Debate on 18 Amendment an attempt to cover govt's incompetence: Kaira

PM, his cabinet will be held responsible if coronavirus situation worsens, says PPP leader

By: INP      Published: 01:47 AM, 6 May, 2020
Debate on 18 Amendment an attempt to cover govt's incompetence: Kaira
PPP Central Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira.–File photo

Pakistan People’s Party Central Punjab President Qamar Zaman Kaira has said the prime minister and his cabinet will be held responsible if the coronavirus situation worsens in the coming days.

Addressing a press conference after a video-link meeting of the PPP Lahore Division (Rural) at the PPP Punjab Secretariat on Tuesday, Kaira said the federal government should release the full share of Punjab under the National Finance Commission (NFC). He was flanked by PPP Central Punjab General Secretary Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed and Information Secretary Syed Hassan Murtaza.

Kaira said a debate was going on about a lack of national consensus on the coronavirus crisis. He said it was the responsibility of the federal government, not the opposition political parties, to develop a national consensus on the crisis triggered by the global pandemic, but the government failed miserably to build this consensus.

In the beginning of the crisis, he said, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto had offered the federal government his full cooperation to develop a national consensus on the issue, but the federal government did not respond positively.

The PPP leader said that coronavirus could only be defeated through mutual cooperation and consensus. If the situation worsens across the country, the prime minister and his cabinet would be held responsible, he warned. The Sindh government consulted all stakeholders on the crisis, he said.

Kaira said the Punjab government, which was already suffering from financial difficulties, had not been able to meet its tax collection targets therefore it had to cut its development, health, education and welfare budget. In the coronavirus crisis, he said, the federal government did not give a single rupee to Sindh and it did not extend any help to Punjab either. No safety gear was provided to doctors who were being described as front line soldiers in the war against coronavirus, he said.

The Sindh government had proposed a complete lockdown in the first 15 days and all provinces of the country followed in the footsteps of the Sindh government, he said. The PPP Central Punjab president noted there was always room for amendments to the constitution for improvement but no compromise would be made on fundamental human rights and the financial and administrative powers of the provinces. He said the federal government should release the full share of the provinces under the NFC so that they could deal with coronavirus in a better way.

He alleged that the government had announced a package of Rs1,240 billion, but not a single penny was given to the provinces. Quoting figures, the PPP leader said, “We sought an explanation in this regard, but did not get any reply. Punjab had to receive Rs1,601 billion, but got Rs1,046 billion. The remaining amount is the shortfall. Punjab set a tax collection target of Rs284 billion, but collected only Rs154 billion. The Rs693 billion debt increased to Rs943 billion and Rs63 billion of this amount was interest. Budgets for various departments in Punjab have been cut,” he said.

Kaira said that now the 18th Amendment is part of the constitution and parliament is the forum to debate it. The government has raised the issue of the 18th Amendment to hide its incompetence in handling the coronavirus crisis.

Criticising Prime Minister Imran Khan’s policies, Kaira warned that coronavirus could not be dealt with this mindset and policy. He maintained that the federal and the Punjab government failed to give a national response to the coronavirus crisis. The government is making matters controversial rather than building national consensus on them, he said. The government has stirred a debate on the 18th Amendment just to hide its incompetence in dealing with the prevailing situation, he said.