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April 7, 2021

My bout with Covid


April 7, 2021

More than a year after Covid-19 struck the world including Pakistan, my bout with this potentially deadly ailment recently was an eye-opener. Needless to say, I embraced the necessary precautions prescribed by top-of-the-line experts.

From Dr Faisal Sultan, the health minister, to local doctors in Islamabad, the recommendations have been abundant and rich. And yet, when the infection came it reached me with a roar.

Covid-19 is not to be taken lightly. I wore my mask religiously, without fault I believe. However, those all around who chose to be complacent include those beyond my reach.

And, eventually, I was exposed notwithstanding the precautions. The two week episode (thank goodness the timing was just convenient in between my regular columns for The News) couldn’t have worked better timing wise. But now it's time to return to work.

For Prime Minister Imran Khan, the time to be decisive is clearly long overdue. Action requires tough decisions, for at stake is not just the stake of individuals across the country but indeed the future of Pakistan.

Enforcement, enforcement and enforcement – that is the key to the future of Pakistan. This can be ensured with a combination of compliance with enforcement where necessary. This is essential for the future of humanity which is facing a challenge unknown to an entire generation as never before.

Three interrelated trends, all policy related, have come together to stare Pakistan right in the face.

First and foremost, the people of Pakistan deserve more than ever before to get a better deal than what they have received in our nation’s 74-year history. The past year has sharply exposed the raw deal repeatedly given to the ordinary citizens of Pakistan, notably the poorest of the poor.

It is for these sons and daughters of Pakistan that the prime minister of Pakistan must now act quickly and decisively for they are at the receiving end of the country’s crisis of governance. As they go about their daily lives, they are at the receiving end of the daily crisis ranging from poorly run educational and healthcare outfits to the uncaring providers and administrators of utilities.

Across Punjab, where the crisis between the people and the state is at its acutest (Punjab is home to more than 60 percent of the population or more than 130 million people), Prime Minister Khan needs to focus on getting the job done. It doesn’t matter exactly how it's done and who does the job. Choosing the chief minister is secondary as long as he or she performs. What is important is tackling the crisis faced by ordinary people in daily lives.

Second, in Islamabad the disconnect between official policies and the reality of Pakistan’s forward movement is essential, with or without remaining on track with the International Money Fund (IMF) and other lenders. Ultimately, the cause of Pakistan is much more vital. The recent change of the economy team must spearhead the policy gaps that have surrounded the country. Meanwhile, the reaction to the manner in which Tariq Banuri was replaced as chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) spoke volumes over an old style of haphazard choices.

In sharp contrast, the prime minister must immediately assemble a team of well meaning Pakistanis to advise on the way best forward. Names like the well respected Syed Babar Ali and Shamsh Kassim Lakha with contributions to Pakistan’s higher education must figure prominently in a fresh team of well wishers, with a history of contribution to Pakistan’s well-being in advising the way forward.

And finally, Pakistan’s armed forces need to be engaged in a national dialogue on the future of Pakistan, given their centrality to the country’s future. The recent comments by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on setting aside the past as Pakistan gears for a new future mark an essential step towards carving out a new future. That future requires new thinking on a range of fronts.

Nations are built on the strength of their internal unity and economic viability. Tragically for Pakistan, the country’s successive leaders have relied heavily on foreign patrons to keep Pakistan going. The time for decisive action to carve a new way forward is long overdue.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist who writes on political and economic affairs.

Email: [email protected]