Mureed Baloch

Politics in the time of the pandemic

Who would’ve thought history would take such a turn where Africa will shut its borders to the rest of the world?

Scientists say it started because a man ate a sick bat. And now we have the entire human race running for its life. With all the science and millennia of knowledge to cure illnesses and diseases, no medical remedy has seemed to be of value so far.

Humans are panicking, confused and behaving in all the extremes. Populations are quarantined and in some places animals are rambling in the now deserted cities. The only ones who are calling it good are ‘the crazy’ environmentalists.

In theory, all that is happening, has never happened before. No one had thought there could come a time where nature would force people to just sit in their homes and wash their hands.

Behavioural scientists think this could change the world forever. From the way humans work to the way we eat or greet or build homes, things will not be the same again.

But will it change politics too?

At first, the Chinese officials spread rumours blaming the US military for bringing the virus to Wuhan and spreading it to the country. Then the Americans hit back calling out China’s disinformation campaign and hinting the virus could possibly have come from a Chinese laboratory.

Two different realities

In reality, the World Health Organization (WHO) certainly did a remarkable job alerting critical consciousness and leading the fight against the novel Coronavirus. That is good, that is how it is supposed to be. But in politics, the WHO’s premature trust in China’s initial figures further encouraged the communist party to show low numbers of infections and death, keeping the rest of the world in dark for what was coming to them in just a matter of weeks.

Same was the case with Iran, as if it wasn’t already a bad year. Days after the country’s top spymaster was droned, the regime mistakenly shot down a commercial plane, killing all 176 people on board. Everything has gone downhill since. Thinking perhaps the worst was behind us, came an international medical emergency such as never seen before.

These are certainly hard times for any regime. But not if you read Iran supreme leader Khamenei’s tweets: “Mankind has worse problems than Corona.” Such a bold statement, especially a day after the country’s president Hassan Rouhani repeated a call for a $5 billion IMF loan to fight the crisis.

From fake cures to fake news, different countries are dealing with different challenges. Some governments held nothing back in informing their public of the horrific statistics and the death that shall entail in the coming weeks. Others were caught so off-guard that by the time they realized its severity, Boris Johnson had caught it.

Armed with tweets

But no one has fought it as hard as Balochistan chief minister Jam Kamal on Twitter. First off, his hobbling government was made to fight on the frontlines of Pakistan’s war against the virus. It was made of tents. Imagine now, Pakistan’s plan to protect itself against the Coronavirus outbreak was Balochistan’s government. Jam Kamal’s government.

Meanwhile, armed with just Urdu tweets, Jam gave birth to a major disaster while handling the Taftan quarantine centre. Things got so bad that the country’s ruling party had to come up with its own safety protection against the outbreak: the 18th Amendment. The provinces were told to to run and protect themselves, while the state would need to stay home in quarantine.

Balochistan is a really unfortunate place. Maybe the first of its kind in the world where doctors are beaten up during a deadly pandemic.

Really. After nearly two dozens of them tested positive for the virus, doctors and medics in Quetta took to the streets to demand adequate personal protective kits. They were instead treated with batons, some were dragged, others punched and arrested. There was more. The doctors were then — social distancing be damned — piled up in overcrowded prison cells as if to make a point of not listening to their advice.

Jam had his own views on the event.

“Do doctors have to wear a PPE kit for normal OPD?” he asked in a tweet to survey public opinion on a medical science question. “And that too in a hospital where there is not a single Covid patient or admitted or being treated.” he stressed. One felt he was almost begging the crowd to say no.

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