By Mathias Samuel
There are some circles in Pakistani media as well as in general public who believe that there was an inadequate response by the federal government when Zaireen (religious travelers) were coming back from Iran via the Taftan border with the medical status of “suspected patients” or “infected already” patients.
One can only worry about the understanding of such people with the Constitution of Pakistan which, inappropriately, transferred the Health and Education Sectors to provinces under the much-debated the 18th Amendment.
Health experts were criticizing even that time when the 18th Amendment was under discussion in the Parliament that handing over the Health Sector would create problems if any widespread health situation arises in the future in Pakistan because this is not a matter of capacity of the provincial health departments rather such situation needs collective, aligned and systematic nationwide actions and responses. We saw the same situation when the Dengue outbreak erupted and now Coronavirus is reminding us of the same situation.
There is a video viral in social media showing a facility for quarantined patients in Hazarganj area of Quetta where relatives of quarantined patients are seen meeting their quarantined patients openly and there is nobody to control a big mob. This video is an example of what kind of facilities are being provided to quarantined patients by the provincial authorities including the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).
One should accept the reality that PDMAs are not well equipped to deal with such issues, thus proactive measures should have been taken to set up proper quarantine units in Balochistan where Zaireens would have been tested. At the same time, this is an eye-opener for those who still believe that the Health Sector should be dealt by the provincial authorities.
It has been observed that there is a huge communication gap and lack of seriousness between the federal government and provincial governments.
Strategic communications in this crisis is very important. The federal government should provide details of supplies provided to provinces to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
The bureaucrats sitting in Secretariats and politicians sitting in the Parliament must review the situation and not let negative elements to exploit this situation and act swiftly to enhance the capacity of provincial PDMAs and the Provincial Health Departments but should also work to undo what he did wrongly in the 18th Amendment should reverse the decision and let the federation deal with such situations in the future.
First Dengue, now Coronavirus and in the future, there can some other widespread health threat to the Country.
There is no harm to fix what was done wrongly in the past.
Note: Mathias Samuel is a student of History, Department of History, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.