Why This Kind of Self-Isolation Feels So Sick

Source; “Isolation” by Trinity Jackson

We are in lockdown. I would not call it a self-quarantine because it would be incorrect to say so. But I have not gone out of my home since March 15, more or less.

I am not a stranger to self-isolation like so many in my generation. I have been social distancing all my life, never being thrilled in the company of people I don’t trust. But it doesn’t always have anything to do with other people. It’s a state of mind.

In the fall and late winter of 2016, I confined myself to my home for six months on a diet of mostly coffee and roasted corn and binge-watching every World War II movie made under the Sun. It was a state of mind too. It didn’t lead to too many nice things, but I recall that pleasurable experience fondly. Every pleasure must end in pain, though.

Now, here we are. Locked up in self-isolation, if not “self-quarantine.’ The coronavirus pandemic is here. The apocalypse everyone couldn’t stop talking about is here.

This is not normal and this is not voluntary. Most of all, this is not enjoyable, even if a part of you is enjoying it.

But the economy is crashing, perhaps like never before since the Great Depression. You are supposed to be productive in this self-isolation.

How can you? You can barely remain sane,

And the disease has not knocked on your door, yet. While the others have not been so lucky. Who is to say if you are going to be immune to this misery, whether your neighborhood catches the virus or not. The disease is all-pervasive. Like God. It is almost God who is here to kill humanity.

It is our shared misery, that binds us in the bond of humanity.

How could you possibly enjoy it?

You are stressed. You are fatigued. You are shut down.

What are we supposed to do? Pretend that the pandemic crisis is not there? Pretend that you are free to go out and meet people anytime you can? Pretend to eat anything you can? Do anything you want?

But that’s not the worst of it.

How are you to pretend that the people around you are not at serious risk of falling ill and dying?

How are you to pretend that you are not going to be the next victim of the virus? Because you can do only so much to prevent getting infected.

We are all infected.

We are all out of touch.

The Coronavirus Debacle

Source: ARY News

Covid-19 or the disease caused by the Cov-SARS-2 Coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11. Perhaps but probably a bit too late. It was a bit too late because only then had governments around the world had started to take the threat of the coronavirus epidemic seriously.

The last new year’s eve, I suspected that 2020 would prove to be an ominous year, but never in my wildest imagination could I expect the Chinese authorities to report the first coronavirus case to the WHO on December 31. The outbreak occurred somewhere in November 2019 and was named covid-19, caused by the Cov-SARS-2 virus that closely resembled the virus causing the SARS epidemic in 2003. The Chinese Communist Party initially tried repressing it, even punished the doctor who blew the whistle to alert about the threat. However, the sheer number of casualties and patients went out of hand and soon even a communication ban could not prevent the impact. The world was cautiously and horrifyingly watching the videos of people dragged away to the quarantine. China had dealt with more than one epidemic in the recent past. They probably knew what they were doing or so it seemed.

On March 8, many of us in Pakistan were at the Aurat Azadi March. Many others were attending weddings, religious and political congregations. I knew on the back of my mind that it was dangerous but considering the social and political atmosphere of the country, it had become too important to miss. However, in the retrospect, organizing the march was risky, if not a mistake. The pandemic had reached Pakistan’s borders already and even days later some of the March’s organizers were calling on the government for a shutdown.

Like most populist and conservative governments around the world, the trend we are currently seeing in Brazil and Mexico, the government of Pakistan remained in denial for a long time. The same was true for Italy and Iran. The same was true for Spain and the United States. The same is true for India. Realizing

While Ashraf Ghani was taking oath after getting reelected in Afghanistan in a controversial and close election amid explosions, and while Pakistani people were outraging about Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir attending the inauguration, and while Pakistan was mostly obsessed with Aurat March placards and PSL, the coronavirus had reached Pakistani borders.

On March 9, Pakistan only had 5 cases and nobody in the country was talking about it.

