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Daily Times Editorial 5 June 2020

Perception and reality


The government is right in insisting that another lockdown needs to be avoided. Sure, it’s the right thing to do considering the rising number of cases and deaths but that’s all theory. In reality, the economy simply cannot afford it. But when it goes so far as reopening the tourism industry the government creates just the wrong kind of perception. In other words it dilutes the threat. Tourism is a matter of life and death for the people of the districts most visited every year, but it’s not something that people just need to do. And the government is better advised forming a relief package for industries just like tourism that should be kept at minimum activity so that the rest of the country can function and revive jobs and the economy. The way the government is presently going about things it is simply creating the impression that it is now alright for people to leave their homes, even travel a fair distance, just for recreation.
Indeed, desperate as some of the people in areas which are most visited are, a lot of other people from the same districts are now also advising people against travelling there because of their rather weak healthcare infrastructure. The last thing they need right now is for even a few infected people to pitch tent there and leave the virus behind when they go home. The government is also wrong to completely leave it to the people to protect themselves. As has clearly been seen, most people are just not willing to follow social distancing rules. What is called for in such circumstances is a motivated public awareness program, something which has been missing from the official effort throughout the crisis. It is not enough for a few senior ministers to say it’s important to stay safe, especially when some of the most senior government officials including the prime minister are routinely seen without masks and gloves.
There is an urgent need for the government to crease the right kind of perception in the minds of the people. And that will not happen by jumping head first into a complete reopening of the country and the economy. The situation demands careful baby steps towards normalcy, with a very clear eye on the latest statistics. Sadly all sorts of data confirm a very dangerous trend of sharply rising new cases as well as deaths in Pakistan. And it is the government’s responsibility, at the end of the day, to reverse this trend.


India is feeling the heat


Islamabad should be prepared for an escalated media war with India because of the deteriorating state of affairs inside the neighbouring country and New Delhi’s usual trick of bringing up Pakistan in the news to deflect attention. It all started with their government’s own overreach. No doubt it felt safe with the unprecedented mandate in the second term, and went about implementing its extremist agenda without much thought about anything else. And even though Pakistan tried to rally the world when the Indian government revoked the special status of Occupied Kashmir in August last year, without much success, it didn’t take very long for the Indians to over extend and shoot themselves in the foot, so to speak. And the incomprehensible citizen amendment act (CAA) backfired badly, leading to an unwinding of a giant bet by international investment banks and hedge funds on India’s future. That was before the Covid-19 outbreak, no matter how much Prime Minister Modi tries to blame it on external factors or even Pakistan.
But then the pandemic did come, and the Indian government panicked, as a result of which millions of migrant workers were left stranded without food, shelter or transport with a large majority having to walk thousands of miles back to their homes. It was around this time that India’s economic indicators began nose diving. Their services purchasing mangers index, an important indicator of the direction of the economy, plunged by a record and exposed a sudden 15 per cent contraction in the economy. This was also, quite naturally for us in this country, the time when India’s media went into overdrive with its usual conspiracy theories about Pakistan. Yet even as Indian intelligence agencies were allegedly catching spy pigeons sent with secret messages from Pakistan, and its media was urging Delhi to somehow teach Pakistan some sort of lesson, the virus was spreading especially among the stranded workers and India now has the third highest number of infections in the world.
Still, when it couldn’t back its claims about terrorism from Pakistan, it fell back to another usual trick, harassing the embassy and expelling a few Pakistanis from the country. Now, as parts of India are being battered by the worst cyclone in about a century, and its relief services are in no way up to meeting the challenge, we should prepare for yet another round of anti-Pakistan venom on Indian media to keep their people occupied with their favourite bedtime story. India is feeling the heat, and even its media cannot sell tall tales forever. *
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