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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly was informed on Thursday that the world institutions are hailing the relief packages announced by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for different segments of the society during these testing times.

Participating in the debate, Parliamentary Secretary for Textile, Commerce, Industries and Production Aliya Hamza on Thursday informed this to the Lower House of the Parliament, and said that the secretary general of the United Nations and the international media had also appreciated Pakistan's relief package announced to provide assistance to the poor during this difficult time.

She said that due to Prime Minister Imran Khan's debt relief call, the loans of developing countries were being deferred. Hamza claimed that sugar and flour crises had badly affected the country during the governments of the PPP and the PML-N.

She said that it was unfortunate that the PML-N and the PPP had not constituted any commission to probe different crises during their tenures.

Hamza said that credit for setting up the commission to probe sugar and flour crises went to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

About the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), she said that soon after assuming the government, the prime minister constituted experts' groups for making operational plan for the steel mills.

Hamza said that the experts from the private sector were included in the groups to come up with a working plan to run the steel mills. She said that after study of the experts' recommendations, the government included the PSM in the privatisation list.

Hamza said it was the objective of the government to run the PSM through public-private partnership for the benefit of the country and its employees. She recalled that the Sindh government during 2015 had asked the PML-N government to hand over the PSM to Sindh.

Hamza said that unfortunately during that period Sindh government did not submit any plan to the then government. Then time and time again the chief minister Sindh asked for calling the meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) to discuss privatization of the PSM but nothing happened, she added.

She said that during Pervez Musharraf's government, the PSM was running in profit, while during the PPP government it was pushed into losses. Hamza said it was unfortunate that during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tenure, the operation of the PSM totally ended.

The PML-N senior leader, Khawaja Asif, on Thursday has advised the federal government to better focus on saving the lives of the people from the deadly coronavirus instead of doing politics on this matter.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, he said that there was a contradiction in the statements of Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan regarding coronavirus issues. There is no one who can explain his statements, Asif was of the opinion.

The PML-N leader further criticised the government over "failed policies" to prevent the spread of the virus. "Do not play politics of vote (over coronavirus). World Health Organization (WHO) has said that our surveillance is weak, we are not tracking patients correctly - not on an individual or on a government level," he went on to say.

Asif told that Pakistan was among 10 countries with the highest reporting rates, and the trajectory was sadly showing that we are going up to number three or four.

Hospitals in Islamabad are not admitting patients over the age of 60 because they think saving them is difficult, he asserted. Aisha Ghaus Pasha of the PML-N said the Covid-19 had badly affected the economy and livelihoods of the people.

She asked the government to take steps for the betterment of the country's economy. Abdul Qadir Patel of the Pakistan People's Party criticised the government for the flour, sugar and petroleum products' crises in the country.

Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan laid before the House, "The Hyderabad Institute for Technical and Management Sciences Bill, 2020."

Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Zain Hussain Qureshi laid report in the National Assembly of 1st Biannual Monitoring on the Implementation of National Finance Commission (NFC) Award (July-December, 2018) and 2nd Biannual Monitoring on the implementation of the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award (January-June, 2019), as required under Clause (3B) of Article 160 of the Constitution.

Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Nausheen Hamid said there were 170 laboratories across the country, which had the capacity to carryout 46,000 coronavirus tests daily.

She said that we would soon achieve the testing capacity of 50,000 as per the recommendations of the WHO. Hamid said we have not only achieved self-sufficiency in personal protective equipment but were also exporting them to other countries.

She said that 250 ventilators were provided to the provinces. Hamid said given the increase in corona cases, we have started preparing 1,000 more ICU beds. Abdul Shakoor of MMA said the schools should be reopened under certain SOPs.

He said the government should also announce a package for the staff and teachers of the private schools including seminaries. Shazia Marri of the PPP said Sindh government had taken action against those violating the SOPs.

She stressed for collective efforts to deal with the pandemic. Minister for National Food Security Fakhar Imam has said the federal and provincial governments are working in close coordination to cope with the challenge posed by locusts.

He said a national locust control centre had been operationalized to move forward with consensus. He said there was a proposal to allocate Rs20 billion in the next fiscal budget for the locust control operations in which Rs9.7 billion would be given by the federal government and the remaining amount would be contributed by the provinces.

The minister said currently 10 to 11 aircrafts had been mobilised for the aerial sprays in the districts affected by the pest. He said Pakistan Army had also provided five helicopters for aerial spray.

He said that 8,000 personnel of the Armed Forces were also participating in the ground operations. Overall 1,125 teams are engaged in locust control operations across the country. Fakhar Imam said China had provided $4.9 million including chemicals and pesticides to eliminate the pests.

The minister warned the crop devouring pests pose a major threat to the country. He said it was the first time in history that swarms entered into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from Afghanistan. He said there was also a threat of swarms from Iran in the next one to two weeks.

He said we are preparing to deal with these invasions. The National Assembly also passed a motion expressing gratitude to the president for his address to the joint sitting of the parliament last year.

Winding up discussion on the motion, Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said Prime Minister Imran Khan had given the directions to immediately formulate a law for prevention of conflict of interest.

He said credit went to the PTI government for exposing the sugar mafia. The adviser assured that the privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills, the Pakistan International Airlines and other institutions would be completed in the most transparent manner, and as per the law. He said resources generated would be spent on the welfare of the people. He said that there should be no politics on the issue of the COVID-19.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020