‘Crisis Governance’ Could Manage Coronavirus Impact in Pakistan, Proposes Expert

DESPARDES — The Center for Peace, Security & Developmental Studies’ (CPSD) top expert Syed Mohammad Ali says a ‘National Crisis Government’ could save as many lives as possible as well as the vital pillars of the political and socio-economic system.

He calls it the “Hybrid/Graduated State Intervention Option” — it is the second among three others Mr. Ali discusses in his most recent published position paper.

“This option will be a compromise between saving many rather than most lives but also the vital pillars of the political and socio-economic system”.

The expert, while pegging his analysis on “Pakistan’s situation is precarious on eight accounts”, assumes in the hybrid option that State institutions have the ability to absorb large scale casualties in the medium term (3-6 months) and perhaps accepting a temporary and peaceful review of the current political setup by declaring a ‘national crisis government’. It would allow, he posits, that the Federal Government use its emergency powers to take direct control of critical resources, social processes and critical supply chain through food rationing for at least 3 months to ensure that every citizen gets fed and receives State-enforced health security through isolation. Social activity can be gradually revived and functioning democracy can be restored once the crisis is over, socio-economic circumstances normalize and its most damaging effects have been successfully managed.

The Islamabad-based think tank’s Executive Director also presents two other options on handling the Coronavirus Pandemic, and as a way forward says, “As compared to the two maximalist and more politically costly policy options, the second policy option of Hybrid/Graduated State Intervention Option seems more prudent and carefully calibrated to manage the crisis in several key domain simultaneously”.

The two maximalist options include: “Complete Lock Down” to save most lives at the cost of the country’s economy and social system in the short-term, but could increase political challenges for the Government.

And the other: “Status Quo/Survival of the Fittest Option”, in which the Federal Government accords priority to the survival of the institutional and public sector structures rather over human security and public interest.

He proposes, the parliament and government should continue to function through secure video conferencing. Military Services aught to continue closely and regularly monitoring the rapidly evolving situation through human, technical and intelligence sources and regularly share information and hold meetings through secure video conferencing at the strategic level and only operational and tactical levels should have a physical dimension.

As the COVID-19 has frontended issues related to an already slowing economy amid huge debt management of past and present borrowings, Mr. Ali also suggests review of all financial arrangements & loans with the World Bank and IMF on humanitarian grounds and Force Majeure (causes beyond control). He suggests multilateral diplomacy with like-minded developing countries, whose economies, industries and societies have also been deeply affected by COVID19 as it could help lead to the review of softer or longer term financial arrangements/aid package/rescheduled repayments etc.

Independent observers agree that since it is a global crisis beyond any single State’s control or capacity and dealing with it requires a global and collaborative efforts and sympathetic role of these institutions to address its grave and long term economic consequences, the initiative should be jump-started with all across the board and be taken as a national security issue and of existential nature.

Mr. Ali’s paper, published today in the Center for Aerospace & Security Studies , also an Islamabad-based Think Tank can be read here or downloaded.