Pakistan needs “War Rooms” to fight Coronavirus

Open Letter to PM Khan

Imtiaz Gul

Respectable Prime Minister Imran Khan,

Keeping in view the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases, and your concern for the poor of Pakistan, your government needs a smart response mechanism that tracks, identifies, and quantifies the number of people likely to be affected in the virus-induced socio-economic crisis.

The “COVID-19 News Bulletin-1” put out by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) reckons that about 10 million families may be directly affected, requiring the government to cough up Rs. 55.25 billion for one quarter, which can be covered under the Rs.180 billion Benazir Income Support Prgoramme (BISP). Additionally, daily wage workers need to be taken into account as well.

Although the federal and all provincial governments are doing their best to deal with the impending socio-economic crisis, Centre for Research & Security Studies (CRSS) proposes professionally coordinated management of the situation through round-the-clock COVID-19 War Rooms at the federal and provincial levels.

The lynchpins for these War Rooms should be the Deputy Commissioners of Pakistan’s 154 districts – who can identify all the vulnerable groups of population, i.e., low income families, daily wage workers, construction laborers, restaurant workers and contract hotel staff etc.

Once the numbers are at hand the 3,200 post offices and 23,000 extra departmental sub-offices of the Pakistan Post across the country can be used to disburse cash payments to the needy – even as far as Khunjeraab up north. The DC’s must be made responsible and accountable for the legitimate distribution of these funds.

CRSS suggests cash-grants only because using another institutional layer such as the Utility Stores Corporation, which not only gobbles up administrative funds but also are a source of pilferage.

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