THE unilateral decision taken by Karachi’s East Zone police to arrest citizens without Covid vaccination cards from the streets was utterly ridiculous. Thirty-three people were picked up on Friday and 18 were booked under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code and also under Section 4 of the Sindh Epidemics Disease Act, 2014, for disobeying a public order. The East Zone police sprang into action after a letter was issued by the Sindh home department to the IGP, DG Rangers and the Karachi commissioner conveying the chief secretary’s concerns at the non-implementation of SOPs and demanding action against those violating them. The letter made carrying proof of vaccination to certain public places mandatory, entrusting the law-enforcement agencies with the responsibility of carrying out inspections to ensure compliance with these directives. The letter noted the concern of the Sindh chief secretary that the Karachi Police in particular did not appear to be interested in inspecting vaccination cards.
What exactly were the police authorities in the East Zone thinking? Safety in these days of Covid must be a priority. But it is one thing to ensure that people at workplaces and educational institutes are vaccinated and quite another to pick up people from the streets on flimsy legal grounds. Moreover, where would they keep those detained? In special cells with proper ventilation while ensuring a distance of six feet between 33 detainees and carrying out regular disinfection of the premises? It is rather unlikely. The Karachi Police is within its rights to ask the public to carry their vaccination cards with them when visiting restaurants and marriage halls and other public places; however, it should consult the provincial government and devise a new strategy for dealing with violators of Covid-related SOPs, rather than detaining people en masse. High-handed actions are not likely to persuade people to queue up to get their Covid jabs. Better results might be achieved through a sustained awareness-raising drive and by denying unvaccinated individuals entry to venues where the virus is likely to spread.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2021