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Pakistan and COVID 19

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– Shantanu Mukharji

Pakistani government has issued 20 point guidelines to fight Corona epidemic but it’s sad and unfortunate that in utter disregard to the directives, the rules are being blatantly flouted leading to chaotic conditions in the mosques and Imambaghs. Picking up a stray illustration of Rawalpindi division, authoritative sources say as many as 250 mosques have been issued notices for flouting orders. All these 250 mosques have been designated as sensitive spots. Yet, out of these there were stark breaches of orders in 52 mosques.

To all’s utter dismay, there are 79 mosques which have no security guards and in their absence, there is no enforcement of guidelines either in letter or in spirit. Government has issued 460 warnings to many management bodies of the mosques. These include in Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Attock and Chakkal districts. It’s, therefore, becoming clear that there is no rule of law existing in the hotspots and claims if the establishment are falling in deaf ears.

Meanwhile, in another COVID related development, an Etihad flight arriving in Pakistan on April 29, carrying 209 Pakistanis, mostly migrants, 105 were tested positive of the pandemic. This has sounded alarm bells and many more are expected to arrive with possibilities of many being infected can’t be ruled out. Ramadan fasting is on. Every Friday the administration is on its toes to impose restrictions for social distancing but it doesn’t look confident to enforce social distancing in congregations.

Amid its battle against the pandemic, Pakistan has stepped up its trans border terror operations across the borders in Kashmir. Indian forces were swift to neutralise many terrorists sent from Pakistan in fierce encounters in Handwara in northern Kashmir though five Indian army personnel lost their lives in silencing the terrorists. So there is no let up in Pakistani sponsored terrorist activities even when COVID is affecting one and all. Encounters are still on and regular flow of information keeps trickling that in Pulwama and in other adjoining places, terrorists dispatched from Pakistan are killed at regular intervals.

The story doesn’t end here, the ISI continues to foment trouble to subvert Indian interests. The Al Qaeda Arab Peninsula (AQAP) in a statement on May 5 has called upon the Indian Muslims particularly to the academics, scholars etc to rise against Indian government’s alleged atrocities on the minorities. This is clearly a well calculated move by the ISI to abet communal tension in India in a fragile COVID linked situation and is finding it very convenient to use AQAP in furtherance of its dirty agenda. Its objectives may not succeed but pinpricks continue unabated. Several thousands twitter handles have been activated to exploit the social media to the fullest for anti India propaganda. Indian security agencies are alert and undeterred as it’s fully geared to meet the threat related challenges.

In the meantime, Zerar a terrorist belonging to Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) and a Pakistani national, who was arrested in Kabul on April 15 gave out during his interrogation that 400 Jaish terrorists who are primed in various camps in Afghanistan are being readied to be dispatched to Kashmir, at the express behest of the ISI, to engage in terrorist activities against the security forces in Kashmir. This was confirmed by the authoritative sources in Kabul on May 5. It would seem that Afghanistan security entities are in a mood to cooperate with their Indian counterparts to jointly combat the menace of terror. This is a healthy and professionally good development meriting further consolidation. A joint anti terror mechanism must be worked out to neutralise terror now that intelligence reports say they are emanating from Afghanistan. On its part, Pakistan should address on the fluid situation in dealing with the Corona threats by enforcing rule of the law, than embarking on nefarious terror plans, as part of the deep state blue print, to sponsor terror and launch a proxy war in Kashmir.

(Writer is a security analyst and a freelance columnist. The views expressed are personal.)

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