As per authorities, a lockdown is not only in place in Pakistan but has also been extended.
Yet, there is no lockdown.
We all know that when the federal and provincial governments imposed restrictions all across the country to curb the spread of coronavirus –COVID-19 –, most people followed the rules and stayed indoors. Less traffic was seen on the roads and consequently, the air quality became much better. But most importantly, the lockdown to some extent served its actual purpose in helping the authorities control coronavirus.
Then in mid-April, the government announced that while the lockdown had been extended, some industries and shops ccould re-open. This led to ulema announcing that they too would reopen mosques and offer Taraweeh during the holy month of Ramzan. The government finally held negotiations with religious scholars and an accord was signed, as per which all mosques would have to follow 20 SOPs to remain open.
A few days before Ramzan, senior doctors in Karachi held an urgent and heart-wrenching press conference. They said that after the lockdown was eased, a 40 per cent spike in coronavirus cases had been recorded from April 16-21. A 40 per cent increase in just five days. Imagine! The following day, senior doctors in Lahore also held a similar press conference and urged the government to consider imposing a stricter lockdown for the next two weeks.
All this came amid the government’s realisation of the fact that the number of cases in Pakistan is likely to increase by mid-May. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief also warned of this in his press conference.
In view of what the medical community was saying, the Sindh government on Thursday night decided to go back to their old SOPs of allowing just 3-5 people — mosque administration — to offer prayers at mosques. The rest of the country has allowed resumption of congregational prayers due to Ramzan. Apparently, not all mosques are following the agreed-upon SOPs. According to a survey conducted by the Pattan Development Organisation and published by Dawn, more than 80 per cent of mosques in Punjab and the federal capital did not put in place the measures agreed upon by the government and ulema regarding first Taraweeh congregations on Friday.
The government will eventually have to reconsider this relaxation in lockdown. We understand that the economic downturn due to the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown was something the government was worried about and rightly so. The choice between saving the economy and an increase in coronavirus cases is difficult. But we will have to make a choice. Pakistan has crossed 13,000 cases. The number of deaths is also slowly increasing. We must remain vigilant.
An aside: In his dua during Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s telethon to raise funds for coronavirus relief, Maulana Tariq Jamil came under fire for criticising media. He later apologised when different anchors conducted shows against what he had said, but what he didn’t apologise for and what was not even highlighted much either, was how he correlated women and ‘behayai’ (vulgarity) and then said this ‘azaab’ is a result of the vices that exist in our society.
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari rightly pointed out in a tweet that it was “absurd for anyone under any guise to even suggest the COVID-19 pandemic was a result of women wearing short sleeves or because of private schools/universities misleading the youth. This simply reflects either ignorance abt pandemics or a misogynist mindset. Absolutely unacceptable.”
In a country where thousands of women are killed in the name of honour annually, where domestic abuse is on the rise, where crimes against women keep increasing instead of decreasing, blaming women for a pandemic is unacceptable.