Prime Minister Imran Khan’s big gamble on lockdown

The failure will have serious political consequences

As the coronavirus infected patients jumped to 32,000 with more than 700 deaths- the decision of the PM Imran Khan led federal government to ease the restrictions comes under spot light. The Prime Minister has played a big gamble with this decision. If he succeeded to re- open the economy without the exponential growth of infections and deaths- he will be credited for taking such a bold decision. He will gain support among the people.
If the decision to ease restrictions backfired and he forced to re-impose the lockdown or restrictions after the increase of infections and deaths then he will be blamed for the disaster. Prime Minister and his government are facing a tough situation. The failure of the government to save lives and to curb the virus will have serious political consequences.  
He was not in favour of a total lockdown like the other right wing populist leaders. The easing of lockdown is a big gamble taken by the government but in the words of the prime minister this risk must be taken to save people from dying of hunger.PM said in his talk after the meeting that we have to save people both from coronavirus as well as hunger.”
Desperate to minimise further damage to an economy already in the throes of a crisis and a population reeling from a loss of livelihood, it was only a matter of time before PM Imran Khan caved. And so, after six weeks of a callously enforced lockdown, Pakistan is heading towards a staggered reopening.
The political leadership-policy makers and experts were divided from the beginning on the question of lockdown. There were two conflicting views on this question. One view was that there should be strict lockdown and the other was that there should be partial lockdown.
Those supporting the easing of the lockdown consider it a landmark decision by Prime Minister Imran Khan to help millions of workers who have been rendered jobless and hundreds of thousands of small shopkeepers and retailers who maintain they were finding it difficult to keep the wolf at bay.
 PTI supporters firmly believe that the relaxations would also help the industry rise like a phoenix from its ashes, providing the much-needed taxes to the government’s empty kitty and bringing in foreign exchange.
 The opponents have all along maintained that the PTI government was determined to revive the economy through human sacrifice, which is indicative of a sociopathic bent of mind. They accuse that PM Imran Khan had finally concluded that people would have to die if he was to save Pakistan’s economy and his own political career. Putting senior citizens in mortal peril was a small price to pay for the grand design.
Industrial and business activities have been given a go ahead. SOPs have been suggested to control the spread of the pandemic. But there is no information about any oversight or implementation mechanism having been put in place.
The question is that who will monitor thousands of large, medium-sized and small production units in Punjab and Sindh? Who will ensure the implementation of SOPs in crowded markets? Will violations on industrial and business premises too receive no more than a slap on the wrist as has been the case with mosques?
The first few days of easing the restrictions have shown that hardly few people are following the SOPs. No social distancing maintains at crowded markets. People are going to the markets in big numbers without taking precautionary measures for their own safety.
There is danger that number of patients might increase as the result of careless attitude of most people. The people are not realising the seriousness of the situation. So, a dramatic rise in the infections as well as the death toll cannot be ruled out particularly if social distancing and other standard operating procedures (SOPs) like wearing of face masks and use of hand sanitisers is not strictly observed.

PM Imran Khan has played a big gamble. If the situation gets out of control and infection continue to spread then the blame will come on the PM and his government. Doctors and health experts already warned the government for easing the restrictions.  
The possible spread of virus and more deaths will put pressure on the PM and government to re impose restrictions.  This is a very dangerous gamble. If it works, Pakistan can come out the other side of this crisis with fewer deaths and relatively less damage to the economy than most countries.
But the coronavirus situation in the country worsens with every passing day; it is more probable that the worst is yet to come. PM Imran Khan is facing the make or break situation.
                                                     The Editor  

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