PPP Chairman Bilawal Butto-Zardari on Wednesday urged the federal government and Prime Minister Imran Khan to “come and sit” with the people of the province who have been affected by the recent flooding and torrential rainfall instead of making “five-hour trips”.
Addressing a press conference in Mirpurkhas, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced due to monsoon rainfall, Bilawal said: “The prime minister should be seen standing with those citizens affected by the rains.”
His comments come a day after the federal cabinet decided against releasing funds directly to the provincial government for the victims of the flood and rain-hit areas. The federal government, instead, will utilise the funds itself. “We cannot give even a penny to Sindh for the flood victims unless we are told about the exact losses,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz had said during a press conference after the cabinet meeting.
Bilawal, speaking in Mirpurkhas, urged the premier to take charge as kaptaan by fulfilling the need for reconstruction, rehabilitation and relief. “We can’t leave our farmers and those affected by the rains helpless like this.”
Bilawal stated that recent rains have wreaked havoc in several parts of the country. “In Sindh, rainfall and floods have affected 2.25 million citizens. All of Pakistan will need to unite to deal with this national disaster so that we can provide relief to the people.”
He added that the recent rains and subsequent floods was not the only crises the nation has had to deal with. “The poor people of the province and of the country have been struggling under the mounting burden on their backs,” he said, citing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and locusts.
He added that because of these “historic rains”, extra support needed to be given to the people. “Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. When agriculture is affected, so is the country’s economy.
“The PTI’s manifesto mentions declaring an agricultural emergency which has not been done so far. After this historic rainfall and locust attacks, now is the time to declare an agricultural emergency to provide relief to farmers.”
He added that the provincial government was utilising all of its resources to address the problems being faced by the people. “We have exhausted our stock of tents. We are ordering more, but we know that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will have some.”
Those sitting in Islamabad, who can’t pinpoint Mirpurkhas on a map, don’t understand that it will take time to clear out the rainwater, he said. During this time, you have to provide aid to the people, he said.
“All of us will have to become one to provide help to those affected,” he said. “The Sindh government will stand by its people in need, but we will not be able to fulfill their requirements on our own. For that, all of Pakistan will need to become one.”
The prime minister had visited Karachi last week and in the presence of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, unveiled the Rs1.1 trillion package at the Governor House for Karachi’s chronic issues, including provision of clean drinking water, cleaning of drains and sewage and solid waste disposal within three years.
Changing gears, Bilawal also commented on cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against former president and his father Asif Ali Zardari.
“Not only are these cases politically motivated, but they are a joke.” He added that the country’s laws applied differently to those in the ruling PTI and those in the opposition.
Commenting on the recent reports on the assets of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, Bilawal stated that if former heads of state had to give an answer, then so should the rest.