As covid-19 continues to rage, the government may not be able to do as much as it should to solve the problem, but it can make sure that it sets an example. The crisis is by no means over just because there are less deaths, 151, to report on Thursday, down from a record 201 the day before. That was a record, and there are worries that the number of deaths will probably mount if people continue not so much to disobey, as to disregard, the SOPs on wearing masks or social distancing. Though the Army has buckled down to taking to task violators, it would be helpful if members of the government obeyed the law, and did not try to behave as if disregarding it was somehow a mark of privilege.
That will not happen if the government continues to ignore law-breakers. Most recently, the KPK Health Minister, Taimur Saleem Jhagra, attended an iftar at a Peshawar restaurant. He has been booked by the police, as has been the owner of the restaurant, after the posting of photos on the Internet let the cat out of the bag. The KP government can afford to punish the minister by dropping him from the Cabinet, as it does not have any problems with maintaining a majority there, not with 84 of 124 seats, so that even if he takes away a group, he will hardly bring down the government.
There are two major reasons for punishing him at the party level. First, the government is ceding space to the ‘anti-vaxxers’, who so successfully made the anti-polio campaign fail, if it does not take institutional action. It must also bring to an end the culture of privilege and abuse of power that not only made Mr Jhagra think he was above the law, but also made the organisers feel that inviting him to an iftar meant that they were above the law. The attitude that covid-19 is only for the hoi polloi must end. It can infect anyone. And everyone, VIP or no, has a duty to everyone else, to observe the SOPs and get vaccinated.