including Karachi as per decision of the Sindh government I order to stop virus spread amid fourth-wave of the Covid-19.

All businesses except grocery, meat and vegetable shops and pharmacies remained closed. Inter-city transport was also off the road while light vehicles with strict adherence to SOPs were allowed to ply on roads only for vaccination purpose. The Sindh government Saturday evening announced to end ban on pillion riding besides allow public transport to ply, to facilitate people for vaccination.

Addressing a press conference in Karachi, Spokesman of Sindh government Murtaza Wahab said the lockdown will not be applicable to inter-provincial transport and airports. He said only those institutions will be allowed to work which get their employees vaccinated while the institutions violating the SOPs will be sealed for one month. 

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Amid wide criticism from opposition parties the Sindh government was forced to withdraw some of the restrictions notified a day before. “We have a written communication with them (centre) regarding the restrictions and they agreed over it besides also assuring that a NCOC notification asserting the provincial decisions will follow after lockdown announcement from the Sindh government,” he said. 

However, soon after we made an announcement, the federal government’s representatives started opposing the provincial decisions, he said.

 

Murtaza Wahab said that the provincial government after realising the issues faced by the Karachiites held a meeting early on Saturday with CM Sindh in the chair and decided to ease some restrictions to boost vaccination process. 

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He also announced to allow resumption of small public transport like taxi, cab, and rickshaw. He said that it was aimed at encouraging people to visit vaccination centres in their respective areas besides allowing buses and wagons to ply on road specially for traveling to vaccination centres. The spokesman further said that they would be allowing all sectors to operate while linking their operations with complete vaccination of their staffers. If violations are seen in any shop or establishment, it will be sealed for 30 days, warned Wahab, adding that the 30-day closure would start from August 9.

 

He said the same was the case with restaurants allowing indoor dining in contravention of the orders. The other ease in restrictions that followed his presser in the form of notification issued from the home department included exemption of milk shops, bakeries and carriage vehicles for dairy products from timing restrictions. Home delivery from restaurants as well as under E-commerce permitted round the clock, provided delivery personnel are fully vaccinated.

Elaine Thompson-Herah breaks Olympic record in women's 100 meters to win gold Industrial establishments/premises other than export-oriented industries and related with manufacture/production of essential services may also be made functional given all employees at the industries are fully vaccinated.

 

The spokesman said that the sole purpose of their efforts, including a plan to block mobile SIMs, was aimed at ensuring a maximum vaccination. “We have started receiving desired results and the province jabbed over 185,000 people in last 24 hours,” he said.

“Lockdown has begun today and people are turning up in large numbers at vaccination centres. We are also planning to establish more vaccination centres,” Wahab said.

‘Unilateral decision’ 

On the other hand, Federal Minister Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the Sindh government’s unilateral decision regarding complete lockdown in the province was unconstitutional and it will hit the economy hard.

KKH between Chilas, Gilgit remains blocked for all types of traffic Asking the Sindh government to revisit its coronavirus policy of complete lockdown in consultation with the federal government, he said Karachi was jugular vein of country’s economy and the decision would have adverse effects on country’s economy.

He was talking to a television channel after visiting the residence of senior anchorperson Ajmal Jami. He condoled with Jami the sad demise of the latter’s mother. The information minister was accompanied by Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib.

The information minister said decisions of the Sindh government to control coronavirus in the province had raised serious concerns, adding that complete lockdown in Karachi would hurt national economy and add to the miseries of the man in the street. He said a curfew-like situation in the country’s economic hub – Karachi – was unacceptable.

He asked the Sindh government to immediately lift the complete lockdown on the industrial sector, adding that the provincial government could not take unilateral decisions in the light of the Articles 149, 151 of the Constitution and the verdicts of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

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Fawad Chaudhry said the Sindh government could not ignore federal government and National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) directions, adding that no province had the right to introduce complete lockdown as the provinces were bound by law to follow the government policies in letter and spirit. 

He said that complete lockdown would badly impact the daily-wagers and labourers, adding that the industries, which had ensured 100 per cent vaccination of their workforce, should be exempted from the ban. “The situation would have been different had the Sindh government implemented the coronavirus SOPs,” he said, stressing that the federal government had been extending full cooperation to the provincial administrations to curb coronavirus in the country.  

 

The federal minister added that Pakistan had successfully dealt with the first three waves of the deadly virus through its smart lockdown policy, adding that there was no need to change the tried and tested strategy if it was successful in warding off Covid-19 pandemic in the country in the past. 

 

 

Fawad said people were concerned over the provincial government’s decisions particularly imposition of the total lockdown in Karachi to curb the rising Covid cases. In a video statement earlier, Fawad said Pakistan successfully fought the first three waves of the pandemic with the strategy (to save the lives and livelihoods) and that could not be changed. 

 

The closure of industry in Sindh, he said, would harm the economy and create employment problems. The industries whose 100 per cent workforce was vaccinated, should be reopened. The  minister opined the way the Sindh government was imposing sanctions would only add to the hardships of common people in the province. He said under Articles 149 and 151 of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court’s decision, the provincial governments could not take unilateral decisions, rather they were bound to implement the Federal Government’s guidelines and the NCOC’s strategy. The Sindh government should immediately open industries, and not pressurise traders and daily wage earners, he added.

‘Representatives power hungry Sindh government’ 

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib Saturday asked the Sindh government to follow national decisions taken through the forum of National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) to curb coronavirus, instead of making unilateral decisions to impose lockdown in the province. 

 

In a tweet, he said the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) by doing bad governance in the Sindh had closed down the industries and deprived people of employment. He said Sindh was having the lowest compliance of pandemic-related standard operating procedures (SOPs). The representatives of power hungry Sindh government had nothing to do with the hardships of working class and labourers, he added.

‘Economic heart of Pakistan’

Meanwhile, Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar on Saturday said the Sindh government should focus on SOP’s implementation and targeted interventions in high risk settings to control the COVID spread in Karachi.  A blanket lockdown in the economic heart of Pakistan would endanger livelihoods of millions, he tweeted.

Federally Administered Sectors in Sindh 

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday announced that the Federally Administered Sectors would continue to operate in accordance with the pre-determined standard operating procedures (SOPs) as Sindh government imposed restrictions on various sectors to break disease cycle prevailing in the province.

The Sindh government has imposed various restrictions from July 31 to August 8 in view of the growing prevalence of COVID-19 pandemic, the Forum said.

In addition to the exemptions given to some sectors in the notification issued by the Sindh Government, the following Federally Administered Sectors would also continue to operate in accordance with the pre-determined SOPs. “Aerial or flight operations will continue as usual in accordance with pre-determined SOPs. Railways will continue its operation with 70% passengers,” the Forum decided. However, the Forum also directed instructions to minimize the number of staff in Federally Administered Offices and perform their duties as per COVID-19 SOPs. Pakistan Stock Exchange and related services would continue to operate as usual, the Forum announced.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Planning and Chief of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Asad Umar, has asked the Sindh government to review closure of industry and transport as a strategy to tackle Covid-19 spread in the province.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday, he hoped that the provincial government would agree for more consultations over the decisions taken by it on Friday, in the upcoming NCOC meeting.

He was of the view that all the stakeholders would be able to devise a new strategy backed by all the pillars of state to secure life and employment of the people of the province.

He said that the NCOC was a non-political forum and has nothing to do with country’s politics. “All the decisions are taken [by the NCOC] in best interest of the nation,” he added. Asad Umar in a series of tweets said that the stance of Sindh province needs to be amended.

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