On 17th March 2020, the Prime Minister of Pakistan refused to put the people under lockdown as a preventive measure from COVID-19. “If we shut down cities,” he said, “we will save them from coronavirus, but they will die from hunger on the other hand.” Later, just under a week, 210 million Pakistanis were confined to their homes. Indeed, it is practically proven that keeping distance from one another will thwart the spread of the epidemic. But Pakistan, ailing from its struggling economy and burgeoning poverty, is unable to afford this heavy burden on its spineless socioeconomic structures. On top of that, ignorant Pakistanis see the seriousness of health professionals and public institutions in this fight as a plot against their religion and liberty to commence mundane work. This plunges the situation into agony and pushes the government to bite the bullet; resulting in the implementation of stricter measures to keep them home. Resorting to authoritarian schemed governance and high-alert surveillance is perhaps the only way to ensure public cooperation. But it has the sturdiness to shake the iron structures of democracy. People will survive and the virus will end, the role authorities espouse now could perpetuate in the future. Accordingly, soon after the COVID-19 meets its faith, Pakistan will dwindle towards a fierce political crisis than just economic woes if the public response stays oblivious.
A reliance on conspiracies and rejection of logic and reason
The spread of COVID-19 is far from being a conspiracy. It is a reality and an entity that can cripple entire humanity. However, a myriad of people of Pakistan, ranging from poor to rich and educated to less educated, staunchly believe that the spread of COVID-19 is a weapon utilized by the West against the Muslims or biological warfare optimized by either China or America. Nevertheless, the proof of the pudding is in eating it; people will always mistrust science and disbelieve in the spread of this disease until they experience it themselves. In a nutshell, this mistrust in public authorities and sheer ignorance towards science can be disastrous.
A lockdown and exposed inadequacy of healthcare
Presently, the country is facing a hand-to-mouth lockdown. The country’s dwindling economy is incapable to take the blow of an epidemic. However, by just a fortnight observance of a lockdown may not help in breaking the virus’s chain. Aggravation of poverty and burgeoning unemployment enforced the population to disobey but the rigidity of mindset and ignorance amongst the public also fuels the fire, resulting in an aggrandized impact on the health of people. And the inadequacy of medical infrastructure stood alarmingly exposed. For instance, there are only 10 doctors and 6 beds for every 10,000 people. Moreover, Pakistan has 2,200 ventilators this means that 12 million people of Balochistan can access only 49 machines (Ventilators have proven to be a lifesaver for critical corona positive patient). In short, Pakistan is under the exigency to unfetter itself from the contagion by any means or there will be a risk of dying patients.
Ignorance by the public may have a heavy price to pay
It was only in the 19th century that scientists discovered the importance of washing hands by soap.
Today billions of people wash their hands and save lives. The reason behind it is that we now understand the basic facts. Now imagine a world where soap is being introduced and ignorant people reject its importance by expostulating it to be a bioweapon synthesized by an enemy. This is called conspiracy theories that are all-pervasive in Pakistan simultaneous to the spread of COVID-19. The public is required to trust science and administration. Trust in science and awareness is the primary reason for South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan in protecting their people from coronavirus. On the other hand, Pakistan’s mistrust in government and science creates a rift amid the administration and the people allowing the state to extend its whip-hand. To sum up, ignorance of people is plummeting the state to bite the bullet of an extended authoritarian form of governance.
Perpetuating authoritarianism in a post-pandemic world
The public authorities are toiling to prevent an apocalypse and for this to happen successfully states extend its powers. Ironically, authoritarian commissioning is perhaps a possible way to prevent the epidemic. History shows that after a crisis the state does not give up all its extended grounds. Hitherto, the welfare state, income tax, across-the-board nationalization, all grew in conflict and crisis.
Today, the Pakistani government is also acting along these lines and dwindling trust in science and public authorities will allow irresponsible politicians to bloat into a permanent authoritarian government or the fictitious Orwellian “big brother” in post-virus world. It is the most dramatic state extension after the second world war. By and large, a dexterous population can be instrumental in not only preventing the spread of the contagion but also thwart their state to espouse authoritarianism in the future.
Economics in times of global pandemic
As mentioned earlier, the virus will die out and humanity will survive. If this happens then there is hopefulness for the world economy to sway in the trajectory of success. The decision people and the government will take in the next few weeks will shape the world for years to come. There are prospects for Pakistan to ripen innumerable benefits. At present, Prime Minister Khan announced a 1 trillion rupees support package and had cut down fuel prices. Second, the wealthy public of Pakistan are donating generously to fulfill the basic needs for the improvised and they shall continue to take up this role. Third, the commission shall allow industrial operations on an alternate basis; this will have its implications in the circulation of funds instrumental in satisfying basic economic requirements. Forth, Islamabad shall limit the immense military budget that can be reallocated as support packages for small businesses. In other words, a shrewd focus on microfinance may grease the rusted wheels of the economy. Thus, a cluster of shrewd economic policies will trailblaze economic stability and eschew the public from atrocious economic impact from the country-wide lockdown.
A fleeting orwellian “Big Brother”
Restructuring the economy may be one way for Pakistan to sustain itself in the future but shortened authoritarian control that observes a lockdown will iron out the immediate crisis of COVID-19 as well. Ignorance towards it will be disastrous, not only resulting in thousands of Pakistani deaths but also a bleak political turmoil. Mr. Khan showcased anguish towards the improvised of Pakistan, nonetheless a presentation of distress is weak belligerence, incapable of thwarting the engendering of the virus.
Shrewd economic policies along with the implementation of innumerable ways to prevent worldwide sickness are required. Indeed, the country cannot overcome its healthcare woes overnight, but it can espouse in commissioning of a strict lockdown while reallocating the budget in the next few weeks. Thus, taking up the role of “Orwellian Big Brother” for a shortened period is required that can hammer-away the virus. However, if the public continues to mistrust the crisis at large, the consequences will be beyond economic in nature.