Imagine a realm besieged by enemy troops. Covid-19 exploding in Sindh is posing such an existential threat. Now imagine the mindset of those opposing protective measures against the looming peril.
Intoxicated with fury, the federal government opposed the lockdown, as the Covid delta variant spreads like wildfire. The PM and federal ministers dubbed these preventive measures ‘curfew’, which would deprive the daily-wage workers their means of bread and butter.
Lockdown restrictions undoubtedly bring certain troubles, especially for those living hand-to-mouth. However, such restrictions are imposed as the last resort. It is important to note that the Pakistan Medical Association president has endorsed Sindh government’s preventive measures.
Karachi and Hyderabad stand out with high infection rate. Had the two cites been locked-down, the murky mindset playing politics on the pandemic would have touted it as ‘anti-urban’ and ‘anti-business’.
But what exactly has the federal government done to pull out those from grinding poverty–let alone in the recently passed fiscal budget?
What pro-poor policies have been executed to accommodate those left on the margins?
The deprived sections of the society are drowning in a tsunami of inflation. People are fast losing purchasing power amid backbreaking utility bills and debilitating decline of income resources.
Feeding divisions, when the province is faced with ever-increasing number of Covid-19 delta variant patients, is detrimental to democracy. This narrow-minded narrative forwarded by the federal government has further incited the business tycoons and traders who were already in a state of defiance.
If this wasn’t enough, MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi said Karachi could be opened, “if allowed by PM Imran Khan.” Siddiqi rejected the lockdown and termed it “anti-Karachi” saying it “damages people's lives and traders' businesses”.
The political party which used a sledgehammer to kill a fly, holding the commercial hub hostage to achieve political ends, is now opposing the corona prevention strategy presided over by the provincial chief. The party that started death and destruction in the name of politics in the province actually wants to regain its capacity for cruelty, disguising it as politics. Hence, the desperation for a strong shoulder to place their guns on, in order to reinstate politics of terror.
Meanwhile, PTI is frustrated that Karachi is not as submissive as Lahore, and can’t be remote-controlled. The central government wishes to replicate the arbitrary interference it enjoys in other provinces, which has left them completely paralysed.
After having swept polls in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, it is Sindh alone that is left to conquer for the PTI–hence, the recent induction of former Sindh CM Arbab Rahim as an advisor to the PM. Meanwhile, the gathering of opposition parties in the province is perhaps a case of collecting political shepherds without much flock.
PTI is also mulling over replacing the Inspector General of Police and the Chief Secretary of Sindh, with its blue-eyed boys, thus controlling the province through federal bureaucracy. Some PTI parliamentarians have even called for governor rule. They probably aren’t aware that the 18th Amendment has insulated provincial assemblies against such infringement.
It boggles one’s mind how federal and Punjab ministers visiting Karachi can't help but mock the PPP government. The recently defrocked Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan unleashed venom against the people of Sindh calling them “illiterate and backward”. Fawad Chaudhry uttered disparaging remarks against the Sindh Bar Council’s demand of elevating the senior most judge of the Sindh High Court to the superior judiciary. Let’s not forget this is the province that has produced Quaid-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.
Even so, where polarising politics is detrimental under ordinary circumstances, it is especially condemnable during a pandemic. And, seemingly, the Sindh government has knuckled under, with lockdown restrictions lifted prematurely. Thus, petty politics prevailed.
Those at the helm of country’s affairs need to realise that in crises cool-headed conclusions are needed, not hawkish hullabaloo. Yes, the PPP-led government has public service delivery issues to address urgently. However, there should be no second opinion about the need for a strong federal system in the country.