Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Pakistan: Corona, food shortages and political dissent

Link
Share
Class
Send
Send
  • ANI

By Amjad Ayub Mirza, Glasgow, June 1: There have been 19 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Gilgit, 11 in Skardu and 3 in Nagar, bringing the total number of infected patients in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (PoGB) to 711 on Monday.


Once again the steep rise in coronavirus patients in PoGB has exposed the failure of both federal and regional health authorities, to combat the deadly pandemic.

The total number of positive cases in PoGB is 678. The total number of Corona Virus patients in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) has also witnessed a steep rise in cases as 8 new cases were reported today in Muzafarabad, 2 in Poonch, 2 in Bagh, 4 in Sudhnoti, one each in Mirpur and Bhimber bring the total number of patients to 270.

Doctors and health workers have been protesting ceaselessly against the criminal lack of protective gear and treatment facilities in the region.

Incidents have been reported when family members on hearing about the death of a coronavirus patient have physically assaulted doctors and hospital staff in Gilgit, Diamer and Hunza districts of PoGB. In Pakistan occupied Kashmir, doctors are on strike for the past three weeks demanding better work conditions.

Unfortunately, both the federal government and the PoK legislative assembly have not lent them their ears. Hence the situation in this part of the occupied Indian territory has been left to the mercy of fate.

One of the reasons in the recent spike in the coronavirus cases in PoGB is said to be the influx of large numbers of tourists in towns along the Karakorum Highway. On May 27, Ahmed from Hussaini in subdivision Gojal reported on social media that he has observed a large number of tourist influx in his town while local population remain forcibly confined to their homes.

He complained that this was taking place despite a complete ban on tourism and prohibition on travelling without obtaining a permit by the district authorities.

Ahmed accused the local bureaucracy of facilitating their family members causing a sudden invasion of tourists in every district.

Complaining about the disregard for social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ali Haider, a local athlete said, "Lockdown is only for locals. We are asked to keep a distance from each other and quarantined. But, officers are visiting Hunza with their families for what? Just to make their Eid special. I do believe no one is going to do anything, neither DC (Deputy Commissioner), AC (Assistant Commissioner), no one, because they are (themselves issuing) the legal NOC (No Objection Certificate) permits."

On Eid day there was no staff available due to festival holidays to look after the patients who have been quarantined.

They complain of unhygienic conditions and lack of amenities, which were initially promised by the regional government, forcing the patients themselves to sweep the floor of the rooms themselves.

As the health sector, the economic segment of Pakistan also presents a gloomy picture.

In April 2020 the inflation rate was recorded at 8.5 per cent, however, if one observes closely it is not difficult to see that Pakistan will face a near-famine situation in coming months.

Approximately, 1000 utility stores that were set up in the 1970s to cater for the low-income families by providing food essentials at a cheap and controlled price are being closed down while the sugar and wheat mafia are enjoying mega-profits by issuing themselves huge subsidies and at least 20 per cent rise in the prices.

In 2017, the World Food Programme estimated that 68 per cent of families in Pakistan couldn't afford a nutritional diet.

Two-thirds of the households suffer from malnutrition resulting in the stunted growth of the 34 per cent of urban and 43 per cent of rural children.

The situation is only going to get worse especially after the devastation caused by the locust attack on the crops in central and southern Punjab.

Locust attack combined with rising unemployment due to Covid-19 lockdown has increased the misery of the farmers and the industrial workers alike.

Fearing a food crisis, the government of Pakistan has already refused grant 300,000 bags of rice and wheat to help Pakistani occupied Gilgit-Baltistan.

As the total cases of coronavirus in Pakistan reach close to 70,000 and the death toll is fast approaching the figure of 1500 combined with rising inflation and a looming food crisis will push the civil government and the military establishment towards an unavoidable and deadly confrontation.

The persistence with which Pakistani military is adding pressure on Prime Minister Imran Khan in order to revoke the 8th Amendment and bring the tax and revenue under the direct control of the federal treasury will cause a head-on collision between the provinces and the federation (read Pakistan Army).

With the on-going armed struggle for independence in Balochistan, the recently formed united front between the Urdu speaking Muhajir community and Sindhi nationalists demanding succession from Pakistan and the resistance movement initiated by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in the killing fields of Waziristan in northern Pakistan along with the challenge of keeping hold of the illegally occupied PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan will sooner or later cause a political explosion that will shake the very geographical foundations of the sub-continent.

[Disclaimer Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. He currently lives in Scotland.]

Liked This Article? Be First To Share it!
Link
Share
Class
Send
Send




You May Also Like: