It’s been months since the world was engulfed by the novel corona virus that has redefined our societies and precipitated an economic calamity witnessed not since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Financial crises faced by many steady superpowers of the world is set to leave a lasting impact that is sure to reconceptualize the way we go about our daily lives. Every nation has taken their own course in trying to mitigate the unprecedented challenges presented by this virus. Starting off from the city of Wuhan in China, Corona virus has taken the world by storm and claimed the lives of millions. Pakistan, thanks to incompetence of our response has the 18th most cases, a mere three thousand shy of China’s 83,000 cases.
Pakistan’s initial response to the pandemic proved to be praise-worthy as WHO appreciated the steps taken by our federal government. Yet, things have since gone awry and have demonstrated the longstanding lackluster leadership that has defined the premiership of Imran Khan. A once promising leader who sparked hopes of a “Naya Pakistan” has since brought much grief to the already impoverished Pakistani awam.
Here are few mistakes that have served to aggravate the situation:
1. Pre-mature easing of the lockdown:
Pakistan is a fragile democracy. It is a country with a beleaguered economy, a ballooning deficit and deep debt woes that serves to stave off foreign investment. We do not have the resources a superpower like the USA to bailout our economy and hence it was obvious that a balancing act was what we required-reconciling the need to maintain economic stability whilst tackling the difficulties posed by COVID-19. Yet, what we have lacked throughout the months of lockdown was a plan. Clarity seems to be an alien concept to Imran Khan . Ordinary Pakistanis have had and continue to have no real idea of what the future has in store for them. Contradictory statements, reversals of plans, political infighting is what has defined our response to the virus. Where unity was needed, we have seen division. Where solidarity was required we were rewarded with ineptitude. It was evident the authorities failed to understand what was more important-the economy or responding to the virus. Strict draconian measures should have been enforced from day one.
A complete lockdown of the country, including our Eastern borders which served as an early point of influx for the virus should have been the first point of action. Violations of the mandatory lockdown rules by religious gatherings should have been sternly reprimanded. The first priority of the government should have been flattening the curve. We need only look at the dividends of such a strategy. China’s decisive and seemingly “harsh” response was what helped flatten the curve and has allowed them to return to a sense of normalcy with a reduced risk of a second outbreak, at least due to domestic cases. Compared with similarly poor responses in the West, this would have been the best course of action for Pakistan. Coupled with a targeted stimulus package and an emphasis on microfinance and community led charity schemes could have helped the impact on the poor.
2. Doctors were not given basic facilities:
Healthcare workers and doctors should had been provided with protective suits and basic medical equipment to better protect them. A great disservice has been done to our brave frontline workers both by the inaction of our inept government and the ignorant actions of some of our people.
3. Violation of SOPs:
We observed complete violation of SOPs especially on Eid that proved to be deadly.
4. Fine should be implemented:
People who were not following SOPs and taking it all as a joke should be fined from the start. To this day there are still those who continue to cast doubt on the severity of the virus and their individual negligence is responsible for our collective suffering. The authorities should have made examples of these individuals to have internalized the externality of their ignorance.
5. Panic buying control:
Many people who tend to afford luxuries, went for Panic buying which ultimately provoked sugar mafia and corrupt entities to perfectly exploit the situation to their advantage.
It would have been detected before it’s outbreak which proved to be biggest disaster for the country as Pakistanis who had gone for pilgrimage to Iran to enter the country from the border city of Taftan in Balochistan without proper test and quarantine processes. The pilgrims were packed together in unhygienic tents without medical facilities. Officials of Sindh have identified these pilgrims as the main reason behind spread of virus in the Province.
A planned, structured and flexible approach was what was required in the face of the novel Covid-19 situation. When most needed there was no decisive leadership or action from the authorities. Where clear communication was required we often were greeted with silence or mixed messages, providing a perfect platform for fake news and conspiracy theories to circulate social media and impression the minds of many Pakistanis. The best we can hope for is that the government undergoes a period of retrospective introspection, analyzing its mistakes of the previous months and studying the approach taken by countries who have better managed their response to the virus.
As always, we Pakistanis must turn to hope in these situations for if history has taught us anything then it its that our leaders have always been reliably unreliable.