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How to Save Pakistan and its people from immediate losses of Corona Virus

Muhammad Arif : Chairman Centre of Advisory Services for Islamic Banking and Finance (CAIF), Former Head of FSCD SBP, Former Head of Research ArifHabib Investments and Member IFSB Task Force for development of Islamic Money Market, Former Member of Access to Justice Fund Supreme Court of Pakistan

With the novel corona virus spreading all across the world, hitting one country after another, many governments have now imposed strict restrictions on its people to protect them.

USA, UK, Italy, Spain, France which became the epicenters of the disease after China, reporting hundreds of deaths in a single day, later announced a lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.

Pakistan is also partially in lockdown.

This arrangement is most strict in Sind followed by other provinces but it is not bringing desired results

Why! Because when it comes to countries like Pakistan — the category of which includes India, Bangladesh and many in Africa — one needs to realize that social-distancing is not the ideal solution. Why so? The South Asian and African regions are densely populated. This means that while the population is quite high, people also live in very close proximity to each other.

These include people living in joint families, which can mean about 20 people under the same roof, and those living in slums. This leads to the sharing of common living spaces, or in the case of slums, common washing or cooking areas.

It is often also very hard to make the elders of the family understand the need for social-distancing, especially during such a pandemic, when it’s considered to be one of the leading precautionary measures.

Moreover, with schools, universities and offices closing down, and sometimes not a strict curfew in place, families like to make use of the “free time” to visit relatives and friends or make a trip to the beach, leading to a potential spread of disease instead of containing it.

When it comes to slums or low-income communities, the different houses are located very close to each other, with many even sharing main entrances or staircases. Even if there is a nuclear family living in each sub-portion, the number of family members is too high for the area they have, leading to them being in very close contact, not only with the other people of the locality, but also of the same family.

Low-income families often include a member being a daily earner, which means that he or she will be stepping out of the house for work, so that the rest of them don’t go to bed hungry. This eventually leads him or her having to interact with others and being a potential carrier of the corona virus in the event he or she gets infected. So how does one can impose social-distancing?

While a strict lockdown and curfew might be the option for many countries, in densely-populated areas, it’s not an easy answer. Police officials cannot stop the people in slums from living in the slums, just like they cannot ask people living in joint families to leave their families and change their living arrangements. Constant awareness about its importance should be disseminated, but while doing so, it should be realized that there is a very high chance; it will not bring about a major difference.

Government has announced various schemes like forming Tiger force, registration of new welfare funds but to move forward one has to understand that despotic governments and use of religion have evolved a mindset in Pakistan. For example most of the cases have occurred when people returned from Ziairats from Iran and Ummrah from Saudi Arabia. Most of the other cases have been found in Tableeghi Jamaats. People are not inclined to avoid congregations in mosques and even in lot of Darbars in Pakistan.

So forming of Tiger force or other forces are not the right solutions. There is news that some of the political party’s activists have fraudulently grasped money from the people with the backing of their top leadership. So what should be done? This time we can use mosques located in all areas of the Pakistan. In the past they have been used by Taliban and terrorist for their use. Now for their positive use we can make them distribution centers for ration, financial aid and food among nearby area. Since Imam of the mosque almost know each person residing in his locality so he can be made responsible and in charge of such centre. Dr Younus of Bangladesh has used mosques for giving guarantees against his Micro financing. We can use it in Pakistan at the high time of Corona Virus spread.


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