We the Pakistanis are dealing with a much bigger problem, it isn’t corona, it’s the communal reckless resolve, which is compelling us to drag the people towards a mass suicide. It just takes a man’s obstinacy which mars the difference between faith and cult. People of Pakistan have witnessed it quite a bit, but during the trying times of corona, it has emerged and spread in a pandemic nature. The fight is underway between radicals willing to perform sacraments and the petrified rationalists’ lot fervent to save humanity.
The radicals have once again “convinced” the government to ease the restrictions it has imposed keeping in view the corona pandemic and the preparations for the festive season is in full swing.
Radicalists, on the other hand, are running from pillar to post trying to persuade the people that this isn’t the time for such adventurisms and precautions combined with social distancing can aid the fight against the covid-19.
Meanwhile, the viral infection is also surging like a wild fire. But one surprising and soothing thing was the unique press conference of the doctors fighting on the frontline with limited gadgets and equipment.
Dr Atif Hafeez Siddiqui of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) has said at a press conference that the medical community demands a “strict and complete” lockdown and prevention of congregations of all sorts to curb the spread of the corona virus.
He said although such restrictions might cause hardship to the poor, “we have not seen anyone dying of hunger” since the virus entered Pakistan. Through philanthropy and NGOs’ efforts, people could be saved from hunger even during a lock down, the doctor suggested.
He said it would be “very depressing” for front line healthcare workers to continue to fight the disease without the support of the public and the government.
“We, especially junior doctors, are very disheartened. We need a lot of support,” Dr Niaz stressed, saying Pakistan does not have enough doctors to fight the epidemic. How ironic that savior are pleading the government to save the lot which is fanatically marching towards a fire pit while the top clerics have recently claimed that they would to stay at homes because they are more vulnerable and left the general emotionally-charged public hapless in this crisis.
How unfortunate is the fact that we have surrendered the control to the radicals who have a limited role and tiniest concerns in the fight against corona. The government on the other hand is enthusiastic but unprepared in the fight against Covid-19. It appears government is sandwiched between the radicals and rationalists.
The Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi explained that the government expects corona virus cases to peak by end-May or early June. By the most credible official accounts, then, a sharp rise in cases is expected right about now unless the most serious measures are taken. Yet, strangely, at the same time the government has allowed mosques to remain open for congregational and Taraweeh prayers during Ramzan, making Pakistan the only Muslim country in the world to do so according to a number of international media outlets.
Meanwhile, Advisor to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has called the coming fortnight the most important one yet in the country’s fight against the corona virus pandemic. That would automatically imply that the need to contain the spread of the virus has never been greater.
It is unfortunate that the government’s policy of ease in restrictions appears to have been misconstrued by people as complete removal of lock down. While the cabinet has only allowed a few, specific industries to reopen in order to prevent an economic collapse, several indicators suggest that many people have taken it as a green signal to return to their pre-pandemic routines. The traffic has returned to the streets, businesses not included by the cabinet are reopening, as traders and other groups mount pressure on lawmakers and threaten to disregard their decisions. Emboldened by the actions of clerics, they feel that they too can get away with flouting government policy.
The fight against the corona virus is unlike anything the world has seen in a long time. The government must ensure that it does not send any mixed signals. It should be unambiguous in communicating to the public that the danger has not receded. As far as the COVID-19 pandemic goes, we will have to fight it one way or the other.