May Editorial periscope: Pakistan’s Lockdown Dilemma

Editorial pericope this month looks at Pakistan's smart lockdown as the country hits a middle ground to curb the virus as well as resolve the difficulties of daily wagers and current economic crisis.

Editorial Periscope | May 2020

Pakistan has moved from a complete lockdown to a ‘smart lockdown’, as like other developing countries, it faces a catch 22 situation. It can’t afford the coronavirus to spread, as it does not have the health care structure to look after those affected, yet, at the same time, it cannot afford the blanket lockdown, in the style that has been imposed in developed countries, along with the trillions distributed, to curtail its economic effects.

Exports are already down an estimated 8-10 percent and further export orders have been decimated as western companies have cut back on buying goods, as their economies have come to a standstill. Remittances have plummeted, as Pakistani laborers have lost jobs from around the world, and many came or are trying to come back home after lockdowns were imposed, especially hit were those in the GCC countries.

Daily wagers dependent on their daily takings, sitting at home – hungry with their families, has created a vulnerable class, which despite unprecedented spending by the PTI government to help those most affected through the Ehsas program, only needed a spark to bring them out to the streets. Policy reports including, that by the UK’s International Growth Center, which has been signed up by 40 of the world’s leading economists, recommend that developing countries with large numbers living under the poverty line follow a model of Smart lockdown.

The government’s decision to move to a smart lockdown was taken under the guidance from the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) created to deal with this crisis. Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Editor, Global Village Space, writes on this latest institution in Pakistan’s governance structure that uses country-wide data crunching to make decisions. Hamza Shafqaat, DC Islamabad, runs through the challenges state administrations faced in imposing lockdown.

On the economic front, we have Dr. Kamal Monnoo, an economics analyst and a businessman, examining the difficult task ahead for the government coming out of the lockdown and what is needed to kickstart the economy. We interview Mian Kashif, chairman FIEDMC to discuss where Pakistan’s first CPEC Special Economic zone stands and how the pandemic affected its timelines. We also sit down with Jehanzeb Zafar, CEO Askari Life Assurance, to understand how the Coronavirus may have created opportunities in the insurance market for future products.

On the international front, Prof Adil Najam explains that strident conversations over the Coronavirus, have become even more public during the existing clash, that had otherwise, already started between the United States and China. Ambassador Najmuddin Shaikh also examines the importance the US domestic elections play in calling out China.

Rashid Ahmad, a Kashmiri journalist, looks at the other lockdown, imposed in Kashmir since August 5, and explains why the refrain “silence of the world over Kashmir lockdown has turned the entire world into Kashmir,” has become popular in Kashmir.

Najma Minhas

Managing Editor

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