COVID-19 sufferers: Not PoWs

Traditionally people of Pakistan have a unique quality to display unity whenever there is any natural disaster or calamity. They are the first one to reach on the spot and start rescue operation without waiting for the government functionaries. The moment government functionaries reach on the spot immediately the people are pushed aside and situation is taken over by them. Initially the area is cordoned off by law enforcement agencies and then necessary rescue operation starts. The only difference is people does it voluntarily and the government does it as a duty for which they are paid. What practically has been observed is careless attitude by rescuers that only adds salt to wounds.
The world is under attack by COVID-19 since December 2019, and the updated figure of affected is 4.1 recovered 1.4 million and total deaths are 282K.Since entire world has suffered this deadly virus Pakistan is also equally affected. Though our record is not that bad but each day the graph is showing upward trend. The latest figures show 30,941 total cases, out of this 22,066 are active with 8208 recovered and registered deaths 667.Since April there has been lock down in Pakistan and now the lock down restrictions imposed are being lifted gradually.
The most hit are the stranded Pakistanis who fall in many categories, vis a vis, permanently settled abroad, labour class, visitors, tourists and businessman. All these categories of people are contributing roughly $21 to 24 billion annually and is considered our precious asset, but unfortunately they receive very bad treatment at the hands of embassies staff. Pakistan which spends billions of dollars on our 67 Embassies and 60 Consulates spread over the world. There performance has always been not up to the mark as they have miserably failed to attend to the problems of ex patriots or temporary visitors. It is not restricted to present government but the situation has always been like this during previous regimes. Their principle of working is to tease, torture anyone who visits them except the referred cases, definitely some good officers are there who do help the people but they can be counted on fingers.
The most hit category during covid-19 has been of labour class, temporary visitors followed by business people who had gone to negotiate deals to earn dollars for Pakistan. Let us take the case of labour class mostly working in Middle East and UAE. It is no more a secret they live in pathetic conditions, just to feed their families at home 6 to 8 people live in one room to save rent under inhuman conditions. They are like daily wagers of Pakistan. Imagine the difference here in Pakistan prime minister is taking personal interest and is always worried about their welfare and announcing certain packages. Contrary they have to face Shurtas (Police) with language barrier; you speak and find yourself behind the bars. They all have been crying, weeping, appealing to government of Pakistan and requesting Prime Minister to help them because the embassy staff and ambassadors has no time to meet and see them. They prefer not to go to the embassies and consulates. Social media is flooded with clips and stories published in the newspapers are enough to prove their helplessness and agony they are going through. We talk so much of mafias in Pakistan but same culture is found in foreign embassies amongst lower staff who instead helping degrade and humiliate irrespective of gender and senior citizens. Back to the plight of stuck up labour abroad on the explicit instructions of Prime Minister some special flights have been arranged, but to great horror exorbitant fares are being charged by airlines at a time when fuel prices are the lowest and people are without money due to lock downs. In fact government should have brought them gratis not as a favour but due to prevailing conditions. Coming to the plight of temporary visitors they also deserved some better treatment since they could afford to visit and most of them had return tickets therefore their repatriation should have been no problem, the airline has all the information about travellers. Now coming to the last category of businessman who generates revenue for the country they should have been given special attention.
Since people of all categories are stuck up in different countries. What Pakistan government could do to establish a special desk in each Embassy, Consulate and High Commissioner abroad and news flashed on Pakistan TV channels and print media and this could have reached in minutes through Whattsapp to stranded Pakistanis and they would have approached respective foreign office and given their particulars on telephone or through email and the embassy could arrange flights accordingly in consultations with PIA or other airline with whom we have agreements to carry each other passengers. This is not the end of story, the real trouble starts when they arrive in Pakistan. I shall refrain telling what happens when they enter airports and the treatment they are meted which is obnoxious and most disgraceful. Instead showing sympathy they are maltreated and are made to go through the SOP’s established for such travellers due to corona virus. They are despatched to Quarantine centres that are virtually like concentration centres made for the prisoner of war (PoW). No doctor, no medicine, no sanitation, rude behaviour. They are just told they will be tested after 2 days or 3 days. Question arises why such delay. The SOP is defective ab initio. Once passengers disembark, the tests should be conducted immediately on arrival as majority of them are negative. They should be allowed to go home, rest with positive should be sent to corona centre or the hotels earmarked by the government. All expenses to be borne by the state and not by the individual. Secondly for labours special counters be made at the airports and under Ehsas program they all should be paid Rs 12000 as being done with poor class in Pakistan.
It is a matter of great satisfaction that Prime Minister has regretted the incidents of unfair below dignity treatment of corona virus patients in centres set up for rehabilitation but admonishment is not enough some heads should have rolled. Before concluding I would like to mention a clip on social media uploaded by airline captain who brought stranded passengers from Sri Lanka and the treatment meted out to them. The important message he gave to people is that they better stay in foreign country beg borrow do anything don’t come to Pakistan. This requires thorough investigation and revision of SOP’s by introducing testing at the airports. The nation is in agony, under depression, no work, no money, and no jobs therefore returnees need better treatment.

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