Daily Times Editorial 28 July 2020
Enforcing smart lockdowns just ahead of Eid is the smartest thing that the government could do right now. It has just achieved the somewhat miraculous feat, considering the circumstances all over the world, of reducing the death rate from the coronavirus by 87 percent over three months, as Special Advisor to Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza tweeted recently. Last time too the situation was pretty comfortable just before Eid, but then the way people threw the rule book out the window and mixed about freely meant that the country had a full scale emergency on its hands very soon. Now, though, the smart lockdown strategy seems to have done the trick, and there’s hardly a country in the world that is sitting as comfortably as Pakistan is right now at least as far as the coronavirus goes.
It also appears that the right lessons have been learnt. Last time people were pretty much left on their own, but this time the government has cried out hoarse about all the safety measures needed and just why everything went so bad before. It is, at the end of the day, up to the people to follow the rules since there’s no country in the world that can monitor compliance on such a large scale. But it is up to the government to provide the overarching narrative as well as lead everybody in the right direction. That is why certain enforcement measures right before Eid like lockdowns and suspension of intercity transport should also help. After Eid will come Moharram, which will also test both the resolve of the people to follow their religious ideals while maintaining safety for everybody and the foresight of the government in making sure most issues are settled ahead of time.
This is precisely the point where everybody should realise that remarkable as the handling of the pandemic has been so far, it could easily disappear in smoke in the case of the slightest carelessness anywhere in the country. Such is the speed of the spread of this virus and its lethal nature that almost all the world is still trying to keep it from spreading at the speed of light. We’ve already been overwhelmed by it once. We have neither the time nor the recources to go through that nightmare again. Full marks to the government for getting a handle on the situation. But the fight goes on, and a lot more will be needed.
ISIS in India
The United Nations 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), al Qaeda and associated individuals and entities has noted, with some concern, that an affiliate of ISIS has a significant presence in the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka. This finding comes at a very awkward time for India and raises a number of very serious concerns that will have implications in the region and beyond. Firstly, that the world’s most savage militant outfit has established its so called Wilayat Hind in some of India’s most progressive parts not just exposes the state’s intelligence and security failure but also the society’s lack of adequate regard for what is happening around it. And that the group has around 200 members there, and they operate under the Taliban umbrella from Afghanistan’s Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces, says a lot about what is happening right under the government’s nose.
Then there are the regional implications. Blaming other countries, especially Pakistan, of terrorism while there’s terrorism festering inside India is one thing, but the presence of ISIS is a serious security blow for the entire region. Nobody can tell better than Pakistan and Afghanistan just what it takes to fight these radicals to the finish. They operate in sleeper cells spread within and across countries. And it takes a long time to completely wipe out an enemy that has no uniform, no army and no infrastructure, just the ability to inflict deadly damage on innocent people in large numbers.
India must immediately investigate these matters thoroughly. It must also come clean and share all the intelligence it gathers with everybody in the region. Then everybody must look if there are more such cells in more countries, and if there is a possibility of all the bad guys being able to communicate and coordinate possible attacks. And then all stakeholders must devise a joint strategy to first contain and then eliminate this menace from this area once and for all. Terrorism has long held South Asia back from its potential. It’s time the countries here traded and grew together. But first of all they will all have to get together and wipe out all the threats to all their common interests. Considering that everybody stands to gain from something like this, it should not be too much for India to consider it as well.