Sindh, Balochistan blame federal govt as virus gains foothold in Pakistan

Murtaza Wahab and Dr Zafar Mirza come up with different number of virus infections

By: Maqbool Ahmad      Published: 03:05 AM, 17 Mar, 2020
Sindh, Balochistan blame federal govt as virus gains foothold in Pakistan
Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza (left) and Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal attend a press conference.–File photo

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the country, political differences among the key players – the federal government, Sindh government and Balochistan government – are becoming more visible.

Though the Sindh government and the federal government coordinated with each other on the new coronavirus cases surfacing in the country for the initial few days, they came up with different figures of new infections on Monday.

At 9:33pm on Monday, Barrister Murtaza Wahab, spokesperson for the Sindh government, tweeted that the number of coronavirus cases in the province had increased to 146, with detection of some new cases in Sukkur among the pilgrims who returned from Iran via the Taftan border.

Even less than an hour later, Dr Zafar Mirza, special assistant to the prime minister on health, told a news channel that the number of coronavirus patients in the country stood at 94 and there was no official confirmation of new infections anywhere in the country. He said the federal government had developed a centralised mechanism under which it would collect information about new coronavirus cases from every province on a daily basis and then release the numbers to the media.

Mirza said that people should look at these numbers in a “rational” way instead of getting panicked. He said that every infected person in Pakistan had a “travel history”. He said the National Command and Control Centre, which has been set up in line with the decision of the National Security Committee (NSC), would issue the number of coronavirus patients in the country on a daily basis. He said there would be chaos in the country if everyone would start issuing his own figures vis-à-vis coronavirus infections in the country.

Also on Monday evening, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah came up with charges against the federal government. He said the federal government had left the Balochistan government alone to deal with the coronavirus patients returning from Iran through Taftan border.

Speaking on a TV programme, Liaquat Shahwani, spokesperson for the Balochistan government, said the provincial government had sufficient number of virus testing kits and it was dealing with the infected people and suspected cases as per the Standard Operating Procedures set by the federal government.

To add to the confusion, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal told a news channel shortly later that his government did not have sufficient number of coronavirus testing kits despite the fact that it was handling a large number of infected pilgrims returning from Iran. He said the federal government had given Balochistan just 300 virus testing kits.