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Daily Times Editorial 1 June 2020

Shocking numbers


Now that the total number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan has almost reached 70,000 and about one-and-a-half-thousand people have already died, perhaps the government should spend some time finding out just why the graph has risen so steeply over the last few weeks and share whatever conclusion it reaches with the public. Transparency is one of its hallmarks, after all, or so it likes to believe. Most likely whoever looks into these things will find two major reasons for most if not all of these problems. One, of course, is that people do not respect nor observe social distancing protocols so it’s only natural that more of them catch the virus at the end of the day. If only they had behaved more responsibly when social interaction restarted, there’s no doubt that things would not have been so bad and such an investigation would not even have to be called for.
Yet what most pundits do not say much about especially in the press, perhaps rightly so much considering just how the high and mighty of the present administration dislike any kind of criticism, is just what role the federal government played in this whole mess. No doubt it mobilised with admirable speed to divert resources towards the economy – to keep markets from drying and employers from laying off workers, of course – but what it said and how it acted about the most important factor didn’t just leave a lot to be desired, but also played a big part in worsening the whole situation as well. For Prime Minsiter Imran Khan was dead against social distancing, especially the lockdown, since the beginning. And even with Sindh went ahead with the lockdown first, the able and respected prime minister did not stop hitting political jabs at the PPP government down south over the matter.
Even more strangely, even PTI’s own provincial governments and allies in other provinces also decided to shut things down – because that is what the moment demanded – the prime minister called it a conspiracy on part of the affluent upper class. Even that was not all, he kept his line even though the much of the world agreed that the number-one reason that some countries were able to bring down cases – flatten the curve as it were – was precisely because of timely and effectively social distancing. Then the Supreme Court intervened as well, in a manner that no other court in the world did, but the less said about that matter in such spaces the better. Pakistan’s latest numbers about new cases and even deaths are shocking indeed, but a close and cold look will show just who is chiefly responsible. The honour to command comes with the burden of command, after all.


A new low for India


The Modi administration in India tried to unveil its novel Pakistan strategy a little before its general election last year. It began with a false flag operation that was blamed squarely on Pakistan, as usual, with the country’s belligerent media moving in lockstep with its hawkish government. All this was meant to set a series of events in motion that would take the BJP into the election with the kind of momentum it would have liked. The operation was followed by brief violation of Pakistan’s airspace, which was also accompanied by a false narrative in the Indian media; something about killing some thousand local jihadi at some camp even though all they achieved was burning a few trees and killing a couple of innocent crows in the middle of a forest somewhere in the mountains.
But that was about as far as they could keep to their script. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilots returned the favour, and then some, the next day, shooting down two of their aircraft, killing one pilot and capturing the other. Since then, even though BJP won the election, the Indian narrative has been reduced to a number of comical episodes that much of the international media carries only for its fun value; indeed a lot of readers also mistake it for satirical content.
Every now and then the Indian intelligence agencies seem to capture a number of birds that have allegedly been spying for Pakistan. Just the other day they caught yet another pigeon that was, according to the Indian government no less, caught carrying out Pakistani-sponsored intelligence and espionage operations deep inside Indian territory. No doubt New Delhi would have been proud of such intel work and somebody must have deserved a serious promotion for all this work. And just this last week, their prime news anchors – who are apparently so good because they can spew venom like nobody’s business – actually accused Pakistan of sponsoring all the millions of locusts that have invaded their country. That they couldn’t even notice that prior to moving to India these same pests had just caused unprecedented damage to Pakistani crops is not surprising at all, considering how they have been blinded by hatred for Pakistan. Things have become so intolerable for them now that they will stoop to whatever level necessary to score points that only they keep count of. This is clearly a new low, even for India.
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