Naya Pakistan waffles on Covid lockdown- Updated

The Covid19 Pandemic has hit every country, including Pakistan. As of March 27, 2020, there were almost 1363 confirmed cases in Pakistan with almost 440 cases in Sindh, 490 in Punjab, 180 in KPK, 133 in Balochistan, 93 in AJK/GB and 27 in Islamabad. There have also been 11 deaths to date.

For weeks the government led by PM Imran Khan did not take the pandemic seriously. On Sunday March 22, Prime Minister Khan seemed unsure he wanted to go for a lockdown. In a televised address he said “Twenty-five percent of Pakistanis are below the poverty line … today if I impose a complete lockdown then … my country’s rickshaw drivers, pushcart vendors, taxi drivers, small shopkeepers, daily wage earners, all of them will be shut in their homes. If Pakistan had the resources that Italy has, that France has, that the US has, that England has, I would fully lock down all of Pakistan today.”

Yet, 24 hours later on Monday March 23, 2020 the country moved to a nation-wide lockdown till. March According to news reports “On Monday, a full lockdown went into effect in the southern city of Karachi, home to more than 20 million people, while Punjab province – home to almost half of Pakistan’s 207 million people – also announced widespread restrictions on public movement. The government in both areas has restricted people to their homes, other than to access essential services such as groceries, pharmacies or medical care, according to a government announcement.”

Further, Educational institutions have been closed till May 31, motorways are closed for transport and all of PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) domestic and special flights have been suspended.

After a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) over COVID-19, during a press conference on March 27, 2020, the Prime Minister, however, announced that the government would “ensure uninterrupted supply of essential goods.“This is a difficult balance. At one hand, we have coronavirus which can spread, and on the other, we have to ensure that our people do not die of hunger,” he remarked, adding the movement of goods’ transport and the running of food industry would help check the problem. The prime minister also announced the launching of a special youth force namely the “Corona Relief Tigers” to tackle the situation arising out of COVID-19 and said the registration for joining the force would start from March 31.”

Attacks on Aurat March, Attacks on Pakistani citizens

Pakistan’s constitution provides equal rights to half its population – women – but in reality ever since the 1950s, Islamist ideologues and organizations have been allowed to dictate state policy. This fear of women seeking their rights was visible on Sunday on the occasion of International Women’s Day, when Islamist groups and their supporters physically attacked the Aurat March.

Two days before the Aurat March, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had expressed support for the March, and condemned “any attempts to subvert, malign or threaten the march, its organisers, and supporters. HRCP sees Aurat March as an integral part of the collective struggle for human rights in Pakistan and beyond. The depth and breadth of the movement’s manifesto is a measure of its inclusivity. Among its legitimate demands, Aurat March has called for an end to violence against vulnerable groups, including women, children, and transgender persons. It has spoken out against enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and warmongering. It has upheld the right to a living wage, the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and the right to a sustainable environment. These rights are enshrined in the country’s constitution and its international human rights obligations. Above all, they are integral to any sense of humanity, empathy and compassion. The ethos of Aurat March reflects the very values that HRCP has consistently upheld: inclusivity, peace, democracy, and the inviolable dignity of all persons regardless of gender, class, ethnicity, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or identity. Thousands of young women, transgender persons, and men will mobilise on International Women’s Day to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and challenge the inherently discriminatory status quo. This is a matter of pride – not cause for censure – and warrants the full support of the state and citizens alike.”

Yet, on Sunday March 8, the march was attacked by a group of counter-protesters in Islamabad who hurled stones, bricks and sticks at the marchers. “It was a coordinated attack from the patriarchal and right-wing forces on the women’s movement,” said Ismat Shahjahan, one of the organisers of the event. “We demand an independent judicial inquiry,” she added. The police had registered a case against some 35 people late on Sunday, including organisers of the anti-feminist rally for “provoking the religious sentiments” of their followers against the Women’s Day marchers. The march’s organisers, however, have argued that the police downplayed the severity of the attack and should have included more serious charges against suspected assailants.”