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The Express Tribune Editorial 9 May 2020

Frigid unconcern

Recently, a poor woman died due to heat and exhaustion after standing in a queue for hours at a NADRA office in Gujranwala to get her fingerprints verified so that she could receive the government aid under the Ehsaas Programme. Sahib Bibi fainted due to heat. She was rushed to the District Headquarter Hospital where she died. There have been reports in the media that people have to wait in long queues at NADRA offices in this hot weather under the open sky. Nor are there measures in place to ensure social distancing to protect people from the contagious coronavirus. Ironically, the financial aid of Rs12,000 is being provided to the vulnerable due to circumstances arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. Government officials did not pay attention to media reports, and the official neglect is resulting in problems for people and even death. It is neglect that perhaps caused the poor woman’s death.
No one needs to be told that summer months, especially May and June, are very hot and dry in Pakistan when temperature soars to 45 degrees Celsius and above. The plight of those made to stand in long lines in such hot and dry conditions with the sun beating down on the head can well be imagined. Moreover, people standing close to one another for long also expose them to the deadly coronavirus disease. However, if we consider that neglect and apathy have long been established as the chief characteristics of the functioning of our corrosive bureaucracy, difficulties confronting the common people do not come as much of a surprise. The unfeeling bureaucracy displays a frigid unconcern when it comes to dealing with the wretched of the earth. Usually, death follows a sort of deluge of official kindness. There is, however, no point in getting wise after the event. The Ehsaas Programme should be saved from being described as a thing meant to serve a good cause but producing bad consequences.


Misogynistic cowardice

Yet another woman has been murdered because her husband was too spoilt to learn to cook. In this instance, it was a man in Shalkanabad, near Dasu. The man shot his wife because she did not “serve him a hot meal” for sehri. The victim was 19 and had already married two years ago. Courage means facing the consequences of one’s actions. Even with behaviour that cannot be condoned, we must respect the courage of a person’s convictions. Similarly, honour means taking pride in one’s actions, because the person is convinced, for reasons right or wrong, that their actions are just.
While honour killings are also inherently motivated by misogyny, that strain of misogyny is the result of our collective failure as a society for letting such crimes be glorified. But in most cases of violence against women, honour was never an issue. Cowardice was. In fact, an easy way to tell whether violence was technically an honour crime or not is whether or not the killers flee the scene of the crime. Only someone who knows they have done wrong would flee. Someone who thinks they have done right would proudly admit to their crime.
This man was clearly just another misogynistic coward. He murdered his wife and ran away so that his father-in-law couldn’t catch him. Fortunately, the police did, with the father-in-law’s help. But unfortunately, the father-in-law is not without sin in all this either. The killer was also his nephew, making this another example of a daughter being ‘given’ to a violent relative. This usually happens for two reasons — to keep wealth in the family, or because the boy is so inept that he can’t impress a girl or her family without familial pressure to force the wedding. Neither is worth defending, but both are worth correcting. Let women choose, and don’t force them to marry violent men. It is our collective duty.


Co-existing with corona

Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced a phase-wise lifting of the coronavirus lockdown in the country, starting from the 9th of May i.e. today. Even though the coronavirus cases in the country are rising with the peak not yet in sight, the deaths among the known cases of infection are just about 2.37%. That is what perhaps gave the Prime Minister the space to take a risky decision that can even be reversed in case of the virus getting out of control — something that the PM himself mentioned as he urged the public to maintain social distancing and abide by the SOPs for resumption of commercial activity.
In what the Prime Minister described as the second phase of the lockdown, small markets as well as shops in the neighbourhoods can now operate after Sehri till 5pm all through the week barring Saturday and Sunday; more sectors related to the construction industry can be reopened; and selected OPDs are allowed to function for treating specific illnesses. While places of congregation like shopping malls, mega consumer stores, cinemas and parks will stay closed till further orders, educational institutions will not be reopened before the 15th of July. No examinations will be held and students will be promoted on the basis of their previous year’s results.
The ease in the lockdown must not have gone down well with our medical fraternity which has been in the forefront of this fight against the deadly virus, and continues to render great sacrifices. While the medics’ concern in view of the rising graph of infections is pretty comprehensible, the PM too is walking a tightrope, having to save the livelihoods of a large chunk of the population, alongside saving their lives. And then the PM is also to look at the bigger picture of protecting the economy from the infectious fallout of the novel virus.
And when Prime Minister Imran insists that nobody knows when the coronavirus will attain its peak in the country, he actually seeks to convey the message to the public that the contagion will exist for the time being, and it’s better for us to learn to co-exist with it i.e. to go about our normal routine while taking precautions
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