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-Rajeev Kumar (Editor-in-chief)

Friday, April 30, 2021

Shared suffering (The Telegraph)

Mehmal Sarfraz 

Every Indian that I follow on Twitter has been tweeting about the Covid-19 crisis in recent weeks. All we can see on our timelines are tweets asking for oxygen supply, for information regarding hospital beds, retweeted messages for friends and strangers alike and much more — all related to the pandemic. We saw the chilling report by BBC’s Yogita Limaye from Delhi in which we could feel the helplessness of coronavirus patients as well as of their families. Those visuals of people breathing their last breath or family members pleading to get hospital beds were extremely distressing. Another report showed how a Muslim cemetery in Delhi is running out of space; it is receiving 35-40 bodies every day as opposed to 8-10 bodies before the second wave hit India. Reports also show how crematoriums are facing the same situation as they, too, have been overwhelmed. News from across the border is horrendous. One cannot help but feel as if this is one of the greatest global catastrophes to have hit the world.


As the situation in India kept getting bleaker and bleaker, Pakistanis expressed solidarity with their Indian brethren. From trending hashtags like #IndiaNeedsOxygen and #PakistanStandsWithIndia, Pakistanis have sent their prayers across the border. Last Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted his support for India in its fight against the coronavirus. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, tweeted that Pakistan has officially offered relief and support to India. It shows that even if the ties between the two countries may not be ideal, when it comes to humanity, everything else is set aside as it should be.


We saw some heartwarming stories as well during the current crisis. Ashish K. Singh, an Indian journalist, recently tweeted whether any of his friends in Pakistan could “pay an obeisance at Data Darbaar” for him, his wife and his friends suffering from coronavirus. Data Darbaar, located in Lahore, is the largest Sufi shrine in South Asia. The same day, some journalists in Pakistan got it done. One of the Pakistani journalists, Ghulam Abbas Shah, arranged prayers for Ashish and his family not just at Lahore’s Data Darbaar but also at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Karachi and Baba Farid Ganjshakar’s shrine in Pakpattan. Such gestures show that despite the tensions and animosity between the two neighbours, the people of these countries will always rise to the occasion, helping each other out when the time comes. It gives one hope that we can rise above politics when it matters. The solidarity between the people of India and Pakistan at this moment of grave crisis is quite amazing.


At a time when India is facing a deadly second wave of the coronavirus, Pakistan is facing its third Covid-19 wave. This wave is turning out to be quite lethal. Things in Pakistan are not as bad as they are in India but if we don’t control the situation now, matters will get to a point where we will also run out of hospital beds and oxygen. The government has warned of this on several occasions. It is unfortunate that many people still refuse to follow SOPs like wearing a mask. We may need stricter lockdowns or complete lockdowns in cities with high positivity rates.


On Wednesday, Pakistan reported 201 deaths, the highest since the pandemic broke in the country last year. The positivity rate was above 10 per cent. Army troops have been deployed in 16 cities where the positivity rate has reached dangerous levels to ensure the enforcement of coronavirus SOPs. The situation in Pakistan is getting worse. Examinations, too, have been cancelled given the rise in the cases.


The vaccination drive in the country is slow. Only about one per cent of the country’s population has been vaccinated so far. According to a report by Afshan Subohi in the newspaper, Dawn, if Pakistan continues its vaccination drive at this rate, “it will take more than three years to cover 20 [per cent] of the country’s population”. While the government’s vaccination drive is slow due to procurement issues, even the private sector has not been able to purchase enough vaccines. I am one of the lucky ones who were able to get the vaccine earlier this month. I got my second jab just this week. While some of us have been fully vaccinated, it will take a couple of years before 60-70 per cent of the country’s adult population is vaccinated. Two years is a long time. We have already spent a year battling the pandemic and things are not looking good even now. Our economy has already suffered a lot, many people have lost their jobs, the healthcare system will collapse if cases keep increasing at this rate. This pandemic has taken the lives of our loved ones or of people we know. If we don’t speed up our vaccination process, the country will suffer even more.


What is happening in India makes it even more pertinent for us to realize that this virus can lead to unimaginable consequences. One of the key reasons why the former US president, Donald Trump, lost the elections last year was because of his government’s mishandling of the coronavirus. In India, too, the Narendra Modi government has gravely mishandled the pandemic. At a time when coronavirus cases were increasing with each passing hour in India, the visuals of Amit Shah and others campaigning in West Bengal made one wonder whether politics is so ruthless a business that it does not care about saving human lives. People must hold their public representatives accountable for such shameless disregard for human life. After all, they were elected to protect the lives of their peoples.


On another note, reports indicate a thaw is expected soon between India and Pakistan. Fahd Husain in Dawn recently wrote an interesting report on India-Pakistan relations. As per Husain’s information from Pakistan’s official quarters, “India approached Pakistan in December 2020 with an offer to reduce tension and offered backchannel talks on all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan reciprocated favourably”. So it seems that a backchannel dialogue between the two nuclear neighbours has indeed started, which is what led to the ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control back in February. Rumours of cricket diplomacy are also doing the rounds — only time and circumstances will tell whether anything would materialize or not but this is a good beginning. War should never be an option for either side. If there is one thing that the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, that is the world needs to invest more heavily in the healthcare sector. We need to understand that hostilities between India and Pakistan will only lead to more bloodshed. Peace should not remain elusive. In fact, it should be sought. We hope and pray that India comes out of this health emergency soon. And we hope and pray that Pakistan does not have to witness anything similar.


The author is a journalist based in Lahore; mehmal.s@gmail.com


Courtesy - The Telegraph.

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इस वेबसाइट को जारी रखने में यथायोग्य मदद करें -

-Rajeev Kumar (Editor-in-chief)

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