Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar’s remarks likening the deaths of coronavirus patients to fatalities in road accidents in Pakistan have not settled well with the opposition and his critics include his brother and PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair.
Umar made the comparison during a press conference last week. He said 4,000 people die in traffic accidents across the country each month, but that doesn’t stop the flow of traffic because it’s necessary.
Speaking with SAMAA TV’s anchor Nadeem Malik on Tuesday night, Zubair called his brother’s statement illogical.
“We have set certain protocols in traffic that prevent accidents. [The coronavirus] is increasing exponentially, but when it comes to traffic, I’m 99% sure of being safe if I’m driving safely,” he said. “I don’t agree with the logic. Both things cannot be compared.”
The PML-N leader, however, refrained from condemning Umar’s statement despite the anchorperson persistently asking him to do so.
PPP leader Palwasha Khan then weighed in rather aggressively. “You and I have our hands tied because the boat rowers are busy making a hole in our boat,” she told Malik.
“It’s a virus that spreads rapidly, how could you equate it with road accidents’?”
The PTI’s changing narratives on lockdowns
In 2014, Imran Khan, then the PTI chairperson, led a sit-in in Islamabad against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He demanded an inquiry commission be formed against Nawaz in the Panama leaks. The protest led to a lockdown in Islamabad.
Fast forward to 2020 and in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, PM Khan is reluctant to impose a lockdown despite increasing infections in the country. So why has the narrative on lockdowns changed now, the anchor asked PTI leader Sadaqat Abbasi.
Abbasi responded that in 2014 the PTI leadership hadn’t imposed a lockdown but only threatened to impose it. He said the PM doesn’t want its imposition because it cripples the economy and brings a massive financial burden on the poor.
“The reason we staged the sit-in in Islamabad was also for the poor, whose money those mafias had taken through corruption,” said Abbasi.
Who are the elites PM Khan is referring to?
Prime Minister Khan says the decision to place a country-wide lockdown was taken by “the elite” against the poor. Malik and Zubair asked Abbasi to elaborate who these entities are.
Abbasi argued that Sindh had gone into a lockdown but the decision did not bear any fruit. “What good did it bring? Right now, Sindh has the most cases of COVID-19.”
Zubair continued to criticise the PM’s remarks. He claimed the Sindh government announced a lockdown after taking the entire provincial leadership on board, including PTI leader and Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi.
“Their own leader okayed it and the military had also said it was ready to deploy troops in case a lockdown was agreed upon, then who are these elites?” he questioned.