On last Sunday, the ranging pandemic of Coronavirus (Covid-19), confined one billion people to their homes as the death toll crossed 13,000 around the globe. This lockdown has been observed in 35 different countries where disruption in daily life, travel and business ventures has occurred. Countries are advising citizens for self-imposed quarantine life, which is the only viable solution for this outbreak. As far as Pakistan is considered, the gravity of the situation is yet to comprehend.
Covid-19 spreads exponentially like the misinformation and panic associated with it. If we don’t take stringent measures, 20 million people are expected to get infected with the virus. As a temporary arrangement, the lockdown has been observed in all four provinces where the military is asked for civilian aid. Both seem to be appropriate steps, but one doesn’t know what the future lies ahead. We may not understand the enemy yet there is much to learn from it.
The pandemic has started changing geopolitics of South Asia. Narendra Modi, PM of India, called a virtual meeting with the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC) members on March 15. It has advanced the significance of SAARC which was supposed to be a redundant organization due to traditional Indo-Pak impasse. Bangladesh, Nepal, and Afghanistan pledged $3.5 million to SAARC covid-19 fund whereas Pakistan and Sri Lanka are yet to announce their contribution. PM Modi proposed $10 million for the fund and said all states must provide SAARC with nodal experts and doctors. Eventually, we can see regional connectivity among states which was, previously, not possible due to realpolitik worldview.
There are speculations for a global recession due to the proposed lockdown. It may increase the political uncertainty like how the 1997 Asian Economic crisis catalyzed the rise of Thailand’s Thaksin along with the fall of Suharto. Currently, in Pakistan, political dynamics are developing quickly with respect to both the federal and provincial levels. Sind CM has gained praise for swift actions whereas PM Khan is criticized severely for being the incompetent statesman. Balochistan is blaming the federal government for the Taftan crisis where preventive measures were not taken and pilgrims were freely mixing with the local population.
In addition, Coronavirus related content has become a test for social media ability to fight false recommendations and misinformation. According to Sprinkler, there were about 19 million mentions regarding Covid-19 on March 11 where President Trump’s mentions came at roughly 4 million. Unfortunately, the maximum number of facts and figures were inaccurate and outdated. Many users on Facebook and Twitter are uninformed and spreading inaccurate information, unintentionally. Given the novelty of disease, Face book, Twitter, Youtube, Redditt, and LinkedIn has issued a joined statement announcing their current strategy to promote facts and demote lies.
It could be easily seen that no state was ready for an epidemic. Both healthcare and social security systems have capacity issues to fight the disease. Although, lockdown is observed in all the four provinces but no measures are taken for lower-income class and daily wage earners. Sindh government has suspended bills but that would not be enough in the due course of time. State Bank has reduced the interest rate by 0.75 percent which is meager in this context. Quarantine facilities are also lacking the expected tools like that of ventilators, masks, and sanitizers. There is a dire shortage of testing kits in almost every country. Currently, there are just 14 hospitals in Pakistan which can manage Corona testing whereas private laboratories charge eight to nine thousand for testing.
As far as religion is concerned, the problem is two-fold: How to reason religious discourse with social distancing and how to cope with false propaganda regarding the cure of Covid-19. It seems very difficult for the government to convince people in order to change their social habits during Friday congregational prayers and Tableegi Jammat movement. Its high time to hold a reasoned and open discussion around the religion. Moreover, there is a need to bridge cultural gaps and normalize different belief systems. The notion of media religious literacy must also be inquired, in one way or the other.
Amid this global crisis, the US and China have contributed towards the war of words in order to decide the origin of the Virus. US has repeatedly referred to it as the Chinese Virus while Beijing accused the US military of bringing the virus to Wuhan. Whatever the issue is, there is serious foreign policy challenges along with the impending economic recession. In the upcoming days, International Relations and Political Science will be filled with debates like bioweapons, pandemic, viruses, environmental issues, bioterrorism, etc. The future holds different international order with new kind of deterrent strategies deeply embedded in the ecological structure.
Moreover, I don’t know what scientific explanation people hold for charlatans at this need of the hour. They exist in different forms like that of motivational speakers. Few wear the ethnic outfit and are trying to have political dominance. Others have opted for religious discourse analysis. Some are known as journalists. All are trying to present either agony or conspiracy theory which is adding fuel to the fire. Silence is the best option if one doesn’t know the pandemic and related social, political, and economic challenges.
In short, the epidemic has caused a blow to the vision and practices of Globalization by limiting the exchange of ideas, goods, and people. But, there are linked strains of globalization and humanity. Beyond wars, divisions, and hatred, the world shares some anxiety problems. Furthermore, international co-operation is crucial to combat this disease. In the future, this may help in dealing with other environmental issues as well. This may also be termed as the resurgence of globalization.
To conclude, Covid-19 has provided the world with additional practical and symbolic challenges. The outbreak hones the understanding that political, social, and economic definitions of the international order are either inadequate or meant to be changed soon. Thus, we – leaders, opinion setters, policymakers, educators, and citizens – hold the key to cater epidemic and later shaping its consequences.
The writer is a team member and a student of M. Phil from the Centre of South Asian Studies (CSAS), Punjab University, Lahore.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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