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Citizen Voices Coronavirus Economy Governance Health

What is Truly Important To The Government In Pakistan’s COVID-19 Fight?

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People can easily find themselves wondering at this moment: what is more important – the country, the state, the people, the governments, the economy, the constituencies, the companies, the workforce, the parties, the quality of life and/or life itself? Or if all of them are important, then in what percentages? And who gets to decide all of that?

The Coronavirus pandemic has not only exposed the deficiencies in our healthcare system, but also highlighted our conflicting multi-dimensional stakeholder governance model that was business-as-usual even before the pandemic had entered Pakistan.

The Executive, represented through the Federal Government, further represented through the Premier, may have breached its constitutional mandate in the absence of the declaration of a national health emergency backed by either a majority vote in the National Assembly or a Presidential Order by “taking everyone on board” for the so-called “soft lockdown” with “essential” services being opened up (or even the hard lockdown prior to that).

What logic are the authorities actually operating on? My personal reading of their attitude is as follows:
“People may not may not die because of the Coronavirus but they definitely will die out of hunger and a massive law-and-order situation will develop unless we ease the lockdown and let things take their own course. Let those live that can live and let those die who will – the federation neither has the capacity to save the country from the Coronavirys, not the ability to isolate and treat all the sick. It lacks the kits to test every suspected case, the doctors/nurses/paramedical staff/beds/ventilators to treat all those that are/will be infected, the protective gear for medical professionals and above all: the state machinery to deliver essential items to everyone in case of a curfew /full lock-down. Moreover, the state lacks any mechanism to administer the “quarantined zones”, the funds to revive the economy after a full-fledged lock-down, the scientific data to monitor the citizens’ health status (or their movements for that matter) or the right market-monitoring mechanisms to identify all the smuggling/hoarding/artificial price hikes not only on Corona-specific health items (masks, sanitizers etc.) but also on essential items and so-called regulated sectors (the sugar-wheat/power-sector report clearly indicates that).”

Where does this leave us? Essentially, the authorities’ idea of a “smart lockdown” seems to be about letting everyone do what they deem best for themselves – be it the people, companies or provincial governments.

So literally, the situation on hand will likely proceed towards free-fall, the Coronavirus will take paths that offer the least resistance, the people/workers/daily-wagers/businesses will get on with their lives and the so-called government(s) wouldn’t be held responsible for whatever might befall the people – good or bad!

In view of these circumstances, I should like to request the federal government, provincial administrations, bureaucracy and Powers That Be to resign for two months or, at least, to work without salaries. This will save the National Exchequer over US $ 1 billion and give us enough means not only to fight the Coronavirus but also to deal with the aftermath of economic fallout.

Of course, if all of the powerful resigned permanently and laid their respective entities to complete rest, it would enable us to pay our total debt, send every child to school, improve our healthcare system, give a boost to the economy, provide everyone a decent job and pull our people out of the poverty cycle.

But of course, this is fantasy. The fact is that in Pakistan the federal government, state institutions, provincial administrations, businesses, mafias, political parties and religious groups are far more important than the state itself, the people or their worth as citizens.

The least that they could have done was to give everyone an N95 mask before reopening almost everything in the name of a “smart-lockdown”. All forms of lockdowns (be they full, partial, incremental, soft, smart, selective, conditional, cluster-based, zonal or non-existent) are impractical without the masses observing all precautionary measures. These include but are not limited to: physical distancing, wearing proper masks correctly in public places, regular hand-washing and implementation of SOPs for every place, etc.

A “smart lockdown” to the public means “no lockdown”.

The Corona Crisis still hasn’t reached its peak yet. Hence the number of infections and deaths would only increase with time. And once it does, it would be too late to do anything about it.

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