Even nobody in the United States was taking it seriously other than California, the state which probably had the earliest cases.

By this time, the novel coronavirus epidemic had reached disastrous proportions in Iran and Italy, countries which had also remained in denial about the threat. Meanwhile, the outbreak has been largely controlled in South Korea and Singapore, which had a tough February with it. They carried out very aggressive testing after meticulously tracking cases and limiting the infection. Japan followed the same path. Meanwhile, China would still take a couple of weeks to come close to easing an extremely strict shutdown in the Hubei province.

The 5 known cases had entered Pakistan through the Taftan border in Baluchistan from the afflicted province of Qom. These were pilgrims visiting holy shrines in Iran and returning. While many expect the Baluchistan government to handle the quarantine of these pilgrims, their entry and disaster relief was a federal subject, especially considering the funds involved.

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Nevertheless, Dr. Zafar Mirza, visited the Taftan camp on February 28 and expressed his satisfaction over the facilities. Days later, the quarantined patients escaped citing unbearable living and sanitary conditions. Many of them were later subjected to a similar detention camp-like facility in Dera Ghazi Khan. While nobody is necessarily blaming the pilgrims or another religious congregation, and that the pandemic had to find its way in the country in one way or another, the Taftan debacle certainly helped propagate the infection.

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By this time, many of the pilgrims arrived in Sindh and were sent to a quarantine center established in Sukkur. The Sindh Government, perhaps the first among the provincial governments to realize the gravity of the crisis, started pressing the federal government over a nationwide lockdown.

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However, religious groups continued to pose problems for the government, as is evident by the protest of the quarantined pilgrims and violation of protective protocol at the Sukkur Quarantine Center, a feat by the Sindh government usually maligned for incompetence.

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Until March 19, while the Sindh government was making strides to control the coronavirus cases, the Punjab government was still not taking the crisis seriously. The Punjab government was acting as if the infection in Sindh could not reach Punjab, with even its officials ignoring social distancing advice instead of informing the public. As a matter of fact, revelations about the approach of the Punjab Chief Minister created quite a bit of media hype.

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Apart from that, around the same time, the federal government was still wondering about the extent of the problem, while the staff of the largest hospital in Islamabad issued a grave warning about the challenge ahead. Later several doctors in that hospital would get infected and quarantined.

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Around that time, the federal government had completely different priorities, such as shipping cooked desi food to the stranded Pakistani students in Wuhan.

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To add insult to injury, the annual Tableeghi Ijtema at Raiwind near Lahore was to take place for which Muslim missionaries and preaching delegates had arrived from all around the world. It is not like your formal conferences with good accommodation facilities, but an informal gathering with a center of gathering with compromised hygiene and sanitation. Many social and political commentators and media called on the government to ban the congregation but the Punjab government allowed it to happen. Later, the tableeghi jamaat would cause dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of infections in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and even Sindh. Even two positive cases from Gaza Strip are reported to have attended the tableeghi congregation in Pakistan.

After the pandemic status was declared by WHO on March 11, the media had started making noise about the coronavirus threat. It ignited a new debate pressured by certain circles within the media and the Sindh Government on whether to enforce a nationwide lockdown or not. The absence of the Prime Minister in terms of communicating to the nation was also criticized until things got even worse when he did address the nation.

In an address to the nation that could be considered to be misleading the people, he declared that covid-19 was just a form of flu. He did not recommend a lockdown or even appealed to the religious clerics or tableeghi jamaat to suspend their religious congregations, but stressed social distancing and precaution at the same time. All in all, he downplayed the crisis in the manner of any conservative government currently in power around the world without a word to assure the provinces that the federal government was with them.

Misrepresenting the demands of lockdown as effectively a “curfew,” he declared that a complete lockdown was impossible for Pakistan considering a huge number of the population lives below the poverty line. However, despite the risk of people going hungry and out of work and possible food shortages, there was no assurance from the national leader. Even the young Ammar Rashid of the Awami Workers Party had better ideas for the labor and working class.

