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Daily Times Editorial 24 June 2020

Controlling the narrative

 

PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf) is once again on a slippery slope as far as controlling the narrative about the coronavirus goes. Since the prime minister chose the way of targeted lockdowns and this is a very sensitive phase of the fight against the coronavirus, the need for a very clear code of conduct for everybody as well as complete transparency about how things are proceeding cannot possibly be stressed enough. Yet conflicting reports in the press are confusing people all over again. And surely the government should not need any reminding that people of Pakistan need only the slightest excuse, not even that oftentimes, to go out and about as if nothing had happened.
First, just a few days ago, the press quoted a government official saying that the targeted lockdown strategy had led to a very high — perhaps 98 percent — reduction in the spread of the virus. But since it had only been two days since the policy had been implemented, and any trend of new cases required at least a fortnight to emerge and be identified, this was clearly a case of going too far. Yet it lit up social media as PTI supporters cheered on. Not much later there emerged news that the virus was indeed spreading at a slower rate than before, which was very welcome indeed, and that there was now also more spare capacity in hospitals. But then on Tuesday doctors in Lahore were saying that most public hospitals had run out of space and only the bigger ones, like Mayo, Jinnah and Services hospitals, had enough left for a few more days. They also said that new patients were arriving often in very critical condition.
This is just the kind of messaging that needs to be avoided right now. No doubt some people would have taken heart from the good news that came first, regardless of how true or not it was, and done their bit in spreading the deadly virus that much further. It is, of course, appreciated that the government’s policies are controlling the spread, if that part is indeed true, yet all that stands to be undone very quickly if it cannot control just what kind of information is reaching the people. Surely the government would have the latest numbers at its fingertips, therefore it should immediately share all relevant information with the people. It should also say again, and keep saying, that the end of the fight is so far nowhere in sight, and everybody will have to follow all the rules so long as it goes on.

 
 

Some soul-searching can be a good thing

 

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhary has taken the lid off of some infighting within the ruling party in the short time it has been in power; and how conflicting interests of some of PTI’s most senior leaders led to a breakdown of Imran Khan’s core team. Much of what the minister said was pretty well known within media circles, at least, and circulated as dependable rumours among much of the rest of the public. Yet now that a deep insider has spilled the beans, the news has become official. And it’s not really the public’s business who really gets along with whom, but since the minister himself mentioned that this particular deadlock affected the party and ultimately how it ran the country, this matter deserves to be out in the public now.
It does not come as a surprise that even senior members of the prime minister’s team are now accepting, at least internally, that things are not going quite as they thought when all of them took their oaths. And it seems the PM has himself given his cabinet six months to get everything in order. It’s already been two years, and soon enough it will be the half-way point, so time will be of the essence. But for things to get going the prime minister will need to surround himself with the right people for the job. Now it’s clear that some, at least one, among the ruling party also feel the same. So the faster the head of state hits the reset button and puts a team together than can play the long innings for him, the better for all the people that depend on the government’s policies. These are far tougher times than usual, and far too many people are in too much trouble to have time or patience to wait for the government to get its act together.
Differences of opinion, even rather serious ones, are nothing new in political parties that have, after all, the rather daunting task of running an entire country. Previous administrations have faced similar issues; with the most senior cabinet members not so much as talking to each other for many years, yet they could still function together with the team. Ultimately, it is the leader’s responsibility to keep such things in check. No captain can achieve much if his players keep dropping each other’s catches. Hopefully those that mean well will have the ear of the PM and the right polices will be instituted at the right times.
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