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November 22, 2020

Viral politics

Editorial

 
November 22, 2020

As happened in the US, politics has become caught up with the coronavirus pandemic and all that it involves. The administration in Peshawar has refused to issue an NOC for today's opposition rally, on the grounds of the rapid rise in coronavirus cases. Covid-19 is increasing with an average spread of 13 percent and a rate of nine percent now being recorded, according to government ministers. The opposition has refused to abide by this, insisting that the rally will indeed go ahead, and that SOPs will be followed by handing masks out to people.

The government has argued that the opposition is now taking a complete U-turn from its position just a few months back, when it was in favour of complete lockdowns in the country, and had criticised the way the government was handling the corona situation. In turn, the opposition has pointed to the government and has said that it has carried through with its own rallies at various points even this month, most notably in Gilgit-Baltistan where the election campaign went ahead with full force addressed by key government ministers. The KP government has said that events such as the distribution of the 'Sehat Card' or the campaigning in Gilgit-Baltistan are important for the national interest. But that is an argument that can be used right back by the opposition as well. We ask: is there anything more important than saving lives?

The gathering by the TLP in Islamabad a week or so back had also brought up issues regarding the spread of the coronavirus as did the funeral of the TLP's Khadim Hussain Rizvi attended by thousands of people which took place in Lahore. The government did not make any attempt to stop this gathering where thousands of people were in close proximity to each other for hours. It has argued that it cannot interfere in religious matters. But, again, the answer should be clear. Is life more important than anything else? Or is politics the key issue?

It is obvious that both the opposition and the government are eager to clamp down on the grounds of the virus where it suits them and to avoid doing so where it does not. This is hardly fair to the people. It simply creates confusion and a sense of chaos. There has to be a uniform policy. The opposition is correct when it asks why wedding gatherings of under 300 people should be allowed to go ahead given that Covid-19 can spread rapidly through these areas, and public transport runs as normal, while opposition rallies are clamped down on. But the government also has a legitimate reason to prevent large gatherings from taking place. These are questions to which the government needs to find answers, while the opposition too needs to demonstrate responsibility and remember that the lives of ordinary people matter more than anything else.