ISLAMABAD, Jun 03 (APP):Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Wednesday appealed to the people to strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to contain the rising cases of coronavirus or else the government would have no option but to enforce the lockdown again. The majority of people were not adopting precautionary measures after easing of restrictions, he regretted while addressing a news conference here flanked with Parliamentary Secretary for Railways Farrukh Habib. The minister said the restrictions were lifted to provide livelihood opportunities to the weaker segments of the society, who had to work daily to feed their children. The government had provided to provide financial support to the disadvantaged segments through various initiatives under the Ehsaas Programme. Shibli Faraz said the government was pursuing an organized and coordinated strategy to control the spread of pandemic and that was the reason the coronavirus cases were far less than the earlier estimates and the countries of the region. He said the objective behind relaxing the restrictions was to save the poor from starvation and keep the wheels of economy moving, which the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had inherited in a very bad condition. Though the government was able to stabilize the economy but it was again hit badly due to the lockdown imposed in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, he added. Stressing upon the importance of precautionary measures, he said that they protected the people from the pandemic like an umbrella which gave protection from rain. He expressed condolences on behalf of the government and Prime Minister Imran Khan to the families of victims of coronavirus, including legislators belonging to both sides of the political divide. About the locusts attack, Shibli Faraz said all the relevant government departments were working in close coordination to address the issue. He said like COVID-19, a well thought out strategy was being followed to make the fight against the locust swarms successful. The National Locust Control Cell had been established to tackle the issue in coordination of all the stakeholders, and by June 10, 15 planes would be available for spray of pesticides in the locust-hit areas. Referring to the political situation in the country and the opposition outcry of victimization, the minister dispelled the impression being given by the political opponents, especially the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders. PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif did not attend the National Assembly session summoned on his own demand and skipped the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) hearing for fear of the coronavirus but personally went to the Lahore High Court for seeking bail. Shehbaz Sharif, he said, was the guarantor when Nawaz Sharif was permitted to go to England for medical treatment and he should now be questioned as to why his elder brother was absconding, who was seen roaming in London. The PML-N was trying to befool the masses by raising slogans of victimization but the people of Pakistan fully knew that those, who had properties and families abroad, could not be their well wishers. Making it clear that the accountability process would go continue as it was the motto of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said the future belonged to only those parties who believed in serving the
public, and not looting and plundering the national wealth like the past rulers.
Shibli Faraz assured that action would be taken against the mafias who held the country’s economy hostage for their own vested interests.
Replying to media persons’ questions, the information minister said the government was considering to approach the courts for return of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, who had gone to London on the basis of a Rs 50 stamp paper, and to question Shehbaz Sharif, who was the guarantor in the case, about the whereabouts of his elder brother.
He opined that the PML-N was divided into various factions. The pictures from London, which had gone viral, showed that the elder Sharif was active and could return to Pakistan any time, and it might be a message for Leader of the Opposition (younger Sharif).
He alleged that Shehbaz Sharif would pose himself like a warier, who had conquered Kashmir, while he was hiding from the National Accountability Court. It was under consideration to place his name of the Exit Control List as sufficient evidence of his wrongdoings was available and he could be arrested any time, he added.
It might be Shehbaz’s desire to go abroad but he would not be allowed to do so, for which all the legal formalities would be fulfilled, the minister said.
To a question on the possibility of the government now going tough against the violation of SOPs and precautionary measures, he said there would certainly be strictness now in that regard The shopping centres’ administration, shopkeepers and transporters would be held responsible if the related SOPs were not complied with strictly, he warned.
The general public was still taking the virus threat lightly though people from all segments of the society had already been affected by it, he added.
About Shehbaz Sharif’s skipping of NAB raid, he said he could not comment on how he got the clue of the activity in advance and that question should be asked from the Bureau.
The minister said transparency was ensured in giving away cash to the lockdown affected families and so far over Rs 112 billion had been distributed.
To another question, he contended that all and sundry had witnessed that how the opposition pushed for holding the National Assembly (NA) and Senate sessions, but their leadership stayed away fearing for their lives, leaving their party legislators at the mercy of virus.
He alleged that the opposition had been holding the legislatures hostage instead of playing their due role for legislation in the interest of masses. They only wanted to make issues and seek production of their jailed leaders, while their leadership preferred to stay way. Now they were trying to make the NA speaker controversial in relation to the production orders, which was totally unjustified, he added.
The minister said those, who had looted the national wealth and plundered the institutions, were roaming free and would appreciate a court judgement if it was in their favour or else they would criticizing the judiciary.
He rejected the opposition’s allegation of political victimization in the name of accountability. When the PTI ministers, including Azam Swati, Babar Awan, Aleem Khan and Sibtain Khan, faced allegations, they stepped down to clear their names, he added.
The minister said gone were the days when the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N leaders used to cover up wrongdoings of one another and now they were upset over the ongoing accountability as they would not go scot free.
He remarked that the government believed in transparency unlike the previous ruling parties whose leaders would even draw salaries of their personal drivers and cooks from the national exchequer.
He said the mechanism for transparency in giving away advertisements to regional newspapers was being finalized and in that context he would have a meeting with the stakeholders towards the end of current week. He strongly believed that the regional press was important part of the national media and it would be given its due share in the government advertisements, he added.