Islamabad, April 16, 2010: After the House Business Advisory Committee of the Senate, the PPP Parliamentary Leader, Sherry Rehman urged going forward with making the rules and arrangements for an online session as well as the regular session of standing committees. She said that Parliament’s urgent role of scrutinizing government, authorizing spending, making laws, and providing leadership during difficult times must be upheld. She said, “while Pakistan faces a risk of increased cases and casualties, the federal government’s decision-making, effectiveness of lockdowns as well as its health and economic policies remain questionable. The need for a consensus on effectively managing this state of emergency is greater than ever. The Senate of Pakistan, while ensuring no province is left behind in the decision-making process, needs to advocate for unity and cohesion to cope with this pandemic in the best interest for the public of Pakistan”.
“The Senate has to urgently address five big issues related to the Corona crisis. The federal government must look towards coordinating and aligning policies across the board. A coherent strategy among all provinces is the need of the hour to tackle and contain the growing COVID-19 challenge. A provincial government or a city alone cannot stamp out this deadly contagion. Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, has also called for a unified strategy between the center and all provinces to combat the rising threat of the pandemic. This is the time for national unity where all provinces must be on the same page. As of now, the entire federal response is based on federal point-scoring politics vs Sindh”, she added. “We need to fight Corona, not each other”
“Secondly, health infrastructure deficits must be discussed in what we see is a daily evolving situation. Parliamentary committees must not function without data. Even civil society has questions about our capacity to protect the frontline. Discord on numbers, management over testing, provision of protective gear to doctors and health workers, all must be our priority.” the Senator added.
“Thirdly, we must face down the challenges our most vulnerable communities face, without exposing them to the life-threatening virus. Like most countries, Pakistan is facing key issues of charting a consensus-based policy which creates a workable balance between protecting lives while managing a lifeline to livelihoods, with huge impacts for the informal sector, daily wage-labour and SMEs. So far, the government has shown a disregard for the federal system by ignoring the views of political parties that run a province. Changing the name of the Benazir Income Support Program into the Ehsaas program has left a bad taste in the mouth of those who advocate maturity.The design, delivery and even branding of social protection packages driven by federal and provincial governments, including public philanthropy and state relief in terms of ration-delivery to vulnerable households has raised several issues that should have been directed through parliament”.
The fourth issue Rehman raised was about broad human security. Pointing to the UN’s alarming warnings about food security for developing countries, the Senator said, “Containment-driven lockdowns have raised acute concerns for Pakistan’s rural economy, while cities have already registered “epicentre” transmission concerns for provincial governments. The dangers to lives and public order are grave. The supply chains have to be well managed and monitored. For a country with one of the highest levels of water usage-per capita in the world, impacts on water and food security, as well as availability of sanitizing potable water and low-cost soap compounds at key community points have to be made on urgent basis”.
Fifth, she asked for transparency on resource-allocations by adding that out that, “rising worries about Pakistan’s mushrooming public debt continue to surface, while alarming multilateral predictions of negative growth are surfacing for contracting economies, where resources are too stretched to provide stimulus packages across the board. Terms of renegotiating Pakistan’s rising debt with the IMF are key concerns to us, especially after red flags raised by the World Bank point to serious downturns in projected growth. Given that Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities stand at Rs 41 trillion, which is almost 94 % of the country’s GDP, the magnitude and gravity of public finances merits a clear need of scrutiny”.
While concluding Senator Rehman said, “The risk to Pakistan is compounded by rising tensions in the region. What is worrying is the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan, particularly with Indian shelling on the Line of Control, and PM Modi’s exclusionary policies as well as his unacceptable abuse of population in IOK, where risk of disease is clearly high with no transparency or access to fundamental rights”.