COVID 19 has completely changed life as we knew it for people world over. Of course since stupidity has no bounds, millions held protests against lockdowns, refused to wear masks and endangered not only themselves, but through them their loved ones. The disease saw industries closing, smaller enterprises go out of work, more and more people being laid off from work, educational institutions and organizations moving online- in short lives in decades to comes stands radically changed.
As COVID 19 vaccine starts rolling out, one would like to know Pakistan government’s policy is [if there exists one] not only on its procurement but also the cost per vaccine and will it be affordable for the masses or like everything else, it is for elite alone?
For countries like Pakistan the virus was a Godsend excuse to use as a cloak to hide behind resulting from lack of policies to provide easement to the common man, boost industries and production, bolster jobs and develop sound economic policies. Crushed under the weight of soaring inflation, the government has decided to hike power tariff by 25-30 percent. This means a direct impact of cost of all goods and services, putting tremendous pressure on middle class and below, putting a squeeze on consumer buying power which in return will put more production houses out of business in turn having more jobless. In turn having even lesser consumer buying power. How this will affect the law and order is a subject in itself. ‘Reportedly this hike is a bid to fulfill the IMF condition.’ [Dawn News December 23, 2020] The scope of pressures at hand for the world reflects the scope of tasks lying ahead.
Challenges for 2021 get more and more ‘basic’. Gender equality sticks out like a sore thumb.
U.S will see Joe Biden in office in year 2021 with no luxury of a honeymoon period. He has his platter full. Does he support U.S exit from Iran Nuclear Deal or get U.S back in the deal? Antony Blinken, Senior Advisor to Biden had suggested the latter course. How does he handle China?
Relationship between U.S and China at many levels, including technological, economic, ideological areas have been at the lowest ebb.
Middle East has been and shall continue to be a focal point. Libya & Syria are limping from wounds inflicted by wars, U.S troops continue having boots on ground in Iraq opposing the Iranian backed forces. On a very, very interesting political development, Israel has formalized/normalized relations with Bahrain and UAE besides Morocco and Sudan. Jared Kushner, Senior White House adviser was onboard the first official flight from Morocco to Israel a few days ago. “In Rabat, Mr. Kushner and a delegation that included his White House team and Israeli officials met with Moroccan leaders to sign diplomatic and economic agreements between the U.S., Israel and Morocco.” [The Wall Street Journal Dec. 22, 2020] As per a report, Israel is working towards normalizing relations with another Muslim country before President Trump leaves office.
Rumors that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arab’s city Neom to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were rife in November 2020 and brushed off as blatantly false by Saudi Arab. The oil rich state stands by its stance that it will only recognize Israel if the question of Palestine was addressed and resolved. Honorable though this stance is, many analysts are of the view that for the smaller Muslim states to normalize relationship with Israel was well-nigh impossible without Saudi Arab’s blessings. So this raises a question: In due course of time will Pakistan be ‘asked’ to face this question? The biggest hesitancy arises due to a legitimate concern in certain circles that acknowledging Israel will compromise our stance on AJK. Does it? For starters, the idea of self-determination is hugely dissimilar between the two.
Palestinians were displaced from their land. Indian Occupied Kashmir was forcibly taken over without displacing the local inhabitants. Secondly, the nature of fighting in Palestine has over time gained a broader base, justifying actions by OBL for example. In IOK case, no such circumstantial or actual facts exist. Decades of struggle against Indian forces has led to
thousands of forced disappearances, killings and 7000 mass graves.
What is needed is to view minutely, the dynamics of both regional situations that are dissimilar in every respect and come to a conclusion as to what should be Pakistan’s stance when [not if] faced by this situation. This must be a decision reflecting the opinion of Parliament, not the whims of one, two, three or more.
Challenges for 2021 get more and more ‘basic’. Gender equality sticks out like a sore thumb. Women comprise of almost 50% of world population however are not treated as equals to their male counterparts. Equal opportunities for education and work do not often exist because of their gender. This is more pronounced in lower income groups. Sexual violence against women is unfortunately high. Cases of child rape and murders too remain high.
Scarcity of water is a point of attention. The more conflicts there are, the more the population displacements the higher becomes the unsafe water sources available to them. ‘According to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) 2018, report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization, 27,000 children die each year from diarrhea related diseases in Pakistan.’ Provision of clean drinking water and safe sanitation remains a challenge for countries like Pakistan. Poor infrastructure is a contributing factor.
Food security is a challenge. In Pakistan the Economic Survey 2019-20 in June this year predicted 10 million more to join the 50 million living below the poverty line. The important point to be taken into consideration is that even those above poverty line or at the margin may not be getting nutritious meals. It will depend on head counts in a family unit.
Pakistan does not have any policies in place to deal with the myriad economic issues it faces. The Prime Minister of Pakistan in a recent television interview stated that the only way for the people to improve their condition is by creating wealth. He may like to go through Para 3 from above of this piece.
He further said the high energy costs had impeded industrialization which in turn affected wealth creation and poverty alleviation. [However rate of electricity is to go up 25 to 30% yet again after many repeated hikes in past two years?] – Dawn Updated 26 Nov 2020. He was Country Strategy Dialogue (CSD) on Pakistan held by the World Economic Forum virtually.
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: email@example.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9