Waleed Lal Baloch

The pandemic and (no) change

The Coronavirus pandemic has engulfed the whole globe in just a few months. It has given birth to such an unprecedented crisis that the world is not sure if it will ever be the same again. It has brought with it new social, economic and political challenges. But for Pakistan, the virus has become a new opportunity to go begging again.

To begin with an incident, a guy in Canada shot dead more than 10 people a few days ago. Did Corona have anything to do with it? Nobody knows but the quarantine has certainly increased our anxiety levels. A sudden increase in joblessness might have been responsible for it or it could just have been the work of a lunatic. We can’t be sure, and to be honest not many cared.

We are in the middle of a global crisis. Thousands are dying every single day. As the lockdown continues, the number of people falling prey to the virus is reaching scary levels. In the US alone, millions of people have lost their jobs. The International Labour Organization has claimed that the current pandemic poses a much bigger threat to the global economy than the Great Recession of 2008.

A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times reported that domestic violence has spiked as families are having to spend more time together. Such is the social impact that the UN has urged the governments across the world to combat the surge in domestic abuse cases.

While most of us are horrified by the macabre level of this virus, there are still some optimists who think that the crisis is a perfect opportunity towards more international cooperation and peace. They take this inspiration from the two world wars that had a hand in the subsequent growth of welfare systems, the birth of the UN and the world bank. Before the current crisis, many analysts were foreseeing the end of the postwar international system that is based on human rights, collective security and international trade.

However, there is a country that is allergic to change, pandemic or no pandemic. In Pakistan, the debates are the same they have always been: the annual quarrels over the Ramzan moon sighting and the pettiness over almost all important issues. The world might be going through, or bracing for, permanent change but Pakistan is doomed to remain Pakistan.

Its prime minister, Imran Khan, even saw an opportunity and hence out came his eternal begging bowl. He wasted no time in requesting the international community to suspend their debt payments. The country has no plans to deal with Corona. But when this is all over, the Pak Studies books, rest assured, will wax lyrical about how it was in fact the Land of the Pure that brought the deadly virus to its knees.

Meanwhile, nothing appears to have changed in Balochistan too. The security forces are still conducting raids. Dozens were recently abducted in the Kolwah region of Makkoran. The police baton-charged protesting doctors in Quetta for demanding better safety kits. The poor souls had expected they would be saluted like their colleagues in other countries or perhaps thought they would at least be given what they were asking for.

But this is the Islamic Republic, and the only people in white clothes who are respected are the Tableeghis. Despite the ‘stay home’ pleadings, they roam far and wide in search of Jannat, more specifically its Hoors. They prey on the emotions of naive Baloch people. These so-called preachers are not serving any religion, and whatever they do is for their own selfish gains. Under the current circumstances, in their quest for spreading Islam, they are actually spreading the virus.

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