By, Muhamamad Matloob Inkalabi
I pay my well wishes, prayers and good will to the People of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. I have been observing the situation very closely but the back to back failures of AJK Government in handling the Pandemic have forced me to give a write up. A pandemic was always going to put the health system under strain, but AJK Government was woefully unready. Government planning is needed both to deal with short-term emergencies and to address longer-term risk. I shall just quote here District Kotli as an example of the government’s failure, concerning corona virus COVID-19.
District Kotli’s Administration definitely did implement, apart from this the Government did nothing. Kotli is largest district in terms of population but no testing laboratory has been established yet and no other medical facilities in DHQ have been spared. Quarantine centres are worse than prisons as they are just show pieces with not enough space to handle any worst case situations. District Administration and Health Administration could not properly handle 08 positive cases and those patients have been isolated with general patients in normal health services hospitals.
I personally demanded earlier that we have to establish separate set up from top to bottom (Medical and paramedics staff up to sanitary staff) to handle this pandemic. Isolation wards have to be established separate to the normal health services hospitals with proper equipment, protective kits and separate washrooms. Any hostel building or other big buildings should be hired separately.
✅Lock down & situation at Entry & Exit Points:
Although, the strict lockdown was necessary to ensure public safety, the Administration is not only stopping but in fact defaming the people on entry points. The residents of District Kotli, particularly working class, due to lockdown in big cities like Karachi and Lahore people are unemployed and coming back to their families. They face worst type of humiliation when compelled to sleep under open sky, with the fits of hunger and thirst. There are no basic precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. In some instances I have to personally intervene and rescued them after having difficulty approaching the Prime Minister. According to people, these camps are no more than a prison. I want no political point scoring in these tough times but on the other hand I can’t stand the grievances and difficulties of poor and voiceless. How can this be possible that my people remain stranded in hardship and I inhale the sigh of relief? Impossible. No capacity building on immediate basis has been done.
✅Medical equipment (PPE & Ventilators):
The dedication of some medical professionals contrasts sharply with the lack of government preparedness – for example in procuring extra stocks of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and virus testing kits. However, other bad luck comes up when we see the ventilators and other advanced medical equipment donated is useless because of the inexperienced medical staff. Most importantly, the government of AJK has not revisited its budget and allocated single penny to the hospitals and the relief to the ‘have nots’ has not been dearly allocated.
✅Public Funds allocation:
Planning failures and financial cuts are being exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. I want the Public of AJK to know that due to lockdown all development activities are stopped and it is looks like it will remain this way until the end of this financial year so the unspent budgeted amount will be lapsed. Every year a huge amount almost more than 60 million Rupees (6 crores) are allocated to each Government Party Member Assembly as discretionary funds which are spent on small and petty politically motivated schemes. Government of AJK, at the end of every year allocate the budget and shift huge unspent funds to the so called Prime Minister AJK Community Development Program. Then, the PM shifts it to MLAs for peanut schemes. That fund is also unspent as the Government has not shifted it to hospitals and for relief to people. The Government has so far failed to do anything else other than stopping people outside the entry points.
✅Demands & Recommendations:
We demand the AJK Government to look into the situation thoroughly and ensure the public safety with grace followed by strict lock down. As Eid is upcoming, a huge numbers of people, especially working class will start coming back to their families. Similarly, overseas Pakistani’s who arrive near to Eid should not be held more than 48 hrs unless required by the given S.O.P’s for the pandemic.
As the given pandemic is a global crisis and overseas Pakistanis will be screened by both countries concerned departments. Government should forecast the situation and start planning to allow secure entry, exit and access to their homes. For this, screening should be done by a medical team on entry and exit points.
In Azad Kashmir’s corona-virus camps, there is no facilities and no humanity. Quarantine centers have to be established on entry points in tents with proper food and living facilities on war footing bases for people with any symptoms. So far, the district governments have totally failed to bear the expenses of even 30 people.
AJK Government should revisit the budget and shift unspent funds to District Administration also to handle the unforeseen issues. Money is not the solution of everything. Efficient officers with good PR to the civil society and all political entities and officers with passion and capability have to be posted in districts. Prime Minster is looking active with few ministers and senior officers but the rest of his Ministers and high officials are totally aloof and ignorant to what is happening. It is either by the will and design of Prime Minster or whatever the cause. Concrete actions and comprehensive futuristic planning is required at state level.
One positive aspect in AJK is that there is political harmony and very good mutual understanding amongst political parties which can be capitalized for achieving the common goals of the day and onward. We are there to support and co-operate with the government in implementing the policies and celebrations where ever it is required. Due to less medical facilities and incapable operating staff, government cannot bear the wave of virus spread, God Forbid.
I would like to add one last thing over here that the ‘Respectful and necessary precaution is better than cure’.
Note:Muhammad Matloob Inqilabi is the politician ,he is ex MLA and x Minister of Education Azad Govt, Jammu & Kashmir