regular-article-logo Tuesday, 06 June 2023

The second wave

Pakistan’s politicians remain cavalier about Covid-19

Mehmal Sarfraz Published 30.11.20, 12:04 AM
Second wave pf Covid-19 hits Pakistan. (Representational image)

Second wave pf Covid-19 hits Pakistan. (Representational image) Shutterstock

The second wave of Covid-19 has hit Pakistan. More than 3,000 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Saturday; the figure was a little less than 3,000 on Sunday. The numbers are alarming given that Pakistan was one of the few countries that had been successful in combating the global pandemic. Our numbers had decreased to quite an extent by August. An extensive lockdown in March and then smart lockdowns where needed led to a decrease in cases. Now, with the onset of winter, we are seeing an increase in coronavirus cases. Beds for Covid patients are not available in hospitals in several cities. People are not following standard operating procedures. We are seeing a kind of complacency that we had not seen before. Is this the corona fatigue or is it just our own careless attitude? Maybe both. But this is no time for complacency. The world may not get the vaccine for a few more months. Countries like Pakistan may have to wait even longer for the vaccine.

When the first wave came, it took the world by surprise and we didn’t know what to do. We all knew someone who was infected, be it a friend or a family member. The second wave is no less dangerous. I lost a family member to post-Covid complications just two days ago. We were at the hospital every day for the last two weeks waiting for a miracle, but she did not survive. If you have been to a hospital’s ICU where patients with post-Covid complications are being treated, you wouldn’t wish anyone to ever catch this virus. It is scary and it can be deadly. Not to mention how emotionally and physically draining it can be both for the patient and his/her family. Our healthcare sector is not equipped to deal with the growing numbers of Covid patients. We, the people, have to be careful ourselves. As much as possible. And despite all precautions, someone can still catch it.


Pakistan’s cases are rising every day but public places like gyms, malls and so on are still open even though the government has shut down all educational institutions in view of the second wave.

Pakistan’s Opposition parties’ alliance — the Pakistan Democratic Movement — is taking out rallies across the country. Given that the second wave is gaining momentum, the government has asked the PDM to stop the rallies. The PDM, on the other hand, is refusing to do so. When the Opposition alliance came together in September and then decided on the dates of the rallies, Pakistan’s Covid cases were under control. But now that we are seeing a gradual increase in cases, the Opposition should pause and rethink its strategy. Unfortunately, the Opposition thinks it will be a sign of weakness if it gives in to the government’s demand. The government, too, has held public ceremonies in recent days. The Opposition brings up those gatherings when questioned about its rallies. The chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, tested positive for Covid-19 after the PDM’s rally in Peshawar. He will address the PDM rally in Multan today via video link. His sister, Aseefa Bhutto, will represent him by participating in the rally at Multan.

Just a few days ago, in a series of tweets, the prime minister, Imran Khan, stated: “In Pak, the PDM by continuing with jalsas is deliberately endangering lives & livelihoods bec if cases continue to rise at the rate we are seeing, we will be compelled to go into complete lockdown & PDM will be responsible for consequences”. Leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz keep saying that this government — they have dubbed it as Covid-18 referring to the 2018 elections — is a bigger threat than Covid-19. Now this is quite an absurd statement given the seriousness of the global pandemic. It seems that both the government and the Opposition are not willing to move back from their stated positions. At the end of the day, it endangers the public.

As the senior journalist, Fahd Husain, put it in his latest column, “If the second wave of Covid-19 got worse, the government would find a handy scapegoat in the PDM. If the PDM, sensing the danger of continuing with the campaign, took a break it would halt their momentum and help the government tide over this threat.”

The government should talk to the Opposition instead of giving statements or tweeting about it. The prime minister should call the PDM leadership and request them to stop their rallies for the greater good of the country. Our leadership needs to put aside their egos for the moment and think about dealing with a global pandemic. Instead of blaming each other for the rising cases and super-spreader events, it would be a good gesture on the part of both the government and the Opposition if they can reach a consensus.

Political protests against the government may be a democratic right but it should not be done at the cost of putting people’s lives at risk. The government may not be performing due to a number of reasons but sending the government home — without any concrete plan — is also not a good option. Governments don’t go home due to protests as we saw a few years ago when Khan took out a dharna for over a hundred days in the country’s capital. It did put pressure on the Nawaz Sharif government but it did not send the government home. The current Opposition most likely thinks that it has to strike before the Senate elections in March 2021. But is this a solution to our problems? No is the simple answer.

Pakistan’s democracy can only be strengthened if all democratic dispensations are allowed to complete their five-year term and there is a smooth democratic transition. Pressure should be there on the governments to perform. The voting ballots should decide who gets to stay and who doesn’t. The Opposition can keep the pressure on the government inside Parliament but it should also postpone its public gatherings due to Covid. It will not be a victory for the government even if the Opposition thinks it is. We saw how the Opposition was in favour of lockdowns when the first wave hit Pakistan. At that time, the federal government was not in favour of lockdowns. Now we are seeing that the Opposition is downplaying the Covid crisis.

Leadership has to set an example. The public will follow. We saw what happened in the United States of America with the Donald Trump administration’s mishandling of the pandemic. Both the government and the Opposition need to sit together and come up with a strategy to deal with the coronavirus rather than pointing fingers at each other and letting the public suffer as a result. Someone needs to take responsibility. And take it fast.

The author is a journalist based in Lahore

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