Throwing caution to the wind in Chitral
.. by Islamuddin
Starting from a small town fish market in China, corona virus has taken the entire humanity into its grip. Unfortunately in Pakistan the threat of the virus has yet to be taken seriously. The laxity on the part of local authorities, especially in rural areas, has brought to naught all the publicity campaigns launched to create public awareness about the disease and precautions for self-protection. Pakistani experience regarding the efficacy of laws and announcements makes it amply clear that without producing deterrence through strong punitive actions nothing good comes out of these. There is an old saying that our people only understand the language of a club and the person who bears it. Apart from the above, the irresponsible attitude of religious circles, exercising control over public opinion has made the situation even worse, forcing the Government to opt for lockdowns. These lockdowns may be beneficial for some on-line businesses but for the rest of the society lockdown means breakdown of normal life and resultant starvation.
The situation in Chitral looks much bleaker as compared to other regions because here corona is viewed as a conspiracy hatched against Muslims. This line of thinking, coupled with the deliberately created impression that in colder regions like Chitral corona is not possible has aggravated the situation. It is a measure of public ignorance that people believe in these theories conveniently forgetting that colder regions in the US and Europe are the biggest casualties of the corona virus. In this background authorities in Chitral were expected to be proactive to guard against the irresponsible propaganda and conspiracy theories which play down the reality of the virus and its aftermath. Our people have short memories. They need to be reminded of the Black Death and plagues of the first half of the 20th century which wiped out quarter of the population of the countries afflicted. If those were not conspiracies then how come corona is?
It is a measure of official apathy that the District authorities continue dishing out permissions to individuals and groups to stage sports tournaments in far flung areas like Garam Chashma which already lack quality health facilities to cope with corona cases. In recent years such tournaments have become avenues for making quick bucks at no cost. Unemployed youth with sharp sense for adventure business use their contacts to procure these permission letters to make money even at the cost of long term interests of the people. Chitralis are hedonists by nature, who love recreation and use every possible opportunity to give vent to their hedonist sporting instincts. Farmers let their crops go waste, students ignore their studies and working people abandon their work places to enjoy the tournaments. At the closing of the tournament the organizer comes out richer by a few thousand rupees but the playing teams and the spectators become poorer- students losing study time, teams losing money by way of entry fee and the spectators wasting their working and earning hours. Few years back a jirga had been organized in Garam Chashma to discuss the fallouts of frequent tournaments and it was decided that no Government authority will issue permission letter for tournaments without the clearance of the local committee that the jirga had nominated. All Government departments were informed accordingly but to no effect and the saga still goes on.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, Police has increased its patrolling to ensure that every citizen complies with corona SOPs. People are fined on the spot and cases are registered but not so in Chitral. Despite repeated requests Police could not stop the current football tournament which continues at the time of writing this piece. The excuse put forward by the Police is that they cannot do so as the tournament organizers have the approval of higher authorities but under what law, no one knows. Not a single individual has even been questioned about not using mask. As a result there is no fear of corona and those who abide by corona SOPs are ridiculed and called cowards. They are even accused of having fallen prey to the conspirators who spread the virus to pave way for the vaccine which will make people infertile. This very excuse was used to prevent and fail the anti-polio drive. It is time that the Government took action against those elements that play down the threat of corona. District authorities may be given wakeup call to girdle up their loins and go out of their cozy offices to ensure full compliance with corona SOPs. Police may be asked to increase patrolling to ensure that everyone uses mask and observes the SOPs. Sufficient quantity of the vaccine may be made available and mobile vaccinators should go round the villages to vaccinate older people. At present people travel long distances to reach vaccination centers only to be informed that the hospital has run out of stock and are advised to come again. This vicious cycle continues at great mental and financial cost to people and it also acts as disincentive to people who want to vaccinate themselves against the dreadful epidemic. Let us wake up to the reality of corona which is going to stay with us for some time with changing strands. In such a scenario precautions and vaccination are the only safety valves against the virus. .. Islamuddin, Garm Chashma Chitral 07 Apr 2021