Apr 15, 2020

Coronavirus: Sindh Lockdown Sabotaged?


A group of civil society activists from the Sindh province of Pakistan are criticising the federal government for sabotaging the provincial lockdown policy, posing serious risks to the health, lives and livelihoods of the province’s residents. Going against the measures of the local Sindh government, roads were reopened and the federal government facilitated the return of overseas pakistanis without any quarantine or isolation measures. This antagonistic attitude of the national government has not only increased health risks for the Sindh people, but also revived a sense of alienation, deprivation and unconstitutional domination.

Below is an article published by the News.

Showing their dismay over what they called "undermining role" of the federal government during the COVID-19 crisis in Sindh, a group of civil society activists from the province said on Monday that the federal government’s acts of "sabotaging" the lockdown policy and other steps of the provincial government might pose a serious risk to the health, lives and livelihood of the province's residents.

In a joint statement, the civil society activists appreciated the Sindh government, particularly Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, for taking timely and effective steps to contain the spread of coronavirus since its onset.

“It is starkly evident that Prime Minister Imran Khan consciously and deliberately opposed all efforts taken by the Sindh government, and facilitated return of overseas Pakistanis, including pilgrims from Iran and other places, without any quarantine or isolation measures at immigration points, which have now created a serious threat to the people of Pakistan in general and Sindh in particular,” they said in a statement.

Amid severe crises from the pandemic when the nation needed unity at the national level, it was very disappointing that the federal government had not only been undermining the executive authority of the province, but also encroaching on the provincial affairs against the interests of the province, such as ordering law enforcement agencies at the disposal of the provincial government to open roads in violation of the lockdown in a brazen violation of Article 148(2) of the constitution, they said.

“This antagonistic attitude of the federal government has revived a sense of alienation among the people of Sindh. People of Sindh for the first time after the MRD movement have felt an acute sense of alienation, deprivation and unconstitutional domination by the federal government,” the statement said.

“We strongly feel that it is not an appropriate time to widen the gap between the federation and provinces. [The] Prime Minister should rather come forward to forge much needed national unity and offer every possible support to all provinces, allowing them to work for saving precious lives of people with complete authority within the ambit of the Constitution.”

The civil society activists also urged the Sindh government to converge all its energies, resources and efforts to confront the twin menace of COVID-19 and poverty within the province.

“All measures should be employed to secure lives of all frontline soldiers, including doctors, health assistant, nurses, lady health workers, sanitary workers, and police by providing them all required PPEs and other support,” they said.

“At the same time, the Sindh government also needs to adopt a comprehensive mechanism for ration distribution from district to union council level to assuage miseries of masses amid a prolonged yet much needed lockdown.

It also needs to be more transparent with inclusion of representation of a range of stakeholders in district committees so that maximum support reaches the masses facing hardship due to lockdown.

“We also urge the Sindh government to pay special attention to Hyderabad city following the pattern of Karachi and Sukkur. In order to monitor the cases and spread of COVID-19, Hyderabad district also needs to replicate the same centralised monitoring and response mechanism.”

Anis Haroon, Noor Ul Huda Shah, Ahmed Shah, Asad Iqbal Butt, Karamat Ali, Jami Chandio, Naseer Memon, Dr Prof Arfana Mallah, Dr Prof Fahmida Hussain, Ayoob Sheikh, Hoori Noorani, Amar Sindhu, Imdad Hussaini, Dr Prof Touseef Ahmed Khan, Dr Prof Riaz Shaikh and Imdad Chandio were prominent among the 55 civil society activists, who issued the joint statement.