Stories about people defying lockdown orders in countries battling the Covid-19 coronavirus have now become commonplace, but fear not, for Pakistanis are still holding their own. We had the initial reports of people failing to adhere to self-quarantine by going out to public events after arriving from abroad. That was bad but only the tip of the iceberg, as we now have people holding weddings in defiance of lockdown orders. But at least now, they are facing some penalties. Recently, a case was registered against two people for arranging a valima ceremony at home in Faisalabad. At least 110 people were at the event when local officials arrived and shut it down. Similarly, a Sialkot mosque was the scene of a raid after it was found that the venue was hosting another valima. The groom got to spend the night behind bars.
Then there are regular images of crowded streets, people playing in parks, mass prayers and other public gatherings. The participants are usually young people, who are less likely to show severe symptoms but could carry the disease to immune-compromised people, especially the elderly. In a society where respect for the elderly is almost sacred, we must ask: do these people hate their grandparents? Even government officials are being punished for violating lockdown orders. At least six Sindh revenue officials in Khairpur were suspended for taking a selfie with a colleague who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Part of the problem, simply put, is idiocy. Umrah pilgrimage to the Holy Kaaba has been suspended, yet our people claim the virus is a conspiracy to bar them from praying at their local mosque. They post videos on social media talking up how they will defy the ban, then come down to earth when the police knock on their doors. They say death will come when God wills it, then go out inviting death, and suddenly become upset when they or a loved-one gets sick. “Why didn’t anyone tell me corona was so dangerous?” they then ask.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2020.