The Covid-19 call for a Naya Pakistan.

The covid-19 crisis has given Khan a second chance to change the innings and deliver Naya Pakistan by institutionalizing the structure of this country with an additional focus on data collection, health care, and education. Albeit none of this can be done by Khan alone, it’s time the whole nation joins hands with him and his government to bring about a change. As Rosemary Brown says “Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it.” It is indeed us and the state

The Covid-19 call for a Naya Pakistan
  • There must be more following of SOPs

The word coronavirus irks, with more than 8.6 million people infected by it and many more likely to be, like no other word these days. To some, the current statistics of this novel virus are official numbers and to some, it’s their loved ones. Amidst the plethora of information that everyone is trying to consume, the new normal is something that we all are desperately searching for. Pakistan has started to face the consequences of easing the lockdown or adopting the herd immunity approach (as many say). The World Health Organization has placed Pakistan in the top ten countries reporting the most cases. A surge in cases, constant warnings by the WHO, and fear of the overwhelming of the health system have proven the debacle performance of the state. This is probably a bona fide claim.  A question that needs to be openly entertained is, Is it the state or us? Or Both?

Blaming the state solely is an indication of living in limbo. Despite the government’s advice people managed to hold gatherings pre- and post-Eid, to be classified as violations of the standard operating procedures (SOPs). An extraordinary rush of buyers with no fear of coronavirus infection, and people not following the SOPs, were observed in many local shops. The 25 percent of our sales target achieved by shopkeepers and traders was nearly enough to overwhelm the health system. We as a nation happily traded transmission of covid-19 for our Eid shopping. Post-Eid, according to Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Zulfiqar Hameed, the officers conducted surprise raids in 155 markets of the city and sealed 582 shops over violations. Challan tickets were issued to 717 motorcyclists for not wearing masks and 1,469 shopkeepers were issued warnings. The existential dilemma of Pakistan being a community-driven society has made social distancing a slightly difficult yardstick to follow.

History has shown innumerable times that the behavioral factors associated with human beings can change patterns during a pandemic. Research from 2003 outlines the pertinent role human behaviour played in managing the 2001-2002 Ebola outbreak in Uganda. And during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, behavioral factors, including the cancellation of large gatherings, physical distancing, and simple handwashing, helped to reduce the spread of the disease.

Comparing Pakistan to New Zealand, China, the USA or the rest of Europe is merely like comparing apples to oranges. The parameters for success in this pandemic are relative to population size, awareness, leadership clarity, and presence of data. The unplanned, complete lockdown in India allows us to do a synchronal comparison versus Imran Khan’s choice of smart lockdown. The results of a so-called imposed smart lockdown in Pakistan and complete lockdown in India remain homogenous given the current statistics of both countries.

There’s a fine line between leaving the citizens to follow the SOPs before flattening the curve and the overwhelming of the weak health system. Where does that fine line end? The basic control theory by Walter Reckless in 1973 postulates that an individual’s behaviour is determined by what he or she wants or desires the most at any given time. It further calls for centralized control, for instance, bureaucratic control through administrative and hierarchical structures. According to this theory federal coercion, support from the NCOC and public health agencies were enough to produce a standardized & clear message on covid-19. If the state got it right and nudged behaviour in the right direction at society, community and individual level, the resources available to fight the disease would have gone much further. But since the very beginning, there has been an apparent tiff between all the provinces and the federal government. Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps on reiterating the 18th Amendment, but only needs to realize that at this time being on the same page is what is needed. Khan, by constantly underestimating the impact of the coronavirus and instantly switching between lockdown, smart lockdown and no lockdown without flattening the curve, has further confused the masses who view the coronavirus as a hoax without registering its transmissible nature. Hence Karachi Liaquat National Hospital incident seemed justified to the protesters. The Government gave in to the demands of power lobbies and the religious leaders by opening mosques and holding taraweeh and Eid prayers. There’s no doubt that the reopening of the construction industry was led by elite and powerful industrialists of Pakistan and was later labeled as a pro-poor strategy.

A non-technical question that comes to almost everyone’s mind is why can’t the government extend the lockdown and sort another ration scheme from the aid received? Why isn’t the foreign aid being used? Why do the poor have to choose between starvation and exposure to the coronavirus?

Pakistan’s veiled socio-economic differences and complacent attitude to being in the backseat for evolution including technological advancement, have been exposed during the covid-19 andemic. It is for the first time since 1951-52 that Pakistan’s economy contracted, by 0.38% in the outgoing fiscal year due to this virus and pre coronavirus economic stabilization policies.  Further, there is a need to investigate the sources of hot foreign money inflows in Pakistan that created an artificial sense of economic stability pre-coronavirus. The year 2020 is a wakeup call for Pakistan to seize the moment and revolutionize not just our present systems but our extant perspectives as well. The radical economic impacts include lower economic growth leading to negative GDP growth (projected by IMF, World Bank & SBP) & higher unemployment, being the two major bumps of this pandemic.

The covid-19 crisis has given Khan a second chance to change the innings and deliver Naya Pakistan by institutionalizing the structure of this country with an additional focus on data collection, health care, and education. Albeit none of this can be done by Khan alone, it’s time the whole nation joins hands with him and his government to bring about a change. As Rosemary Brown says “Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it.” It is indeed us and the state.

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