When in distress, citizens are naturally inclined to turn towards their political leaders for understanding, guidance and direction. This is something that the K-P Health Minister, Taimur Saleem Jhagra, should have considered before violating coronavirus SOPs at an iftar dinner he recently attended. As seen in pictures posted on social media, dozens of people present were not following social distancing protocols. Many of them were seen without masks, including the minister himself. While the Peshawar Assistant Commissioner took swift action on the matter, Jhagra maintains he wasn’t aware of the location nor the number of people attending.
Still, the respected minister could have easily refused to attend after he had reached the restaurant and witnessed a crowd of people inside; or, if doing so seemed a bit rude, he could have merely asked the host to change the sitting arrangement in accordance with social distancing regulation. By doing so, the need to strictly follow regulations would have been re-enforced, all the while serving as an example to leaders across Pakistan who themselves haven’t been abiding by the required protocols sincerely. What is even worse is that the incident comes at a critical time — as the threat of the third wave looms over us, the fallout could be catastrophic this time around. It is important to consider the perception of the general public, most of whom tend to believe in conspiracy theories and are already stern skeptics of the vaccine. Therefore, even if the minister was fully vaccinated, he needs to act in a manner that exhibits the responsibilities every individual has during such unprecedented times.
Leaders are considered as role models and ‘belief managers’, especially by the youth. They strongly shape their followers’ beliefs through their words and their actions. They need to lead by example and embody the very ideals they preach.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2021.