THE recent of the Pakistan cricket team’s tour to Ireland in July due to the coronavirus pandemic is a setback to the respective cricket boards as well as to the game itself.
Cricket, like all other sports, has been severely hit, compelling the ICC and affiliated boards to desperately look for alternatives and reschedule tours.
Pakistan, too, is beginning to feel the heat.
Following the unfinished fifth edition of the PSL in February, back-to-back postponement of tours to the Netherlands and Ireland have come as an additional jolt to Pakistan that was looking forward to an unusually busy international calendar.
Quite often in the past, the PCB has been blamed for failing to negotiate a busy cricketing season.
With home assignments next to nil in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, the players looked to the PCB to rope in overseas assignments to keep them motivated and earn a substantial sum.
It is, therefore, to the PCB’s credit that not only was home cricket revived, but a busy, lucrative season had also been planned.
The pandemic, though, is threatening to spoil all that.
While the Netherlands and Ireland tours include a few T20 games each, the PCB is really worried about the fate of the England tour in late July, which comprises a three-Test series and as many T20 Internationals.
The tour is equally, if not more, important for the England and Wales Cricket Board which is also grappling with the impact of the pandemic.
Both Pakistan and England appear willing to play behind closed doors if their respective governments, medical advice and time frames allow.
What must be admired, however, is that despite the postponed tours, the PCB has not resorted to desperate measures.
The board’s CEO Wasim Khan, though expressing his disappointment at the postponement of the Ireland tour, said it was absolutely the right thing to do as human lives were far more important than a cricket match or event.
Let Kashmir breathe
PAKISTAN has once again called on the world to take urgent notice of the unending asphyxia that the Kashmiris have been subjected to and demanded that the held valley be at least allowed the supply of medicine and food. Giving a policy statement in the Senate on Thursday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi lambasted the Indian government, holding it responsible for the situation in occupied Kashmir in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The communal mindset of the Narendra Modi set-up has been fully reflected in how the rulers in New Delhi have inspired through their actions a witch-hunt in which zealots have painted Muslims as ‘willing’, indeed ‘sponsored’ carriers of the coronavirus. The minister’s words captured some of the anger with which these preposterous insinuations against a large religious group in a country that calls itself a democracy have been greeted. Mr Qureshi linked the escalation in cross-LoC violations by the Indian army to New Delhi’s desire to deny the world a clear, unblocked view of what it is like to live under an occupying force. There have been more than 900 instances of such violations since January. When one looks at the steep increase in these violations since the new order under which India forcibly snatched the occupied region’s special autonomous status was enforced last year, an increasingly grim picture emerges.
A lot has been in turmoil since the annexation of a thinking, breathing people whose aspirations for freedom have been well-documented over decades. Countries across the world are experiencing the feeling of isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. People and governments, scholars, politicians and lawmakers of all stripes have suffered from a sudden denial of essential freedoms as the number of infected individuals rises. They had taken their liberties for granted and it can be safely assumed that they at least wished others to lead their lives with the same degree of freedom they enjoyed. They must have seen the virus as a confirmation of what the deprivation of freedom can do and how it can be overcome. Experts hopefully talk about a new world emerging from this horrifying bout with the virus, shrugging off all that scarred the previous one. A humane approach, culminating in freedom, towards subjugated peoples everywhere must be one of the main themes around which this new world is to be created.
A VIRUS which has wreaked havoc in far more developed countries is gaining ground in Pakistan, yet the public largely appears to have thrown caution to the wind and is resuming commercial activities as if it is somehow immune to the coronavirus.
Even as daily new cases rise, the relaxations in the lockdown continue and the public seems to be in no mood to comply with SOPs.
A record jump in Covid-19 cases was reported only days after the reopening of markets, with total cases crossing the 35,000 mark and deaths at 820.
Even as these figures climb, scenes in commercial hubs are reminiscent of pre-Covid-19 activity at shopping centres in the days ahead of Eid.
People are cramming into shops — many of them without face coverings — and blatantly flouting the government’s orders on limiting the possibility of transmission.
As a result, provincial governments have been forced to take action by shutting down shopping centres for violating SOPs despite repeated warnings by the authorities.
This lax attitude of traders and shoppers towards their self-protection raises several questions.
Why is it that so many people are unaware of the risks of contracting the potentially fatal virus and the circumstances in which it spreads?
The answer lies in the government’s messaging.
Despite the fact that it has been more than two months since the first Covid-19 case was detected in the country, the authorities have failed to convince the public of its danger.
This attitude is alarming and will come with very high costs; it can partly be attributed to the popularity of conspiracy theories which historically find many takers — such as the notion that Covid-19 will not affect people in countries with warm temperatures or that the BCG vaccine protects against it.
Ironically, some public figures, including the governor of Sindh, also perpetuated the mistaken belief that the coronavirus is not much worse than the seasonal flu.
The government must act responsibly and ensure that its message is unequivocal and lays out the facts: that the virus can be fatal, that there is no way to protect oneself other than by limiting contact, and that there is no guarantee that Pakistan’s numbers will remain lower than in the West.
Since it has made the decision to reopen the country and is relying so heavily on individual responsibility, the government must fulfil its duty to educate and protect the public.
In order to communicate effectively and send a clear message that is ingrained in the psyche of the nation, the federal and provincial governments must work together.
Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has shown the same, if not worse, political discord among political parties.
The government must move towards a working consensus with the opposition parties as disharmony will further dilute the message trickling down to the average citizen.
Bickering and unending blame games will not yield results.