The Imran Khan-led government of Pakistan has found a new scapegoat to blame for the rise in coronavirus infections and fatalities — the people of Pakistan.
We are the ones responsible for our own demise, for we are so non-serious and “jahil” or illiterate, according to Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid, that we don’t realise the severity of the situation.
How many governments in the world have thrown their own people under the bus when it comes to taking responsibility for the late action in the fight against the Covid-19 crisis? I can think of just one right now.
Coronavirus just a ‘flu’
How did we reach here? It is clear that after blaming the opposition parties for too long, there had to be a new villain in the house. Enter the poor jahil people, who have so long heard their prime minister and his team trivialise the coronavirus.
We were told by PM Imran Khan that the coronavirus, at best, was just a flu, which would go away in no time. It was something that would die in our dry and scorching hot weather. Follow their lead and just ghabrana nahin.
Deaths, what deaths? Traffic accidents took many more lives, according to federal planning minister Asad Umar. Did anyone talk about banning cars? Deadly? Nope, it was just dangerous. Who said that? Ironically, Pakistan’s information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan.
Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) government in Sindh was only “exaggerating” Covid-19 figures: if you would visit the hospitals, you would find nothing at all. Oh this virus is just “type C” in Pakistan. We are winning it, we are killing it, even the New York governor is going to copy Imran Khan, according to communications minister Murad Saeed. It’s a different matter that governor Andrew Cuomo never mentioned Pakistan or Imran Khan. Look at us, we were the only Muslim country that didn’t even close the mosques.
Lockdown is just a fashion statement. Lockdown is for the elite, Imran Khan reminded us. No good will ever come from these lockdowns. People will die of hunger, the same people who will now be responsible for their own deaths. Why should Pakistan follow other countries where lockdowns were the only way to curb the virus that has no cure? Doctors pleading for lockdown were only politicians in doctors’ coats, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) knows that. New York went “bankrupt” due to the lockdown. Though the fake news of New York going bankrupt still hasn’t reached the US.
A new low
But still, the people are “jahil”. Let’s blame the Pakistani citizens for the confused and haywire messaging of Imran Khan’s government from day one.
But it wasn’t just poor messaging. First, there was no lockdown, then the government lifted whatever it thought was a lockdown: all markets, bazaars, shopping malls, parks and other businesses were reopened. Public transport, domestic air travel and even international flights are set to resume from 20 June. With no stringent measures put in place for social distancing, wearing a mask, or any other SOP, everything was opened. The problem is that the PTI government never imposed a strict lockdown in Pakistan, and now, at the peak of the virus spread, finds itself with tail between its legs.
While one government representative says the country is understating virus infections and deaths, there is another minister who feels Pakistan is doing better than India. Time and again, Imran Khan and his team have asked people to not compare Pakistan with New Zealand, or even Vietnam for that matter. Yet, they compare themselves with India. So let’s compare. That Pakistan has highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths per million in the region, higher than India, is an indication of the lack of any decisive Covid-19 policy. The rhetorical road, with PM Khan offering to share his cash transfer programme with India and being responded with “our stimulus package is as large as the GDP of Pakistan,” shows the frivolity of this government.
And so, this mass confusion, which the government thinks is its Covid-19 response, has to be now dumped onto the people of Pakistan and they have to be accountable for their own life and death. It doesn’t augur well for a country that claims to become a welfare state like Medina.
To call the citizens of your own country “jahil” (illiterate) and “ajeeb makhlooq” (weird creatures), particularly the Lahoris, just because as a government you can’t take responsibility for your failures, is a low for any political leader. After all, these are the same people who you plead for votes in the name of promises. But then, it is not a new low — PM Imran Khan had called all those people welcoming Nawaz Sharif “donkeys”.
The people of Pakistan know who really is “jahil” more than ever now.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
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