EDITORIAL: It is hard to believe but true. Prime Minister Imran Khan held a meeting with his media team inside his Banigala residence just four days after having tested positive for Covid-19, and three days after the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) announced broader lockdowns in 10 cities, including Islamabad, so as to restrict activities contributing to a surging third wave of Covid-19 pandemic. As per NCOC guidelines, anyone infected with Covid-19 has to remain in isolation for nine to 14 days. Yet that rule has been violated by no less a person than the Prime Minister. The meeting was about publicizing the government’s subsidies package for the holy month of Ramazan. The PM could have discussed the same in a virtual meeting like he has been participating in some international conferences. Why did he choose to hold an in-person meeting, only he can tell.
The PM’s men, of course, could not opt out even if they wanted to. Later, they were hard put to justify the activity though they made a brave effort. Asked for an explanation, NCOC Chairman Asad Umar said the standard operating procedures (SOPs) only suggested precaution and that the participants of the meeting were sitting at a “reasonable” distance from the PM. Nonetheless, he could not but agree with the questioner that it is better to avoid such meetings during the quarantine period. The Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Media tried his best to defend his boss saying, “We did not touch each other and all of us were wearing masks. We did not take anything to eat and drink and sat at a reasonable distance from the Prime Minister during the 45-minute meeting.” That though is of little help as there was no pressing need, in the first place, to undergo such constrictions. The clarification, in fact, underscores the imminent peril of sitting with a Covid-19 patient in the same room. If that was not bad enough, Asad Umar and Senator Faisal Javed posted a picture on a social media platform, showing Imran Khan sitting at some distance from his media team, looking quite healthy. He may be doing great, but the message the photo sent out to the public was that it is OK for infected persons to interact with others.
Already a lot of people are Covid-19 deniers. A vast majority refuses to observe such a simple but most effective SOP as wearing a face mask. The Prime Minister is supposed to lead by example. Unfortunately, however, the example he has set tells them not to worry; there is no need to pay heed to the preventive measures the NCOC is trying to implement. If the leader can throw caution to the wind so can they. The event can easily undermine the efforts of Khan’s own government to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Be it as it may, the one nagging question that begs an answer is this: why did he do it?
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021