By Aftab Alexander Mughal 8 May 2020
(8 May 2020) – Nearly 25,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Pakistan, with 598 deaths, while 7,530 patients were recovered. Ever since the first case discovered at the end of February 2020, the government of Prime Minster Imran Khan could have not taken enough strong measures, including the lockdown, which could have curtailed the spread of the COVID-19. While the Sindh provincial government, run by Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, was the first one that showed its determination by taking strict measures to save people’s lives. Other provinces, which are run by Imran Khan’s Tehrek-e-Insaf, reluctantly announced lock down as the Prime Minister was not fully convinced about it. Although, the lockdown was not enforced strictly, on 30 April, Mr. Khan announced that the government would ease the lockdown as the cases in Pakistan are exceptionally low.
Critics say that Prime Minister has failed to show leadership in this crisis. The government did not call the session of the Parliament, and no measures were taken to unite the nation to fight against the pandemic. Instead, Imran Khan and his team started a negative campaign against the Sindh government who was being praised by all sections of society, including the anti the anti-Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) media. The Chairman of PPP Bilawal Bhutto expressed his concerns that the central government was opposing every effort of the Sindh government which did not help in saving lives.
Through public statements, doctors demanded that government should enforced a strict lockdown and not open mosques for prayers services, the government removed the restrictions on congregations after coming to an agreement with Muslim religious leaders to follow 20 rules for prayers at mosques. However, it didn’t work. According to Pattan Development Organisation, 80 per cent mosques in Punjab province, the biggest province of the country, did not follow the agreed procedures during prayer services. Many independent analysts criticised government’s decision and said that it was against the public interest as most Muslim countries across the world have stopped religious congregations. Even holiest places globally are shut to prevent the spread of the virus as it is evident that congregations have been one of the biggest sources of circulate the virus. On the other hand, the churches across Pakistan are closed and have started televised or online Sunday services.
Tabligee Jamait, a Muslim religious organisation, carried on the on-going missionary work and its annual gathering in Raiwind during the second week of March, which was attended by nearly 250,000 men. There is a view that they spread the virus as many Jamait’s members’ tests were positive. A freelance Pakistan journalist Naila Inayat, writes in The Print, that over 27 per cent cases in Pakistan are from the Jamaat. Ironically, during a televised show, Maulana Tariq Jameel, an influential leader of the Jamait, blamed media and ‘immodest women’ for the pandemic. He said that as it was Allah’s wrath on the increasing nudity, vulgarity and immodesty in society. Maulana is a close ally to Imran Khan who did not oppose his controversial views.
Due to the lack of enough personal protective equipment, many doctors, nurses, paramedics and sweepers are performing their duties under difficult circumstances. About 500 health workers contracted to coronavirus, and at least five medics died. To get government’s attention, doctors and nurses set up hunger strike camps in Lahore, demanding enough protective kits for the frontline staff that treat coronavirus patients.
Coronavirus is a catastrophe to the most vulnerable. Millions of people, especially those live below the poverty line and the labour force, face insecurity and risk of starvation as the economy has been hit badly and food prices soar. According to Anadolu Agency, around 75 per cent of country’s total labour force, 65 million, is unregistered, which live on daily wages. These people are struggling to survive and need immediate help. The government has announced financial support and the money is distributing under the “Ahsaas programme.” Pakistan Army has also distributed more than 350,000 food parcels so far to the affected people. Still, the need is huge. Humanitarian organisations and churches are doing their best by providing food items to the poor families across the country. However, a collective fight is necessary against coronavirus. it is time for a national unity and looking after each other. The rich members of the society must come forward to offer support to those who are struggling for daily bread. The situation is grave and also there is difficult time ahead, therefore, Daily Times warn that the COVIS-19 pandemic tells a lot about a country’s ability to handle the current crisis, and also deliver valuable lessons on what certain countries need to work on once this pandemic is over.
- Aftab Alexander Mughal is the editor of the Minority Concern of Pakistan. He won an International Award for Women’s Issues by ICOM, Geneva, in 2013.