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June 24, 2020

Listen to experts

National

June 24, 2020

No lockdown but smart lockdown notwithstanding surge of infections on last Saturday was alarming sadly without the any sign of its receding. Saving lives and livelihood at the same time are indeed possible, according to official policy, though its incompatibility to the widely held view on the subject. The contagion is suffocating the large number of people with no fleeting respite during the foreseeable future. The health infrastructure’s vulnerability threshold has been also drawing closer with every passing day to the horror of all and sundry. Doctors and paramedics staff are becoming the victims of the virus relentlessly while amber lights are blinking clearly suggesting to rise to the occasion to rectify the situation to avert the losses beyond redemption. The official indecisiveness all along may be pushing the country to the precipice with slim chances of saving lives and the livelihood. But who cares?

The prime minister’s last Lahore sojourn resulted in his agreeing to the extent of ‘smart lockdown ’as the ultimate antidote to the spread of virus. It was considered too little too late by many in the face of obtaining dangerous situation in the provincial capital, in particular. The ‘smart lockdown’ may not prove as a silver bullet solution to stem the deadly menace that has posed the existential challenge to the entire world. The official oversimplification of the virus as not so life threatening indeed resonates with the disproportionate response amounting to defying the ground realities those warranting full-fledged frontal attack to stem the rampage of COVID-19.

The prime minister may not wait for the worst case scenario of the infection to unleash his ‘dogs of war’ to tear into the contagion. He may give in to the rallying cry of imposing the full lockdown in the country as advised by the local experts and the WHO. This policy decision, if implemented, stands bright chances of saving lives leading to fast recovery of the economy. Their counseling clearly suggests saving the lives first and then the livelihood as the only viable option based on scientific knowledge and experiences across the globe. The prime minister’s panacea, wrapped in smart lockdown, may not offer the answer for saving lives and the livelihood.

Please pay heed to the counseling of the experts, sooner the better. The opening of the economy, as repeatedly suggested by the experts, may only be considered the after ensuring the flattening of the curve first followed by its continuing downward trend. Here in Pakistan the leadership has been persistent in swimming upstream to bring out unthinkable.

The disclosures of heart-rending official figures of the infection cobbled with passionate mandarin’s persuasion during Lahore visit regretfully failed to melt the heart of the prime minister who firmly stood his ground of continuing the policy of smart lockdown with added emphasis to enforce the (SOP) in letter and spirit. Federal Minister Asad Umar estimated figures of the infected people during next couple of months caused enormous ache and fear to the people in their hearts in general and medical professionals in particular who were wondering what level of the coronavirus rampage might force the change of mind of the leadership. It may wishfully happen at the earliest while hoping against the byword fixations and propensities.

Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has recently questioned the ability and the competence of the leadership of the incumbent government adding it was relying on distractions to divert the attention of the people.

Its single dimensional approach, to the exclusion of other stakeholders, would not bear fruit as it was evident from the track record of its rule. It was shocking disclosure of the chairman that the government did not faithfully implement the decisions taken in the National Coordination and Operation Committee (NCOC) to contain the coronavirus. He rejected the leadership’s policy of raising red- hearings to cover up the failures of the government those have made the people very angry and frustrated.

The 18th Amendment and the National Finance Award had empowered the provinces ensuing in strengthening the federation the adding controversy generated by the government on the 18th Amendment seemed focused to strengthen the mindset of the centrally structured state that would be grossly detrimental to the cause of federation. The chairman’s initiative to call the All Parties Conference after the PML-N president recovers is the right thinking of a democratic leadership with democratic mindset.

The corridors of power may not be oblivious of the pervasive pall of pessimism, hopelessness and fearthat continues to descend on all around with intensity. The people generally want incumbent treasury leadership to prove its mettle and bring about relief by mitigating their fears those are surely not misplaced. But, now they are seemingly terribly disappointed as more than two years are enough to judge the government’s ability to deliver qualitatively. They do not feel an improvement in their socio-economic living conditions either. They are in sense of loss because the vicious cycle of problems has been haunting them in perpetuity with no, whatsoever, let up. The common people’s weird belief in the sincerity of the top level leadership has been badly shaken mainly due to the royal mess this government has apparently created in most of the spheres of national life.

The projection of the economy quite clearly vindicates the political opponents’ view point. The crippling inflation, increase in unemployment, politics of vendetta without pause, reducing Parliament as dormant forum and diluting democratic traditions and practices to the hilt, are some of the indictments those reflect poorly on the competence of the government and its leadership. The anger and the sense of betrayal among the people are seemingly tipping over the edges that may spill over to the streets if the institutional and leadership apathy continues to push them over the fringes of the marginalisation.

The leadership may take into account the reality check and calibrate its policies accordingly to make the remaining years of its tenure as worthwhile and not like previous ones. Previous year’s governance of the (PTI) government may be equated with as inconsequential at the expense of healthy politics, people’s welfare and the economy that has been teetering on edge of crisis. The leadership may leave behind its ego and throw it out of the window for the good of all, and conduct in statesman like manners to turn adversary into opportunity. That is what the genuine leadership is all about. It may be understood as cast in stone explicitly implying that the revenge politics is cyclical that comes home to roost. Its earliest epiphany for better may save the undertakers from embracing the unenviable fate in the otherwise cloak-and-dagger saga. The leadership adapt to the changed realities in order to steer the ship out of the troubled waters calmly and safely.

The strategy of browbeating the political opponents has seemingly lost its appeal among the people, more so, in the absence of offering quid pro quo in the form of improvement in governance. Their sufferings are abounding though. The perception of government politics as petty politics based on vendetta has been flying thick and fast attaining almost finality. This politicking has not apparently enhanced the political capital in favour of the government at the grassroots level especially. It may not surely make favourable difference by continuing treading on the beaten tracks. For this reason, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the leadership to sustain the support base because they have nothing in their brief to go around selling the policies and govt’s achievements.

The people confront them with shrill voices exposing tale of promises made and promises broken. Their whaling rooted in anger is not without foundation as they are finding extremely difficult to make both ends meet in the drudgery of life. The higher prices of sugar, flour, vegetables and vegetable oils followed by myriad crisis of shortage of supplies pertaining to the items of common man basket have indeed made them very angry bordering enough is enough.

The hellfire of inflation has badly reduced their purchasing power because inflation is like tax on poor. The PTI middle order leaders or its workers generally prefer to seek refuge in invisibility notwithstanding the narrative the political parties survive and thrive on the basis of the mass support. Their playing on the back-foot seems understandable, ironically.

The Economic Survey of Pakistan (2019-20) reflected the abysmal picture of the year with dire prediction for the future as the economy may not improve during the next financial year due to the reasons beyond control. Indeed the coronavirus has taken tolls on the economies of the countries of the world pushing them to the worst recession, worse than the 1930’s one. However, the immediate question that comes across the mind is that the virus broke the back of the economy that was already in shamble.

The economic survey of this government stating ten million people may fall below the poverty line. It took the breath away of all. The deficit budget (2020-21) projects ambitious targets of more than Rs5tr. The experts are wondering as how they could achieve such targets when they have given the tax free budget. Also, budget does not shed light on the action plan to achieve such an unrealities revenue generation targets. The fudging of figures and the tall promises may not increase the comfort level of the people with regard to economic outlook of the country.

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