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It was perhaps this reason that the very next day, the military, Imran Khan’s original installers, had to intervene and announced their own lockdown plan, assuring that the armed force is prepared to take on this crisis. The Punjab government also announced a 14-day lockdown  Either the government was playing good cop, bad cop with the people or the Prime Minister was completely out of touch with the necessary policy for fighting the outbreak.

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The citizen breathed a sigh of relief when his next address had some hope of a relief package, including income relief for the underprivileged. However, that too was plagued with partisanship. While the Prime Minister did the right thing to announce. He kept on insisting that a complete lockdown will be impossible because of. Talking to media in the Prime Minister House, he had earlier implied that the curfew will remain to be the last resort. However, when addressing the nation, he remains to be confused about the lockdown, which is inevitable in the situation and not something anybody is asking for out of pleasure.

Incompetence is one thing, a PTI trait that most people in the country have come to learn by now, but intentional partisan divisiveness in a crisis and misinformation amount to malfeasance. The Prime Minister has repeatedly told the public that the covid-19 pandemic was just like another flu. This was obviously false information that nobody should believe. Here is how covid-19 is different from and more dangerous than flu.

Paradoxically, the confused leader has also repeatedly been appealing people to self-isolate and to maintain social distancing. The only consolation is that his record on public advice was not as atrocious as Boris Johnson, who tested positive for covid-19. Still, Imran Khan’s federal government remained lax on the Friday prayers issue until the provinces were forced to take measures to ban congregations without locking the mosques down.

While we stand firmly behind our government to overcome the pandemic crisis, the least the public can expect from the government is honesty. Unfortunately, most of the innocent people of Pakistan have no clue what kind of a pandemic disaster is potentially threatening their lives. Hardly any country in the world has the means to properly fight this crisis but misleading the public, especially about the protective precautions. And even his solutions such as the “Tiger Force,” a youth recruitment drive to take rations and awareness campaigns to communities, reek of partisan bias and have already been rejected by the opposition.

The government must continue to learn lessons from its mistakes and ensure that the people have supply relief as well as universal basic income delivered to their doorstep.

By the end of March, we have more than 2,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 20 deaths. If we do not take stricter measures, offer a viable channel of aid relief through the military, and do not flatten the curve, we could be waiting for a disaster the likes of which we have never seen before.

Stranger in Your Home

Source: flickr

I used to see it in films and read it in books. Looking over your shoulder around at every turn, being insecure, paranoid about the people around you. Perhaps I am not that concerned, or afraid, though I should be. I should be more concerned than I am and perhaps it is my confidence that is seeing me through accidents of disastrous proportions. Why am I coming out of them unnerved and carefree? It is a cause of concern indeed as I see it in the eyes of my loved ones.

What if your home is not home anymore? What if you are living in it like a stranger? What if that means that you should plan to move on. Move on not necessarily to where the grass is greener but where at least you are out of the reach of the hounds. Does such a place exist?

I don’t want to leave my home. My home is leaving me.

It is swallowing me out.

The Sanest Tweet on the Zainab Rape Murder Incident

Source: Express News

There is really nothing much to say about the Zainab rape murder incident. It’s just a shock. You can’t unsee her pictures everywhere, you can’t unsee her abused corpse and you can’t make this dull pain and strange guilt go away. You can’t make the anger go away either. But at least you can know better and not emulate the savagery of her rapist-murderers and start calling for public executions in the manner of Iran and Saudi Arabia and start tackling. It’s just symptomatic of people looking for a head. Though for a change, you didn’t have to try hard to convince most Pakistanis that it was morally outrageous.

So this is all that needs to be noticed on this day of chaos and madness and emotional distress. This is the sanest thing said on this day. Sort of brings the Nirbhaya episode to mind.

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Let me write it down in case this tweet gets deleted.

