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Daily Times Editorial 27 July 2020

Two years of PTI government


There is more than a small grain of truth in the argument of Information Minister Shibli Faraz that an outdated, corrupt, and unfair system based on nepotism was defeated two years ago when Imran Khan won the general election. But then there are also valid questions, as the opposition never fails to point out, about just how that system was defeated and just what has replaced it. No doubt for the longest time Pakistanis had become accustomed to being ruled by an upper class that protected only its own interests. And slowly, in front of everybody’s eyes, much of the state’s structure crumbled away and the country fell into unsustainable debt all the while the elite enriched itself.
Yet there has hardly been any indication of a turnaround in the things that matter the most, and much of the promises made by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf) on the campaign trail not only never came true but have been effectively abandoned in a wave of policy changes that famously came to be known as the PM’s U-turns. Also, since the second anniversary of the new government falls near Eid, and prices are traditionally high and people are suffering, the most common theme that has emerged among the people is the government’s inability to even provide the basic necessities of life at stable prices. Other than that too the low cost housing is still a distant dream, the accountability drive has been reduced to a witch hunt, education reforms are on an entirely different trajectory than promised for so long, and so on and so forth.
But that is not to say, of course, that all is bad. The government did indeed inherit a very broken down economy, and its initial indecision made it much worse, but it did get control over the whole thing and the overall direction was fine. Its handling of the pandemic has been showing very nice results. And the way it helped businesses survive the worst of the lockdown kept the jobs and earning situation from being much worse. To be fair, while the ruling party is full of old players from all around, the prime minister is still new to the top spot, and two years is perhaps too soon to judge his performance for what is after all a five year cycle. However its performance has been so far, PTI now knows what is working and what is not. And it has ample time to take care of all that is not.


Health problems other than Covid-19


One of the biggest problems brought about by the coronavirus pandemic is the inability of medical professions, for one reason or another, to provide help to patients suffering from other diseases. It’s not just the matter of being overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. Indeed, some countries have had such high rates of infections and deaths that entire medical systems came to their knees and had just no time or space to deal with any other matter. Then there was the risk of infection for other patients, which made them stay away from hospitals even in cases of serious sickness.
But the need to keep people away from each other has had a devastating effect on doctors’ ability to treat patients. Children that require regular blood transfusion, for example, suffered to no end because even normal blood donors tended to stay well away from any medical facility all this time. Then there were supply shortages because of a world in lockdown and almost zero trade, which led doctors in Pakistan to fear an outbreak of vaccine treatable diseases as well. Polio comes as the best example for Pakistan, since we are now one of the only two countries left in the world that have not been able to finish off this disease. It goes to the government’s credit that it placed resuming the anti-polio drive on such a high priority after the lockdown. One reason of course is that the figures of the last two years have been simply appalling, and there is a very urgent need to get all children vaccinated before the trend gets any worse.
Pakistan, fortunately, is among only a handful of countries that have been able to reassert control over the situation. The rate of the spread here is far lower than much of the rest of the world. Now if the coming Eid holidays can be spent responsibly, there is no reason not to expect it to reduce even further. This puts us in a better position than others at the moment to cater to the needs of non-coronavirus cases as well. All medical professionals have been the true heroes of this war and must be appreciated as such, but before they have yet another emergency on their hands the government must make sure that all supply lines of all essential medicines are kept working at all times. We have been through the worst of the crisis, and it will take only common sense and smart thinking to navigate through the rest of the storm.
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