KARACHI: Despite the passage of over 40 days of closure, the Sindh government has failed to strictly enforce its lockdown with citizens violating the provincial government's orders to practice social distancing due to starvation, claimed Sindh Assembly opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi on Saturday.
"We [the opposition] have been saying that social distancing cannot be practiced in the country and especially in Karachi, where 10 people live in an area of 400 square yards in slums," said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader, adding that people cannot be confined to their homes in such localities.
According to him, the residents of Karachi's slums have been forced to violate the lockdown directives due to starvation.
Meanwhile, he pointed out, there had been a rise in arrests of those violating the lockdown, which was counterproductive as prisons were already overcrowded and increasing arrests could aggravate the spread of the virus.
He insisted that the Sindh government should implement a 'smart lockdown,' where activities that are not crucial to the economy remain closed, while more integral ones are allowed to continue. He added that markets should be allowed to open for 24 hours so that people do not crowd them.
"We believe that the Sindh government should allow businesses that are willing to follow safety measures to operate, so that the economy keeps going and no one loses their jobs," stated Naqvi. He added that countries such as the United States, with far worse death tolls, still understood that they could not suspend economic activities.
"Lockdowns have been affecting humans in extremely destructive ways for a long time, creating issues like anxiety, hopelessness, hunger and even suicide," he asserted, adding that daily-wage workers and labourers were facing extreme inconvenience.
Naqvi further maintained that the federal and provincial governments did not have the social and economic resources to feed the population, especially when 40 per cent of them were in need of financial assistance. The country must deal with the situation by planning according to the circumstances, while trying to keep the death rate as low as possible, he added.
With the varying views of the Centre and the Sindh government on how to deal with the crisis, the country could face an economic and democratic decline if the situation worsened, he cautioned.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2020.