The second wave of coronavirus is staring us right in the eyes. The positivity ratio is spiraling, the deaths are mounting, and the fear of a complete lockdown looms once again. The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) apprised on 7th December that the national positivity stood at 9.71% with grimmer provincial numbers. The gravity of this exacerbating scenario demands a national consensus, but Pakistan’s politicians have other ideas.
Sindh became the first province to close down educational institutions the day the virus emerged in Pakistan. It maintained the lead in imposing a province-wide lockdown and received much praise from the media for displaying vibrant leadership under crisis. PPP translated this acclamation towards political gains by criticizing PM Imran Khan for downplaying the threat of the virus. PML (N), other opposition parties, and the media cashed in on the federation’s economic vulnerability by opposing Imran Khan’s liberal stance on lockdown. Consequently, the incumbents found themselves facing multiple storms at one time.
The government is trying to portray a saner behavior, but the conduct of some ministers does not match their worrisome speeches on PDM’s assemblage.
However, PTI’s federal government did not succumb to this pressure. PM continued reiterating his position on the need to strike an apt balance between lockdown and economic revival, introducing the nation to the term ‘smart lockdown.’ It paved the way for further criticism. CM Sindh even laughed at it, calling it a misnomer in one of his press-conferences. But, the terminology later evolved as a global talk and suitable strategy to counter the ramifications of the rampant virus.
Despite much censure, Pakistan applied the smart lockdown policy pretty much throughout the country. Guess what? It worked. In fact, it worked so well that WHO recognized Pakistan among the five best performers in the pandemic. Notable individuals like Bill Gates and Lawrence Henry Summers, enabling PTI to redeem its lost political capital and become stronger than its pre-COVID standing, applauded Pakistan.
Read more: Are Pakistan’s health systems prepared for a COVID-19 vaccine?
Now, the resurgence of the virus poses an awkward dilemma for those who went all guns blazing after the premier and his party for not imposing complete lockdowns. The opposition finds itself at an enigmatic crossroad (a catch-22) where a step south would burst the PDM bubble while heading northwards would be the polar opposite of its prior perspective. It will fail to circumvent ignominy either way, so it seems to have opted for a facile route.
PDM insists on the continuation of public gatherings claiming PTI to be more perilous than coronavirus. It asserts the importance of not giving up on the agenda to assist the citizens of Pakistan which are under colossal burden owing to the economic mess PTI has created. This parochial justification reminds of H.L. Mencken who said, “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it,”
The gravity of this exacerbating scenario demands a national consensus, but Pakistan’s politicians have other ideas.
Morality in Pakistani politics
The problem arises when PML (N) – the soul of PDM- and PPP- the second eminent member- implements a smart lockdown in AJK, Karachi other hotspots of Sindh. The Sindh government has banned in-door marriages and dine-in food, shut down gymnasiums, and limited business hours to 8 at night. The sad part is the same political party favors carrying out political congregations in provinces they don’t govern. This takes away moral space from the opposition to ridicule the government in case things worsen. But, it is naive to talk about morality in Pakistani politics.
The government is trying to portray a saner behavior, but the conduct of some ministers does not match their worrisome speeches on PDM’s assemblage. For instance, Punjab’s Information Advisor, Dr. Firdous Aashiq Awan, undertook a rally last week which would be nothing short of a super-spreader. Nonetheless, PTI canceled their planned future public gatherings in the wake of the precarious outlook.
Read more: How has COVID-19 exposed PDM’s leadership?
Pakistan’s politicians from both sides of the fence have a responsibility to act sensibly. They must contemplate the enormity of forthcoming menace from a national lens before it is too late. The dual standards of the country’s political leadership may converge into a national health emergency. In that sort of horrendous scenario, lockdown would not be an option but a compulsion for the policy-makers.
The author is a former Research Enumerator at the Research Department of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). He has worked on the bi-monthly Business Confidence surveys of SBP, which facilitates the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in decision making. He tweets at www.twitter.com/zohaib_jawaid. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.