A divisive political leadership

By: Mujtaba Qureshi

The corona virus pandemic has cost more than 4000 thousand  lives and infected over 2 lac in Pakistan. So far, it has added into the insecurity, confusion, and complexity of the situation in the country as far as government decisions are concerned.

This is not clear what kind of geo-political and economic order is we are heading toward? And actually, this depends upon the choices, and decisions we make today, that will shape our economy and political order even in years to come. As far as handling of the pandemic is concerned, federal government was initially nowhere, but later sense her responsibility and formed the task force to oversee the situation. In the beginning, Sindh government led by chief minister Murad Ali Shah took very timely decision, either in setting quarantine facilities or issuing order of the lockdown. The other provinces followed the trajectory set by Sindh.

Now, the pandemic has not reached at its peak in the country, the worst is yet to come in coming days. Even government had hinted that almost 22 lac people can get infected with the virus. Other reports reveal some 10 million cases till August next year. The month of July and August are very crucial which will set the real figures in the country.  The less number of the cases in Pakistan can be attributed to lower number of tests in the country. Some 20000 tests are regularly carried out in whole country which is lesser than rest of the world countries are doing every day. For that purpose, only 20 laboratories are working in entire country.  On the other hand, affected person might have been some 7 to 8 lac , if testing capacity would have been better in the country. we should increase our testing capacity, to identify the affected cases. Otherwise, exponential rise in cases can suddenly happen, even shocking deaths aimed pandemic in the country.

Provincial governments in Punjab, KPK, and Sindh are re-imposing lockdown in selected areas to contain the virus.  Prior to it, government had reopen the number of industrial units, and construction industry in the country to downplay the economic cost due to pandemic. However, such decision can expose the working class to deadly virus, and may put a heavy toll on already struggling health care system in country.  However, our health system is not in position to sustain deadly virus in present. So, ill-conceived and short-sighted decision can augment pressure on it. Currently, Pakistan has almost 2400 ventilators for severe respiratory patients, against need of 10000 in country. Further, there is lot of concerns to doctors and nurses regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) which are essentially required while diagnosing the corona virus affected cases. A month back, doctors and medical staff in Baluchistan, protested in Quetta and left the patients in hospitals unattended, terming lack of PPEs.  We can’t continue our work without essential equipments which we need in hospitals.

Federal government is required to coordinate the provinces in well manner, irrespective of political differences and affiliations. Imran khan must come ahead with clear cut policy and lead the campaign from front against COVID-19. This is time, PM should play his role to garner the national unity in time of crisis, and ask the opposition parties in parliamentary parties meeting to stand by the decisions to tackle the pandemic.  Conversely, everyone knows PM is allergic to opposition. In this regard, the case in point is previous video gathering of parliamentary leaders. Imran khan skipped the conference, right after his address and did not wait to listen other leaders. That kind of behavior by PM has brought government and opposition against each other.  Thus, campaign against pandemic is lacking national unity, and leaving space behind for unidentified forces to fill it.

Likewise, military is leading from front in time of crisis. Not only assisting the provincial governments to ensure the lockdown and maintain social distancing, but also providing medical service along with civilians to overcome the pandemic. Unfortunately, every time in country political mismanagement of the crisis paved the opportunity for strong and well disciplined Army to intervene in civilian matters. They just cash the opportunity, and thrive on it. Hence, people’s well wishes always remain with military in the country.

Till now, Imran khan led government failed to administer the country in time of crisis. It is on both fronts, first on tackling the corona virus pandemic, and other in unifying the political leadership to contain the pandemic unanimously. Thus, leaving space for the man in boots to turn the tide. It can cause worry in coming days for political leadership to take decision in country independently. Sooner or later, they can use the space given to them to tighten their grip over the whole affairs.