The disagreement between the Centre and the Sindh government over the lockdown strategy to tackle the coronavirus in the country is turning into a serious confrontation, as the cases of the deadly infection across the country hit 18,235 as of Saturday morning, with 417 deaths. The two sides have differed on the issue since the very beginning. On March 22, Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an address to the nation, ruled out closing down cities and towns citing the country’s sinking economy and advocated self-quarantine as the ‘best precautionary measure’. Just hours later, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced locking down the entire province from the following day, and governments in other provinces as well as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir followed suit.
And while the lockdown orders remain in force across the country even to this day, the PM and his team never agreed that it was the right step to tackle the situation, with the Sindh leadership continuing to oppose them. Of late, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has gone to the extent of advising the PM to quit if he cannot cope with the challenge. This came after the PM reiterated his unhappiness with the lockdown strategy during a news conference. In remarks directed at his political opponents, the PM said that the lockdown decision was imposed by the elite with sheer disregard for the poor.
This divergence of views has unfortunately exposed an appalling lack of unity within our political leadership even in the times of a crisis that has caused an upheaval across the globe. Very sadly, a crisis as serious as Covid-19 has failed to provide a common working ground for the government and the opposition in our country. All estimates point towards an approaching spike in the number of coronavirus infections, but our leaders are not ready to give up on their political rivalries. The best the leadership can do to serve the people in the context of the Covid-19 is to join hands for a concerted national response. Our leaders must kick aside their political and ideological differences — at least till we are able to flatter the infection curve — and play their role in this fight against an invisible enemy.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2020.
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