Political cost of COVID-19

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Mujtaba Qureshi : The writer is a former student of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad having interest in national and international politics, history and economy. He can be reached at: mujtabaqureshi-zero@outlook.com

Global pandemic not only unleash economic cost, but also carry severe political cost in the coming time. It depends upon the strategy that is implemented to tackle it. Numerous stories are circulating about stemming the pandemic around the world. Few countries are successful, and others are still struggling to overcome the apocalyptic spread of the virus. Consequently, pandemic is a real test of leadership which can make them pride or be regarded as failure.
In the very beginning when corona virus, first emerged in Wuhan city of China. Chinese government imposed a lockdown in whole city as a first measure to tackle the virus. This developed a spate of criticism toward china, and called it Chinese autocratic measures. However, the whole world observed china controlled the virus spread, and also ensured relief for citizens during lockdown.
As time passed, virus started to report from other parts of the world slowly and gradually. It took a mix response from various head of states, even they questioned over the virus as deadly to human life. But, within short span of time they started to realize the severity of condition, and acknowledged china’s formula against control of the pandemic.
Comparatively, United States – the world largest economy, model of a true democracy around the world, having a great technological and economic capacity – failed to stem the spread of pandemic. This is due to poor handling of infection from very outset. For instance, American President, Donald Trump in his daily press briefing compare the coronavirus to a mild flu which is not as such dangerous to human health, but express pride to get rid from it very soon. Later, the virus took a heavy tool of USA and leading in number of cases and reported fatalities in the comity of nations. This is very unfortunate, a country with such a great potential, resources, and capacity failed to overcome due to ignorant leadership.
On the other, there are other very successful stories related to coronavirus are existing, such as New Zealand, Germany, South Korea, Iceland, Australia and so on. Above mentioned countries, took a serious measure as per directions of World Health Organization (WHO) and curbed the spread of virus in their respective countries. Among these countries, few of them have declared itself free of the pandemic and others are near to get success in fight against the pandemic. When WHO announced the coronavirus a pandemic, these countries went into a national lockdown, suspended business activities, started screening, testing, and tracing of people coming from outside of the country. This helped them to identify the infected person, and made easier to quarantine them for two weeks. Resultantly, people trust and confidence increased manifold in their regimes.
Sadly to say, the incumbent government in Pakistan was also late to realize the gravity of situation. Even, two neighboring countries; China and Iran struggle against the virus in front of our leadership. This might have been taken as a lesson to follow when virus hit Pakistan. Unfortunately, head of government in live broadcast to nation termed the coronavirus a mere flu which can only affect elderly people with respiratory issues. Such a gross neglect at the part of national leadership was difficult to understand to everyone. As a result, poor steps were taken against fatal virus.
Till now, there is a lack of comprehensive policy implementation in land of pure. Undoubtedly, National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) is working to observe, facilitate, and execute policy against coronavirus nationwide. But, it seems center and provinces are doing on their own, especially Sindh province ruled by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Overall it was a mix response from all countries while tackling coronavirus. Either, it is democracy, autocracy; kingship, or dictatorship, thing which matters is stemming the spread of the virus. It is neither weakness of democracy nor dictatorship which caused the virus to spread in nook and corner of country. It is all about leadership response, and resistance measures against the virus. It is not failure of democracy, but weakness of leadership in taking timely decisions. Those who take decisions without wasting time, successfully overcome the pandemic, and now moving to ease the lockdown bit by bit.
Therefore, coronavirus has a lasting political cost. For instance, the recent gallop survey shows 44 percent chances of election victory for Donald Trump as compare to Joe Biden – his opponent candidate from Democratic Party in November. Indeed, the killing of George of Flyod, colored African-American further increased detestation for Trump administration. More importantly, failure to tackle COVID-19 would not have devastating consequences for Trump Election in November this year, but also turning the tide in favor of China at global level.
According to Francis Fukuuyama, “The global distribution of power will continue to shift eastward. Since East Asia has done better at managing the situation than Europe or the United States”. Evidently, China stands firm to assist other nations, and continuously providing personal protective equipment (PPEs), supplying medicines as well as doctors to the poor countries who lack resources and capacity to tackle the pandemic. Even, China announced to increase in annual fund for WHO from its previous one. From all aspects, global political order is moving toward a shift because America under Trump is on back seat of global humanitarian service. Briefly, it might have new alliances at regional and global level after pandemic is over.