PM & Saarc moot

March 23, 2020

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THIS refers to the front page photo regarding coronavirus and Saarc video conference (March 16). Dr Zafar Mirza is an esteemed public health management professional.

However, he is neither my head of state nor head of the government. He is not even an elected member of the National Assembly or a senator. He is an adviser and a state minister of health, who has been assigned a lead on coronavirus issue by an elected prime minister.

This unexpected invitation from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Saarc leaders’ virtual reunion, most probably because of fast Internet in India, except occupied Kashmir, was to generate a sense of regional emergency owing to the virus.

This was to show the world that the elected leaders and heads of state or governments of Saarc region, like other alliances such as EU, GCC, consider Covid-19 pandemic the top most priority. It was to show that they are willing to share information, knowledge and insight with each other as responsible regional partners.

In my opinion, it was not a technical meeting for public health management professional of Saarc nor was it Pakistan’s Covid-19 status update meeting to Saarc leaders in which we have to present our success stories.

I doubt if Modi even understood those medical jargons presented by Dr Mirza as published in your news story.

In contrast to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Dr Mirza had limited mandate while accepting or rejecting or commenting on any proposal by the Saarc region, for example, Modi’s offer to create coronavirus emergency funds and the Afghan president’s suggestion to use the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s mechanism to deal with the virus, etc.

The prime minister should have attended the meeting if mitigation and elimination of coronavirus is his top priority.

The world, especially Saarc leaders, should have heard it from his mouth about his concerns on coronavirus. Concerns over health in occupied Kashmir would have been considered more diplomatically correct and impactful if it had been raised by my elected prime minister, who, according to his speeches and acts, firmly believes in dialogue for peace. We have missed the opportunity to unite the Saarc’s finger to throw a knockout punch to coronavirus.

Saddam Siddiqui

Karachi

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2020