South Asia
Imran Khan government's slow approach exposed as COVID 19 grips Pakistan

Bangladesh Live News | @banglalivenews | 30 Mar 2020

Islamabad: Pakistani government is failing to implement proper measures to curb the spread of the deadly disease and with clerics refusing to close their mosques, the situation of COVID-19 outbreak in the South Asian country is escalating further every day.

Adding more troubles, PM Imran Khan and his government is still not in favour of implementing a total lockdown in the country as he fears that the stringent step might hit the already bleeding economic condition of the nation.

Reports of the poor condition of quarantine camps in Taftan region, close to the border with COVID-19 hit Iran, have been earning international headlines for the past couple of weeks and now even doctors in some parts of the country have reportedly refused to join work as they are fed up with the weak initial response to contain the virus’s spread by PM Imran Khan-led government.

"Doctors and nurses are refusing to come to work, fed up with the weak initial response to contain the virus’s spread," The New York Times reported.

Even some extremist clerics are adding trouble to the nation as they made videos, which went viral, where they urged Pakistanis to come back to the mosque to worship, a move seen opposed to the social distancing method as repeatedly propagated by governments across the world as a means to fight coronavirus.

"And the extremist clerics who often heckle or march against the civilian government, with the tacit approval of the military, are refusing to help. They largely ignored Mr. Khan’s (Pakistan PM Imran Khan) call to limit Friday prayer gatherings. And even after the military deployed to try to enforce a lockdown, several clerics made videos that went viral in recent days, urging Pakistanis to come back to the mosques to worship, reported The New York Times. 

The clerics even warned the nation that avoiding mosques on Friday will only draw the wrath of God.

“We cannot skip Friday prayers because of fears of coronavirus,” said Shabbir Chand, a trader who attended a packed service in Karachi, the country’s biggest city, speaking to The New York Times.

“Instead, we should gather in even larger numbers in mosques to pray to God to protect us from this fatal disease," he said.

An outbreak of Coronavirus is feared after 27 members of Tableeghi Jamaat out of 35 screened at the Tableeghi Markaz in Raiwind tested positive for the disease, media reports said.

Another member of the religious outfit put in quarantine in Layyah stabbed and injured a police officer in a bid to escape, reported Dawn News. 

Tablighi Jamaat literally the Outreach Society or the Society for Spreading Faith, is an Islamic missionary movement that focuses on urging Muslims to return to practising their religion during the lifetime of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and particularly in matters of ritual, dress, and personal behavior.

Incidentally, earlier this month a gathering of more than 150,000 people was held in Lahore city by the Tablighi Jamaat members.

The event was eventually called off at the urging of officials, but the participants had already come, sleeping and eating in close quarters, reporting The New York Times.

The gathering proved a perfect transmission point, infecting indeterminate numbers of Pakistanis, at least two Kyrgyz citizens and two Palestinians who flew home and introduced the virus to the Gaza Strip. A similar gathering of Tablighi Jamaat in Malaysia infected more than 620 participants who then returned to half a dozen countries across Southeast Asia, reported the American newspaper.

Meanwhile, Pakistani media reports suggested that there has been a delay by the Pakistani government in responding to the COVID 19 outbreak in the nation.

Federal government’s response to coronavirus pandemic was disappointing till March 14 when the National Security Committee (NSC) for the first time took critical decisions, including the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) on emergency basis for doctors and other medical staff, The News International reported.

According to sources, in the first a meeting of all agencies was held on February 27 on the issue of coronavirus. However, the prime minister did not participate in it, and delegated it to his Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, reported the newspaper.

Interestingly, in the 27th February meeting the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had expressed its inability to work on coronavirus crisis and cited preoccupation with locusts, reported the newspaper.

Sources told the newspaper that the belated response from the federal government resulted into loss of precious time as now all 190 plus countries affected by the pandemic are buying PPE equipment world over.

Mubasher Lucman, a Pakistani film director-turned-journalist and former caretaker provincial minister in Punjab, has said coronavirus situation in Pakistan is highly alarming.

Mubasher said that all doctors in govt hospitals have been stopped from speaking on coronavirus. He said casualties are on the higher side.

"Hospitals are getting choked. There is shortage of equipment and kits and worse doctors are not trained in using these kits and equipment," he said.

Dependance on China creating troubles:

At a time when Pakistan is facing a massive outbreak of the disease, which is believed to have originated from Wuhan, the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry has been left with no option but to begin shutting down industries in the next few days, owing to a shortage of raw material, majority of which is imported from China.

China is an all-weather ally of Pakistan to counter India and the Imran Khan government had refused to evacuate students, who had pleaded repeatedly for help, from Wuhan earlier when the disease had hit the Chinese region.

“Just like food, people have started stocking up on medicines as well therefore the demand has surged by a great deal,” Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Executive Committee Member Kaiser Waheed told The Express Tribune. “Retailers who used to buy inventory for one week are now purchasing medicines for the whole month.” 

Closure of industries has begun in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s capital city (Peshawar) due to unavailability of medicinal raw material, he pointed out.

“It is not that only active ingredients or molecules of the medicines are scarce right now but the packaging material is also hard to find these days,” he said.

Grim situation:

Pakistan has reported 1664 COVID 19 infection cases so far.

21 people have lost their lives in the nation.




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