- Speak a word of compassion, extend a hand to help
“Ego is just like dust in the eyes. Without clearing the dust, we can’t see anything clearly. So, clear the ego and see the world.”
The world is in a war-like mould to fight the scourge of COVID-19– and rightly so because this is the only way the pandemic can be combated and defeated.
In other countries of the world, all stakeholders appear on the same page fighting a battle of survival, be they from the political, economic, intellectual, media, or any other realm of life. They are all part of a singular national policy to speak with one voice and make their respective contribution to the success of the effort.
Not so in this country where there are as many voices as the number of stakeholders. All of them have their own caustic recipes for fighting the scourge and all of them are doing their utmost to create dissonance to promote their petty personalised agendas. In addition to the rejected political leaderships, there is one community that stands out in a deliberate effort to dampen the national resolve to act in unison.
This was so evident from the conduct of some senior representatives of the media who met the Prime Minister a few days ago in Islamabad. Throughout their interaction, they came across as a bunch of garbage-stuffed and hubris-infected people perpetuating a pre-orchestrated narrative: how to make the Prime Minister look bad. They came across as crass, conceited and excessively bloated. It is patently clear that their game is much bigger than is generally perceived. The pound of flesh these charlatans are seeking is not just a pound of flesh. It is the person of the Prime Minister. They wouldn’t be shooed away with a bone, and what they want is what the Prime Minister wouldn’t give.
This was so evident from the conduct of some senior representatives of the media who met the Prime Minister a few days ago in Islamabad. Throughout their interaction, they came across as a bunch of garbage-stuffed and hubris-infected people perpetuating a pre-orchestrated narrative: how to make the Prime Minister look bad. They came across as crass, conceited and excessively bloated
The meeting had been called to brief the media on the corona virus crisis and the steps that the federal government was taking to fight the scourge. Instead of discussing the issue at hand, they delved into matters which fade into insignificance when measured against the grave danger that the pandemic poses. They tried their utmost to turn the briefing into a contentious political debate about issues which were irrelevant for the occasion, for the day.
They were delusional, lacking in basic courtesies which one is obligated to extend to the Chief Executive of the country. They spoke like they were the patriarchs disdainfully surveying their audience. Venom was oozing out of every word they spoke, every gesture they made, every insinuation they cast. What a horrible spectacle of delusional sufferance they enacted, so petulantly, so pathetically.
Praise must go out to the Prime Minister for demonstrating a high level of patience and resolve in addressing the questions with clarity and precision. He came across as a model of equanimity against the barrage of feuding unleashed by a coterie of uncouth individuals masquerading as journalists. In fact, his composure exposed the nefarious designs of this clique of drumbeaters which they were orchestrating on behalf of their lords and masters. I am reminded of a saying by Sunday Adelaja which aptly sums up their preoccupation: “When work is viewed only as a source of economic gain, the centrality of work becomes self-indulgence, selfishness and egocentrism”. What people saw that day was a replay of such a drama!
Even more worrisome is the fact that, in this petty quarrelsomeness, we forget the real danger that looms ever so close. With the number of infected cases increasing throughout the country, the situation is becoming murkier with the passage of time. What makes it more threatening is the absence of some steps which the government should have taken at the very beginning─ imposing restrictions on religious gatherings and offering prayers in the mosques which could enhance the prospect of contraction and spread of the virus.
The ongoing narrative which is doing rounds is an extremely regressive reflection of cave-time bigotry. Understandably, some religious scholars have ventured forth saying that the virus would be harmless within the precincts of the mosques and other worshipping places and, therefore, religious congregations should continue unabated. This is sheer madness. Such gatherings have been prohibited throughout the world across countries which are considered the most conservative, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
Even the Ka’aba and Masjid-e-Nabvi are closed. There is speculation that the Haj may not be held this year. What is stopping us from taking a step which is central to securing people from exposure to possible infection? Have we become a hapless hostage in the hands of this clan of religious morons? They can’t be allowed to sit as judges proclaiming that mosques are safe from the virus and people should congregate as they would under normal times while the rest of the world advocates social distancing as an essential step to escape the scourge?. The Federal and Sindh governments have gone half way in doing it without closing down the mosques. It may not be the best thing to do, but it is better than nothing at all. It is the duty of the government to break these obscurantist shackles and impose an immediate ban on all religious gatherings, including those inside the mosques. The government is the custodian of the safety and security of the people and, in case any disaster occurs because of this avoidable lapse, it’ll not only have to accept its responsibility, it’ll end up paying a huge political price as well.
The other key issue is providing support and financial succour to those who suffer directly because of the conditions of a lockdown. They are the labourers and daily wagers. The support package announced by the government is laudable, but a lot more needs to be done to mitigate the sufferings of a large segment of our population who survive below the poverty line.
In such trying circumstances, it is not the government alone which should shoulder the responsibility. People who have the resources to extend support should do so generously in coordination with institutions, of the state or otherwise, who have the necessary information, network and wherewithal to disburse help among the deserving communities. It is time to introspect, evaluate our responsibilities in such situations, and enquire whether we are doing enough to fulfil these. In times of trial, nations come together as one unit. What we have at hand is an existential threat of mammoth proportions.
All over the world, people with resources are announcing large donations to the government to be spent for the welfare of the poor and the needy. There has been no such announcement in Pakistan. Our beneficiary elite have probably taken off on extended medical leave, somewhere in the world where they have stacked up their capital. This is plain, downright disgusting. This is the time to be here, to be with the government and the people, to become part of the effort to help the marginalised communities out of a challenging situation. Those who stay away in these circumstances are the people who are here only to ravage this country and decamp with their illicit billions. They don’t really belong here.
It is time to come together. Let’s all speak a word of compassion and extend a hand to help.