The captain has yet again failed the leadership-in-a-crisis test. Instead of leading from the front, the prime minister has so far taken a back seat as the country faces one of its worst crises in recent years. One is not sure whether it is incompetence or apathy or a combination of both.
Dawn’s columnist Zahid Hussain takes on PM Imran Khan for his slow and callous response to deadly corona virus. Hussain writes “most countries facing a similar situation have their leaders directly dealing with the problem, but this has not been the case here in Pakistan. Now we are told that he is personally monitoring the situation and getting daily briefings on it. Last night, he finally addressed the nation.”
In a recent interview to the Associated Press the prime minister said that he spends most of his time consulting experts on how to deal with the coronavirus. But is it enough? Has even a meeting of all provincial chief ministers, who are left to deal with the situation on their own, been called?
Primarily, it is the responsibility of the federal government to take the lead and formulate a national response to the crisis. Despite the sharp increase in the number of cases, there is still no effective coordination between the federal and provincial governments. Surely, this has contributed to the failure to contain the problem. Nothing could be more pitiable at this stage than the lack of consensus between the federal and provincial governments over the severity of the crisis. Even the figures are disputed.
Despite the fact that the warning signs were there for a long time, the federal government responded very slowly. It was only last week that the National Security Council finally met to discuss the crisis (and them the premier woke up). And still there is no coherent policy to deal with the enormous challenges that lie ahead. It is not just about stopping the spread of the virus, but also the long-term economic and social impact of the crisis, one that has global dimensions.
In an interview with AP, the prime minister said the country did not have the capacity and resources to deal with the situation if the coronavirus becomes uncontrollable. He may be right; but then there is an even greater need to stop the spread of the virus before it is too late. Dealing with the coronavirus must be the main priority of the state at this point and resources must be diverted to deal with the pandemic.
The first coronavirus case in Pakistan was detected a month ago and now the number of cases is in the hundreds. But the federal government lived in a state of denial. There was no sense of urgency until some days ago when WHO declared a pandemic. It took time to close our borders and flights coming from areas most affected by the virus.
A large number of corona suspected patients were allowed to leave the Taftan border camps later tested positive for the coronavirus. One must give credit to the Sindh government for setting up facilities where the returnees were isolated and tested for the virus. Testing is perhaps the reason why Sindh has confirmed the highest number of cases so far. The spread of the virus could have been contained had there been better coordination between the federal and provincial governments. The federal government failed to provide any help despite calls from the provincial government.
It took a while for Punjab and KP, both led by the PTI, to wake up to the crisis. Punjab declared a health emergency only last week. It is quite surprising that the number of cases in the province has remained low, though that is changing as the results of the tests carried out on pilgrims returning from Iran show that several may have the infection. The situation in KP is not very different.
Hussain says understating the numbers and downplaying the severity of the pandemic is not going to help. It is true that there is no need to push the panic button, but apathy is more dangerous. Transparency and reporting the facts helps in dealing with the challenge more effectively. — Pak Destiny
This video should be shown to PM Khan.
Taftan quarantine facility which PM was praising today. Salam ha Bahi pic.twitter.com/zVc06mHAiH— Muhammad Aqeel (@aqeel_p) March 17, 2020