The way the coronavirus emerged and engulfed the entire world is right out of the doomsday scenario from the Holy Scriptures. For many it may be the divine test. Divine test or not, the corona outbreak has definitely proven to be a divine mirror of the society across three levels.
First, it has tested and reflected the political leadership for its vision and strategy. Second, it also tested and reflected the government institutions and bureaucracy for its capacity and readiness to control the pandemic. Last, but most importantly, it has reflected the mindset of the public in such crises. Unfortunately, across all levels, the divine mirror reflects an abysmal state of affairs of our global society, especially Pakistan.
At the level of the political elite, the vicious way with which the pandemic has been politicised to settle political scores and earn brownie points through divisive campaigns has been appalling. A particular political party mobilised its resources in a coordinated manner using its credible leaders, and paid bots along with media sympathisers to run fake news and propaganda to discredit the sitting government without realising the cost it would incur to Pakistan and its people in such a crisis.
One of the widely shared fake news was that the current government is routing all masks received from China to Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) depriving Sindh and Balochistan of its fair share. Stroking racial and provincial fault lines at times like these has to be the lowest moment for the said political party. It really is hard to tell if the political party saw corona or the Prime Minister as a bigger threat.
It is one thing to criticise the government for a lacklustre response or effective leadership but to share fake videos and news to create panic is no politics — it’s inhumane and shows the level our political elite is ready to stoop to earn some political advantage.
Things have not been different within the ruling party either that is in a complete disarray unable to figure out even the basic communication on the pandemic let alone its effective management. Truth is that the coronavirus has exposed the dysfunctional hotchpotch of a mess that the PM’s core team is for which there is nobody but the PM to be questioned and blamed.
The political elite, in its typical behaviour, does not give much to hope anyway but the real cause of concern is the way our public, especially the educated and privileged lot, has behaved since the outbreak. The health of a society is gauged by how it reacts to a national crisis. A healthy society unites; a degenerate one splits further. Not only has our public refused to self-quarantine but has shunned as myth the potential threats of congregations, especially religious ones. No less are the elite that continue to throw parties while showing outrage over social media over the outbreak.
Worst, however, is how public intellectuals, scholars, journalists and social media influencers responsible for public interest found their own little politics to play and score points. The corona outbreak has been unfortunately desensitized and reduced to another Twitter trend to either bandwagon against each other, hate against the government, or tweet fake or sensational news at a time of crisis to get quick traction.
One would expect people to unite right now, instead what we have found is the ugly side of society prop up. Indeed, corona has served as a mirror of the society that is unwilling to take responsibility and instead play petty politics even at the cost of human lives. If we look closely, we will notice the outbreak has really brought out the true self within all of us. Our tweets, messages and responses all reflect our standing on the moral and ethical compass.
We will soon overcome this crisis, but for those that can see and reflect there is plenty of evidence in how deep the rot is and how it must be fixed. In times like these, introspect!
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2020.
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