THE spectre of the coronavirus continues to haunt Pakistan as the nation celebrates Eidul Azha, the feast of sacrifice. A question that deserves repetition is the same that confronted us in April as Ramazan neared: will the faithful observe the government’s SOPs to help check the spread of the pandemic that has by now taken almost 6,000 lives in Pakistan?
Recall the consequences of the eleventh hour surrender by the government to the clerics, who at the time made little effort to ensure that the SOPs for prayer congregations were followed. This was in sharp contrast to the situation in many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, where people followed the government’s and ulema’s plea to offer prayers at home.
In Pakistan, however, by ignoring these elementary precautions observed worldwide, the people and those they followed in matters of faith violated the SOPs and thus unconsciously added to a sudden post-Eid surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
We owe our front-line workers a huge debt of gratitude for getting the nation through this most trying time, for it came at a heavy cost. Now, even accounting for discrepancies in official data, there has been a welcome decline in infection and mortality rates. But, particularly in the absence of a scientific explanation for this reduction of cases, the nation can brook no complacency.
Besides preventing a resurgence of widespread infection, there is another health and safety challenge that Pakistan struggles with perennially while observing Eidul Azha.
Sidewalks serve as virtual abattoirs, and blood-spattered footpaths and lanes littered with animal waste are a recurring phenomenon. Annually issued public service messages to not dispose of carcasses in residential areas near airports go unheeded, attracting carrion birds and increasing the risk of aviation accidents caused by bird strike.
Special care is required on the part of the people and city governments to ensure that the slaughter of sacrificial animals and disposal of waste is not only done properly and hygienically but also with a view to prevent large gatherings. How carelessness in the latter could be catastrophic is evident from an outbreak of Covid-19 among workers in a chicken slaughterhouse in Germany.
So far in 2020, Pakistanis have had to endure many hardships since the pandemic struck. This Eidul Azha, the spirit of sacrifice should move us to do whatever it takes to ensure the health and well-being of our fellow citizens.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020