InternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 22

Coronavirus — a shaper of a new world

Nature is very powerful. With its immense power, it can create and destroy anything in the blink of an eye. Man, a very small part of nature, has also been gifted with many powers which he uses to control, harness and conquer other objects of nature, like oceans, space, animals etc.

By using his power of reasoning and imagination, man has created many societies, states, countries and civilisations. Man also loves wars and killings. To satisfy his animalistic instincts of killing, he has already fought countless bloody wars with other human beings. By abusing his gifted powers, man has also disturbed the balance of nature. He kills animals, cuts forests, creates pollution, wastes natural resources, destroys the ozone layer and echo system. Nature, in return, takes its revenge in the form of floods, earthquakes, eruption of volcanoes, storms, tsunamis, famine and epidemics. History tells us that nature, in its fury, has already destroyed many human civilizations, nations, communities and societies. Man is helpless against the mighty power and fury of nature.

Now, in our modern age and times, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the helplessness of man very clearly and badly. In December 2019, Covid-19 emerged in China’s Wuhan. It was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Till now, over 8.3 million people have been infected by the virus globally. And, more than 450,000 people have died in the world while over 4.1 million people have been recovered. In Pakistan, more than 163,177 cases of the coronavirus have been reported while around 3,165 people have been killed by the virus so far. Tragically, in spite of modern technology, scientists of the entire world have not yet developed any vaccine to control the virus. The world is waiting for a miracle to get rid of the pandemic. The situation is a clear manifestation of the utter helplessness of man against nature. The crisis has already changed the behaviour of mankind. Life will never be quite the same again in many countries of the world. Even, political, economic and social systems of many countries will be influenced and changed by the pandemic in the coming days. Many thinkers and writers are of the views that the pandemic is already influencing international relations and the balance of political and economic power in the world. China has come forward to help Italy. The UAE and Iran, hitherto at odds, are cooperating to defeat the virus. The Philippines has announced a ceasefire with Communist rebels. The concept of global interdependence is gaining more importance among the people of the world.

However, the pandemic has also triggered many negative and pessimistic notions among many intellectuals. Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University, writes in the Foreign Policy magazine: “The pandemic will strengthen the state and reinforce nationalism. Governments of all types will adopt emergency measures to manage the crisis, and many will be loath to relinquish these new powers when the crisis is over. Covid-19 will also accelerate the shift in power and influence from west to east. The response in Europe and America has been slow and haphazard by comparison (with China, South Korea and Singapore), further tarnishing the aura of the western “brand.” We will see a further retreat from hyper-globalisation, as citizens look to national governments to protect them and as states and firms seek to reduce future vulnerabilities. In short, Covid-19 will create a world that is less open, less prosperous and less free.”

Simon Tisdall says the crisis has exposed “authoritarianism and democracy, globalisation and multilateralism, fragile world, resilience and paranoia. “After the nightmare of coronavirus, the world will take a fresh start”. He writes in the Guardian: “China’s challenge to US hegemony was already strengthening on many fronts before the Covid-19 crisis erupted. The pandemic may accelerate this shift. For US-allied democracies that value open governance, civil rights and free speech, this is a worrying prospect. The trend towards centralised, authoritarian rule evident in countries such as India, Brazil and Turkey, and typified by China and Russia, has coincided with the rise of rightwing nationalist-populist governments and parties in Europe. Some are now following China’s lead in attempting to weaponise the virus for political ends”.

“The US government’s pandemic leadership has been its own special brand of catastrophe. It has placed its own citizens in unnecessary peril, while sidelining itself from acting as a global crisis leader,” wrote Mira Rapp-Hooper of the US Council on Foreign Relations. “This domestic and international governance crisis could change the nature of the international order in several ways,” she continued. Some analysts suggest that the concept of globalisation and free market will lose its importance in the coming days. “The pandemic could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back of economic globalisation,” wrote Robin Niblett, director of the Chatham House think tank. For Robert Kaplan of the Eurasia Group, “coronavirus is the historical marker between the first phase of globalisation and the second. Globalisation 2.0 is about separating the globe into great-power blocs with their own burgeoning militaries and separate supply chains, about the rise of autocracies, and about social and class divides that have engendered nativism and populism.”

Branko Milanovic, a professor at the London School of Economics, writes: “If governments have to resort to using paramilitary or military forces to quell, for example, riots or attacks on property, societies could begin to disintegrate. Thus the main, perhaps even the sole objective of economic policy today (rather than supporting financial markets) should be to prevent social breakdown”.

Interestingly, many world leaders, politicians, scientists and experts are using a word “war” to describe their efforts against Covid-19. French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly declared “We are at war”. Donald Trump calls himself a “wartime president”. There are similar challenges and problems in a war and a pandemic. Albert Camus in his novel La Peste (The Plague) writes: “There have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared. When war breaks out, people say: “It won’t last long, it’s too stupid. And war is certainly too stupid, but that doesn’t prevent it from lasting. Stupidity always carries doggedly on.” Simon Tisdall says that Covid-19, like a war, has created divisions in every institution everywhere in the world. “Radical social upheaval may be the welcome price of eventual victory. It’s often said, after a major conflict, that things will never be the same again. Nor should they be. Historically, war often leads to revolution. Armchair generals Trump and Johnson please note”, writes Simon Tisdall.

Like other countries, the pandemic will also bring about change in Pakistan. In the coming days, the situation may worsen. Imran Khan’s PTI government has shown criminal negligence in handling the pandemic. His non-seriousness and stubbornness for imposing selected lockdowns, not strict and complete lockdowns, have already killed more than 3,000 people in Pakistan. While, thousands of people, including doctors and health workers, have already become infected with the virus. Tragically, many doctors and health workers have also lost their lives in the fight against the coronavirus.

Imran Khan has kept aside all scientific evidence, expert advice of the WHO and policies which countries, like China and New Zealand, followed successfully to combat the virus. Resultantly, the virus is spreading very fast. According to Pakistani media, the Imperial College London has predicted that 2.22 million people could die in Pakistan if lockdown is not imposed. Its report says that Pakistan will reach the peak on August 10, 2020, when around 80,000 deaths will occur.

One hopes it will never happen, as the number of the cases has started declining after smart lockdown was imposed in many cities. However, if a large number of people die, there will be unrest and chaos in Pakistan. The prevailing corrupt and fake democratic system could be abolished. Imran Khan and his PTI party members and leaders of all other political parties will bear the brunt of the Pakistani people’s anger. War often leads to revolution. Imran Khan should know it.