“The people who criticised lawyers defending Mumtaz Qadri were as silly as those who will criticise the lawyers who defend the rights of the Kasur rape accused. The rights of all accused must be defended, no matter how certain society and talk show hosts are of their guilt.” – @SalmanARaja

The rest of the nonsensical noise you can afford to ignore.

 

Remembering Benazir Bhutto… A Dark Night Ten Years Ago

Source: AP Photo/B.K.Bangash

Being just a mile away from that fateful occurrence… I recall that night ten years ago.

I recall the 27th of December, the darkest of nights…

It struck our hearts like thunder.

She was meant to shine like the sun that day.

But went down to leave a dark void forever.

Who cares what day it was? Who cares where you were?

You knew that there was rioting on the streets and that you somehow had to save yourself from it…

That you had to save your car or bike from burning… (Not that I had one, or will ever have one in a decade…)

But our minds were too numb to think about that.

The nations’ mind was too numb to think about that.

Somebody else was doing the rioting and the looting.

Our country was burned and looted the moment we saw her fall.

It felt as if something was lost… Something precious… Something that would never to return to us…

It felt as if someone was lost.

Someone you wished you had met just once…

Someone you wished you had known only for a while…

Life is not fair… Did not even let us the chance to hear her again…

To see her again…

To meet her…

Even when we were in the same town as she was… The same street virtually, before they pulled the trigger…

Before that bomb went off…

With it died so much more than her…

With it died our hopes and dreams…

Everything, we believed in. And it wasn’t much to begin with..

 

Not that we knew this when we were younger, stupider, naïver…

But now we know that we may never have the likes of her again in our lives…

We may never ever see what leadership like that means with this nation ever, ever again…

This meant that we may never hear from her again ever, ever again…

The End.

 

Thank you for choosing us to lead.

We may not have been strong enough to save you, or value your leadership.

But let us hope that we are able to honor you in your death.

Let us hope we have this much of human decency left…

Pause and Reflect

Source: The Star

You can’t believe you are alive, right?

Well, neither can I. I don’t understand what this world is. I don’t understand what our senses are. I don’t know what to make of this animal I see in the mirror every day.

Or rather the animal I avoid seeing.

I don’t know what to make of this world. I don’t know what to make of my relations.
And I don’t know what to make of the things I am supposed to do.

I just know that I am carrying on, pretending to be busy, to avoid looking at deeper things in life.

Oh, you have nerves of steel. Congratulations. You are not human.

Like you, like everyone else, I am deflecting the realities of life too. I am not any different.

You need a moment to pause and reflect. You need a moment to wonder.

Evasion is not a solution.

Numbing the pain is not health.

But we don’t want to change.

We don’t want to live.

We don’t want to die.

We just want to lie.

 

The Medicine for Apathy

Source: khybernews.tv

Can you lose the ability to sense the pain of other people, if only temporarily?

And does that always necessarily mean that you are an awful person?

A depressed prefrontal cortex under the influence can be a good excuse.

But what is the excuse for so many commentators failing to acknowledge the pain of protesters in Parachinar in response to the suicide bombings targeting the Shia community.

For refusing to accept the condition of the people perishing in the Bahawalpur oil tanker tragedy.

For wilfully overlooking the tragedy of the displaced Syrian people.

For ignoring the plight of the people of Gaza Strip deprived of water and electricity.

For being glad to see Mishal Khan die a painful death just because he said something offensive, which they say he didn’t.

Maybe there should be medicine for that.

But there is no good in passing moral judgment when you are guilty of the same.

Why pick and choose tragedies, just like the people you are pointing fingers at.

Why talk about people abroad when I don’t even sympathize with the person living next door.

Why would you want to save humanity if it is people that you just can’t stand.

The fact of the matter is that I do not remotely feel the pain and agony of all those people. Even if I try.

I don’t find in myself to be bothered enough to go out for the pain and loss of so many people.

And how many causes can you possibly choose.

 

Maybe there should be medicine for that.