NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 22

Violation of SOPs

It’s official that spreading Covid-19 has become a glaring example of public-private partnership between the so-called government and the masses to spread it as far as they can – as per the new psychological contract between the citizens and the state under the new normal.

The violation of SOPs remains the only SOP that’s been followed in letter and spirit while the government is doing all it can under the umbrella of the democratic special purpose vehicle (SPV) known as NOCC whilst the Premier and his Cabinet have actively “outsourced” management of the virus to the local authorities, industry owners, and managerial staff even when the local bodies election weren’t held on time and the changes to the local bodies act weren’t implemented in letter and spirit and the general public which was never trained with the discipline that was required to be exhibited to confront the pandemic is on the loose.

While the concept of herd immunity serves a placebo effect, it also took out the “fear” element which was a vital component to ensure SOP compliance – thanks to multiple rants, speeches and pressers that were never synchronized by the Information Minister and sent out conflicting bad advice. When you search for Google for everything and rely on social media for information – the conspiracy theories take a toll on the government’s policy as well – which they did and would not have had they relied on medical experts and think-tanks. Eid-ul-Fitr became a super-spreader as opposed to congregational prayers which many had feared, while economic activity accounted to Rs15 billion compared to Rs45 billion last year as most were only involved in window-shopping. People started behaving like corona had ended – with the end of Ramadan. While tons of conspiracy theories have taken the internet by storm which have only helped corona so far – the attempt to engage Tik Tokers is debatable – but what can you expect from a government which wanted to hold a concert of a band called Akcent to register its protest over what is going on in IOK. When the Tiger Force met a backlash on social media, the Premier thoughtfully reconsidered his decision and assigned them the task of handling the locust attack.

One has to give credit to the PTI where it is due – the budget surpassed all expectations by leading economics and major opposition parties because its financial wizard know as Asad Umar was handling the press conferences and presentations at his new assignment while some genuinely felt that it is an internship leading to a full-time job as the PM. The Premier must have taken a sigh of relief as the man who took the economy from the ICU to the graveyard a year ago failed the important litmus test, so is the opposition wrong to claim that the PTI especially the Premier is hiding his government’s pathetic pre-Covid-19 performance on almost every front behind economic catastrophe that corona has pulled on the nation whilst tempering with the economic numbers reflected in the recent Economic Survey, the unrealistic targets that are mentioned in the budget, the mismatch between the numbers of the SBP/Ministry of Finance as well as the actual number of corona patients and deaths caused by it through massive under-reporting on similar lines that he used to temper the ball, keep it hidden in the left hand till the last moment, rub the pitch with his foot, shine one side with hair oil and you would see him ‘reverse swing’ like no one in the golden days of his cricketing career.

Hafeez Sheikh blew the whistle with mentioning a loss of revenue of around Rs3,000 billion – can you really blame it all on the corona? Last year, the FBR met a shortfall of Rs600 billion and Shabbar Zaidi had to leave but let’s forget that and blame it all on corona because it’s more convenient. Just what exactly was the Premier thinking of re-opening a lockdown that was never imposed by him in the first place, yet he took all the credit for the lives it saved, yet blamed all the “elites” for the economic collapse that it had brought out otherwise the economy was doing just “fine” as the current account deficit had been brought down to an almost zero? Is that the only economic indicator to judge the economy with? One thinks instead of bringing the current account deficit to zero – he should have brought down the R0 to zero or at least less than 1 before easing of the so-called lockdown – because the economic damage that it had done was already done by disrupting the demand, consumer trends, buying behavior, income cycle, manufacturing and services sector.

The western countries eased the lockdown in an incremental approach only after the six conditions mentioned in the guidelines of WHO had been met, besides, things were lovely out there for most of them as pre-Covid-19 it was all jobs, drugs, party, beaches and women for them – but just exactly how “normal” was the situation before Covid-19 in Pakistan if not pathetic compared to the western nations in terms of most socio-economic indicators that the government wanted to impose the “new normal” which seems quite abnormal to even a majority of most abnormal people that are suffering from mental health problems. Two abnormalities cancelled each together or stand next to one another as a reflection of our collective evil behaviours? One agrees that the death rate is low compared to other countries, but what scientific logic/data drove this political gamble of herd immunity despite helplessness on part of the government, incapacitated healthcare infrastructure, no reliable means of delivering ration/cash programs ( in eyes the Premier at least).

The exponential rise in R0, the death toll, new infection rates, compromising 80pc of the population, will not only lead to more deaths, but also weaken people enough to the extent that they would succumb to other diseases or to the second or third wave of Covid-19.