When the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power in 2018, most of the naysayers that came forth against the party belonged to the Pakistan Peoples Party. The relationship between both the parties has been sour even before PTI could establish itself as a major political party in the country with things only getting worse with time.
During the past three years of PTI serving in the federal government and PPP forming the Sindh provincial government, both parties have never seen eye-to-eye on any given issue. Be it deciding over a relief package for Karachi or the fate of Sindh’s islands, the parties have always been at loggerheads.
However, the worst coordination that people in the province had to suffer was the indecisiveness over dealing with coronavirus. Since the first wave of Covid in March last year both the parties have had contrasting views on the ongoing situation.
When suspected cases of coronavirus emerged in the country last year, Sindh was the first province to spring into action. While the federal government spent weeks denying the magnitude of the problem and playing down the impact of Covid, Sindh had already started preparing for a lockdown, resulting in the provincial government taking a lead and announcing restrictions way ahead of the federal government.
Following Sindh’s announcement of going into a lockdown, every federal minister in the cabinet made it a point to criticise the provincial government over its ‘baseless and exaggerated’ fears only for the federal government to announce a country-wide lockdown in the coming days.
The situation has not changed much over the past year. With increasing number of Delta variant cases in Karachi, last month the Sindh government announced to impose a smart lockdown for 10 days in the city while taking additional measures to close schools, malls, offices and some industries to curb the spread of the virus. This decision too came under severe criticism with Fawad Chaudhry threatening that the Sindh government will not be allowed to take such steps and Asad Umar saying that a complete lockdown would only do bad than good for the people.
However, the same federal ministers were seen defending the government’s decision of reimposing Covid restrictions in a few selected cities till August 31 when there was a surge in cases in other parts of the country. The problem here does not lie with who did what but rather with creating confusion among the masses.
In a country where a large segment of the population believes that Covid simply does not exist and is part of an international conspiracy, where most people refuse to take Covid seriously, do not adhere to given SOPs and only agree to get vaccinated out of fear of getting their SIMs blocked or salaries withheld, creating any further confusion can prove to be critical.
At a time when people expect the government and provincial government to take steps to make things easier for the masses, political bickering only adds insult to the injury. The whole coronavirus issue has largely been a matter of point scoring between the central government and Sindh government with one side blaming the other for the crisis and then retorting to doing the same later. The Sindh government needs to understand that unless they are on the same page with the federal government, they will not be able to fully implement the measures they want. Meanwhile, the federal government should let the Sindh government take lead in provincial matters and let them be a better judge of the situation because they are closer to the issue.
Pakistan’s rapid response against coronavirus has been appreciated by many across the world with many organisations appreciating the balance the government created between saving lives and livelihood. It, however, doesn’t take away from the fact that the country’s health system is stressed and is working at its full capacity and any added burden could lead to it crumbling down. Hospitals in Karachi are already running out of space with both private and public hospitals refusing to take in more patients while oxygen supplies too are becoming sparse.
The situation is quickly spiraling out of hands with the positivity rate crossing eight per cent and the death toll only climbing. Karachi alone has a positivity rate which has surpassed 24 per cent. The past year-and-a-half has not only been tough for industries, but the crunch has been felt across the board by every segment of the society.
With the fourth wave still heading towards a peak, we are still not sure when we can completely eliminate or even curb the coronavirus. While we continue to struggle on that front, we need to set our house in order so that we have a unified approach in tackling the crisis.
It is time that PPP and PTI set aside their differences and have a united front to tackle the problem at hand. It is also time that Imran Khan and his team realise that instead of politicising every situation and pinning the blame of everything under the sun on corruption, he needs to sit down with his political opponents to find a middle ground for coming with solutions of a plethora of problems that the country faces today and would in the future.