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Editorial | Bravado And Political Bickering Will Not End The Pandemic

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Pakistan’s self-harming response to the Coronavirus pandemic continues, with the federal government seemingly more interested in settling old political scores than getting everyone on board.

The fact of the matter is that the demands for more effective leadership from Islamabad are a general sentiment in the country. When the PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reiterated these demands in his press conference, he was only drawing upon a broader sentiment that already exists in the country – particularly the embattled medical community. It is doctors who have demanded personal protective equipment (PPE), more effective lockdowns to help “flatten the curve” of the pandemic and more unity across the country to help coordinate the effort.

In the anxious imagination of the PTI leadership, these demands are merely talking points to undermine it. Even more, in the imagination of that leadership, lockdowns are something which an “elite” imposed on the country – against the better judgement of the federal government. Such comments by figures such as the Prime Minister only suggest an unwillingness to shoulder the responsibility for decision-making in the country.

If the government wishes to get serious about taking a leading role in containing the pandemic and protecting Pakistanis, it would have to resist its own unfortunate political instincts. That would mean, for a start, putting an end to the embarrassing tirades by figures such as Shahbaz Gill – who now claims that even doctors in Sindh had criticized the federal government at the behest of the PPP. He would be hard-pressed to explain why doctors in Punjab take the same view of the situation – although we can be sure that the ruling party can concoct some elaborate conspiracy theory to fit them into the plot.

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These baffling shenanigans can be of use to the government only temporarily. In a few weeks, we could easily be at a stage of the Coronavirus outbreak where the Prime Minister’s bravado and the irritated rants of his party loyalists simply won’t suffice. A wiser course of action would be to start working with the provincial administrations and, above all, with the medical community of Pakistan.

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