Defining the undefinable

There is tact in giving bad news. ‘Cricket they won, Football we lost’. Bringing ‘winning before losing’ no matter for whom, takes the sting out of defeat. Who gains and who loses is what defining the undefinable all is about.

In a glance at national and international events dominated by COVID-19, logical explanations, cause and effect and hypothetical inductions are mind-boggling to unravel. All socio-economic issues related to corona are hypothetical with unknown variables. How could we define the undefinable; blind men defining an elephant or the ‘Protagoras Paradox’? No one knows who will be winners or losers. Only the survivors will bloom.

The power of the corporate world and lethality of coronavirus have come head on. It is happening the world over; Pakistan is no exception.

COVID-19 is so far indefinable. How it originated, is it laboratory made and why it keeps changing its characteristics, are some questions that the scientific community is investigating through technology. But the most disturbing fact coming from China, South Korea and Italy is that many recovered patients who had tested negative are again testing positive without showing symptoms. So they are still quarantined despite being healthy. Too early to infer, these are characteristics similar to HIV that persist.

Biotechnology is a comparatively new science that puts developing countries at par with most developed ones. South Koreans began the probe by identifying the mother but there appear to be two more fathers not found in Wuhan or China. Scientists have been quick to observe that the beneficial effects of anti-viral drugs (HIV and malaria linked) may have some relationship to similar characteristics found in HIV.

True or false is a debate only science will resolve. COVID-19 is so far undefinable.

How the virus will affect Pakistan is a question that has different perspectives. Medical, that is over shadowed by political decisions, economic that are framed by borrowed economists oblivious of grassroots economies and affecting political decisions; and most importantly, interest groups well-entrenched in the system with manipulative powers. So far, like the Amino Acid Residues of COVID-19 that do not go away, this interest group is unlikely to go away and therefore my simile. They are the COVID-19 of the Pakistani system.

Sugar, atta, loans, IPPs and the list goes on. Senator Shibli Fraz must be feeling vindicated by his Circular Debt Report he began in 2017 and completed in August 2018. Though it was an in-depth report, much of it was already written and concluded by experts and analysts since 1993. This and many more studies continue gathering dust in government offices because of legal lacunas and inability of governments to enforce their writ.

A network cutting across political divides has been artfully woven through the entire state apparatus. Legal lacunas are inserted to acquit the guilty in courts and arbitrations. Feasibility studies and contract agreements have inherent escape clauses that benefit business tycoons. A quick appraisal of national and international arbitrations that the Government of Pakistan lost highlights this pathetic neglect about the interests of the state and its people. So, as these reports keep making headlines and sensation, it will remain business as usual for as long as the bull is not taken by the horns.

For Prime Minister Imran Khan, persistence will be the key to his power punching. Otherwise it will be ‘Paradise Lost’. Heads may or may not roll as all tycoons will defend themselves with the best legal teams and escape clauses in the system. Ultimately, making a beginning in the right direction is also too wishful. In the existing corona environment, this is perhaps too big a challenge to take head-on. Regretfully, like the amino acids in corona, this malaise may resist and prevail. But there are other challenges that need immediate attention.

Overseas Pakistanis are the major source of remittances to Pakistan. Particularly in Middle East, this very crucial source of foreign funding has been laid off. Some have returned while most are rotting away in inhumane conditions awaiting repatriation. Pakistan faces an immediate crisis in the short term. Homeward remittances are likely to plummet. Once back home, these working classes will add to the unemployed labour in Pakistan. Most affected will be Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. If the government cannot harness and control the big fish, the least it can do is create opportunities where these large populations can be engaged and employed.

Pakistan by no means is a poor country. The billions ripped off in the name of legal businesses, resource mobilisations blocked by legal implications, cycles of unending corruption and failure in enforcement account for the Paradise Lost. The clock cannot be turned back, but must be advanced.

As written earlier, the government faces twin challenges. First, treat patients in an overloaded health system and secondly provide free food to over 30 million of the population.

As for treatment, even the most advanced and rich countries are failing to surmount challenges. Pakistan has so far done well in its containment and limitation policy. This could be the only hope for our limited health system.

As for feeding the poor and unemployment, Pakistan is blessed with ingenious ways to handle the situation effectively. Plans of implementing these ingenious ways are still far away from implementation. It cannot be overemphasised that herein lies the future of Pakistan. Pakistan has to survive the odds.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt