EID AL AZHA DURING PANDEMIC

Bakr-Eid is approaching. During the three days of Bakr-eid, Muslims the world over observe the Abrahamic ritual called Sunnat-e-Ibrahimi and offer the sacrifice of a halal animal. The meat is distributed among the poor, friends and neighbors, plus extended family. A part thereof is consumed by the family offering the sacrifice. All meat shops are closed during the week that follows Bakr-Eid because there is so much meat possessed by households that no one feels the need to buy meat from the market.

In the run up to the Bakr-Eid, huge halal animal markets are put up in different parts of cities, where traders from rural areas bring their animals for trade. Goats, lambs, cows, oxen, buffalos, and camels are bought and sold in these markets. Buyers take the animals home and nurture them further for whatever time the animal has with the family. On the day of Eid, at dawn, the ritual of sacrifice begins. Individual animal slaughterer called Qisai are in huge demand during the three days of Bakr-Eid. These are men who are trained in slaughtering a sacrificial animal. They go from house to house to slaughter the animal in front of each household, whose senior most member recites verses from Quran before the slaughter begins. The Qisai makes pieces of the animal meat and hands them over to the household, collects his wages and moves on to the next house on his list of households with whom he has entered into prior appointment for rendering his service during Eid. The rest of the job belongs to the lady of the house, who spends hours sorting the meat out, distributing different parts as prescribed, and cooking a special celebratory meal for the family and other guests as the case may be.

It has been announced by the authorities in Pakistan that the customary animal markets will not be allowed for Bakr-Eid this year due to Covid-19 pandemic. The authorities fear that traditional animal markets can be a cause of further spread of Covid-19 in Pakistan. It follows that animal sacrifice will not be taking place either.

This is an inadequate stance. Traditional animal markets should indeed be disallowed, but it falls upon the government to arrange alternative modes of observance of the yearly religious ritual. Small scale rural farmers rely on income from sale of animals during Bakr Eid to cushion them through the year. Even if animal markets are allowed in certain places, Covid-19 could make customers shun them, leaving farmers in the lurch. Government has an obligation to make policy for traders and consumers alike that provides for safe and hygienic observance of Sunnat-e-Ibrahimi. Muslims are not going to be comfortable with scrapping the ritual altogether, more so during pandemic emergency. The ritual is based on religious history that describes how Hazrat Ibrahim Alay Salam (Abraham)’s devotion to God was tested by the almighty who ordered the former to sacrifice his own son to prove his devotion to God. Prophet Abraham discussed the matter with his son Hazrat Ismael. The latter told his father that he feels honored being the one chosen to be sacrificed in the cause of God, and urged his father to carry out God’s orders as early as possible. Hazrat Ibrahim ( Prophet Abraham) took his son to a mountain top to make the sacrifice, whereupon his son Hazrat Ismael took a rope out of his pocket and gave it to his father with the request that Hazrat Ismael’s hands and legs be tied with it. Hazrat (Prophet) Ismael explained to his father that being human, he may get afraid when the ax is coming down on his neck and may move from his place out of fear. Hazrat Isamel is also believed to have told his father that his movement made in fear may shake his father’s resolve too, hence he should tie his son down. After Hazrat Ismael was tied with rope, he laid his neck down to be axed while reciting devotional prayer to God. As Prophet Abraham was about to ax his son’s neck, the voice of God ordered him to stop. Divine voice told Abraham that he had passed the test of loyalty to God and was hereby chosen for the divine mission. Prophet Abraham (PBUH) was ordered to sacrifice a goat and distribute its meat to the poor, the neighbors and the extended family and make a feast for his family out of a portion of the sacrificial meat. Prophet Abraham did exactly that and went on to becoming the founding father of the Abrahamic religions called Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Hazrat Mussa Alay Salam (Prophet Moses) Hazrat Essa Alay Salam (Prophet Jesus) and Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) are believed to be from the progeny of Prophet Abraham, direct descendants of Abraham.

Muslims observe the Abrahamic ritual once every year and call it Bakr-Eid or Eid-al-Azha. Those who have sons and are wealthy, scarify one halal animal for each son. Otherwise, one household offers the sacrifice of one animal, if it can afford it. Over the years, several households have developed the practice of contributing to the purchase of a big sacrificial animal such as cow or camel. The seller then distributes the meat evenly to each contributor. Muslims believe the ritual of sacrifice wards off evil and devil’s machinations against humanity. Muslims feel they have secured themselves and their progeny after observing sunnat-e-Ibrahimi each year.

Needless to mention, Pakistanis are in dire need of the psychological comfort of feeling they have secured themselves from evil during this unprecedented time of pandemic breakout. Their state has not been able to handle the pandemic well for them. There are rising numbers of sick ones and the health care system is expected to collapse any day if the rise continues. All that Muslim households have for solace in this trying time is their devotional prayers. They will not be at ease giving up on the one ritual they know as provider of security for themselves and their family.

Covid-19 is a golden opportunity for Pakistan to introduce better, more hygienic practices in observing the ritual of animal sacrifice during Bakr-Eid. The selling of animals in makeshift temporary markets for captive consumers has often led to price hikes that no one has any control over. Slaughter of animals at household levels means a very high level of compilation of animal waste such as intestines, etc. While animal hides are donated to charities who have designed their own system of collection, the rest of the waste lies piled up in garbage dumps all over urban areas, from where it is not collected for days due to Eid holidays. Low income neighborhoods suffer the most. They live in attached houses surrounded by narrow alleys. The stench of animal refuse gets to be unbearable. Wild cats and dogs abound and vultures hover over the neighborhood, each posing threat of its own to residents.

No one has been able to do something to ease these burdens on society because the powers that be have not felt the need – at least not a pressing need. People live with the temporary mess and life moves on.

This year, the government of Pakistan has an opportunity to introduce better Bakr-Eid practices. Here is what they should do.

Help traders establish online animal and sacrificial markets and design a regulatory framework for the trade. Develop a licensing system for establishing online sale of Qurbani animals. Each trading outlet must have licensed veterinary doctors who issue certificate for each animal, declaring that it is fit to be sold for sacrificial purpose. Islam has laid down certain guidelines for the purpose. Virtual tours of online markets should be arranged for consumers. Each animal should be allocated a number, to be used as reference number during transaction. The same number should appear on the certificate of fitness signed by the concerned veterinary medical expert for each animal. The price of each animal, per weight in kilograms, should be set by the government. Traders should not be allowed to charge more. If any trader charges more, laws should be made to make the trader accountable to the state and the consumer.

Virtual viewing of the process of sacrificial slaughter can be arranged for consumers by giving them an online registration number and password generated by virtual platforms such as Zoom and others. Consumers can recite the prayer while viewing their sacrificial animal being slaughtered in accordance with their religious beliefs. A screen shot of each animal bought online, preserved by the consumer on his personal device to facilitate identification, will suffice for the purpose of verification. Consumers will have the satisfaction of knowing the animal they are viewing being slaughtered is the one they bought. The reference number of the animal on the certificate of purchase issued by the trader will be attached to the animal as it is sacrificed and can be shown to the consumer before slaughter begins.

All sales, all bookings, should be finalized online and receipts issued online for each transaction. For those Pakistanis who do not use credit cards because they do not want to deal in interest or don’t have enough liquidity for the purpose, alternative means of purchasing online animals should be introduced. These can be direct payment into trader’s bank account, use of easy paisa, Jazz Cash and other such methods prevalent in the market.

An SOP should be made for traders to observe during sale of animals. A standardized form should be prepared to be filled in by traders and consumers both. It should include description of how each consumer wants the meat delivered, either through collection in a drive by process or at his/her residence. For consumers who require meat portions pre-packed for distribution, traders can prepare neat packages made for the purpose. Some may require different portions cut a certain way for consumption. Details such as these and delivery date and time should be settled in advance in all online transactions.

Dumping of animal trash must be regulated by the government. SOP must be established and dumping grounds earmarked for the purpose. These must be situated at a safe distance from residential areas yet convenient for traders. Roof tops of certain high risings that are not near residential areas can also be assigned for the purpose. Rural forests can also be assigned to feed the wild animals. Traders will use trucks for dumping animal trash and the practice will not cause health hazard for population.

Laws must be devised for consumer and trader protection alike. It can be done through a presidential ordinance during pandemic emergency and enforced all over Pakistan.

The best part of this plan is that it will streamline the practice of sunat-e-Ibrahimi for all times to come and improve it at all levels, i.e, it will ensure safe practices in animal rearing because of mandatory health checks and certificates that carry the guarantee of individual veterinary doctors, certifying no hormones are used to fatten the animal, pricing that is regulated per Kilogram weight of each animal bought and sold, viewing of animals by consumers online on Zoom and other platforms, ensuring safer and transparent marketing practices, distribution that is hygienic and employment of work force with guaranteed fixed wages. Hides will go to charities that are security cleared in a transparent manner.

Online markets can also deliver animals to consumers at latter’s homes, after the same have been purchased online, should the consumer prefer to conduct Qurbani at home. Delivery service will generate much needed employment in Pakistan. Pakistanis are in dire need of income due to pandemic lock-downs and related issues.

Telling citizens they cannot observe the ritual this year is likely to backfire. Government will cut a sorry figure when the masses go on to establishing animal markets in the manner they are accustomed to, paying no heed to government’s orders. Authorities will invite rebellion when they clamp down on citizens and prevent them from doing what their religion has ordained for them. There will be bigger mess than ordinarily happens during Baqr Eid, making for higher prices as traders raise the cost of animals because of having to cope with security issues, etc, and as cleaners do not show up in timely manner to clear animal waste because it is created while disobeying government’s orders.

A calamity can be an opportunity for doing better.

KEEP MARKETS OPEN 24/7

The following Policy Brief was released by PPLDM on 15/05/2020

Pakistan eased its Covid-19 urban lockdown from 9 May. Government announced SOPs for traders and customers amidst fines if masks were not worn and hand sanitizer not provided in market places, which are required to open in the morning and shut down at sunset.

This timing is the most fundamental flaw in regulation of market place during pandemic emergency. It will turn out to be counterproductive.

The nine hours a day timing will typically create vehicular rush hours on the roads and customer rush hours inside shops, as most people will put shopping off till the last hour, when they have ended their daily job and have catered to other important personal and family needs. Racing to meet the deadline, especially when shopping for Eid, people will congregate in markets close to closing time. Traders and consumers alike will not be able to maintain social distancing or follow hand sanitizing and other safety measures because they would be buying and selling under extreme pressure.

As the new timing creates inevitable bottle necks called rush hours, law enforcement too will be overwhelmed as their ability to enforce social distancing and wearing of masks would be drastically reduced in the face of mad rush of people all around them. They will be reduced to acting either as mere idle by standers, or will be driven to making mistakes under extreme pressure.

Every day at market places there will be hours of mad frenzy that throws caution to the wind. This potential “super spreader” behavior of people, congregated at public places each day, will be created by the very regulation that aims at mitigating the spread of Covid-19 virus.

PPLDM formally requests government of Pakistan to make it mandatory for retailers to stay open 24/7 to avoid bottle necks called rush hours. The pressure of racing against time will thus ease upon consumers and traders alike and both will be better able to follow Covid-19 safety instructions. If costumers see rush in a market place, they will themselves return to their lodgings to come back to market later when the rush is over. This will not allow swelling of congregation beyond the capacity of the market place. Consumers, plus traders, will be thus safer from virus as they have time to observe measures such as sanitizing hands prior to shopping and sales persons demanding that customers enter shops only if they are wearing masks. Sellers and law enforcement will have ample opportunity to provide customers masks at the very entrance to market place, if the latter do not possess their own. All will be better able to ensure regulations are being observed during commercial transactions at the market place.

It would help consumers, traders and government, all three, if 24/7 timing is in place for markets to function during the entire Covid-19 health emergency. This will generate gainful employment while ensuring uninterrupted services to people in safer environment, facilitate meticulous observation of SOPs and enable police to enforce, in a hassle free manner, all regulatory measures aimed at mitigating the spread of Covid-19. The in flow and out flow of virus is “prevented” through a combination of personal protection equipment, hand sanitization and social distancing.

We request government of Pakistan to enforce the pattern suggested above during this special time of pre Eid-ul Fitar shopping frenzy.

PLANET DISINFECTED?

One of the most unfortunate, and dangerous aspects of the world wide panic generated by covid-19 pandemic is the massive surface disinfection activity adopted in nearly all countries of the globe. Surfaces are being washed with sodium hypochlorite and other chemical disinfectants routinely. Buildings, streets, roads, market places, neighborhoods, towns, cities, even districts are being sanitized with chemical ingredients some of which have no approval from environmental protection agencies in respective countries. A spike in demand means labeled products are in short supply. Service providers have no choice but to avail what ever they can lay their hands on in an array of commonly available house hold disinfectants, which are allowed to remain in wet contact with surface for long enough period to kill microorganisms, pathogens and viruses. Surfaces are not wiped dry afterwards but left to air dry. Some are hosed with clean water before disinfection. This is done not once or twice, but routinely for the last quarter of a year with no end in sight. Walk through sanitizer tunnels are installed at entrances to commercial and residential buildings and market places all over the globe. Ambulances and goods carrying vehicles are sanitized. There are places where just about any vehicle is routinely sanitized.

Chemical product labeling programs hardly exist in most developing countries. Labour force that carries out disinfecting jobs is ill trained. High demand for labeled products means availability runs short. Service providers have to make compounds themselves under often inadequate instructions. In USA, for instance, EPA’s Environment Safe Product Labeling Program is voluntary and most products that are being used to disinfect North America are not reviewed because of panic buying to meet the spike in demand, and producers running low on stock. Basically what ever is available is being used to disinfect surfaces everywhere. Human habitat is incessantly given a chemical bath for a prolonged period.

At what cost?

The ecological consequence of this routine dousing of the planet with man made disinfectants is dangerous due to two scientific processes – Surface run off – and – biomagnification. This global disinfection activity not only poses a threat to marine and avian life, it has adverse impact on human and other life forms as well.

The term surface run off refers to over land flow of water after every rainfall or snow melt. Surface run off routinely replenishes Earth’s rivers, seas and oceans. Even in ordinary circumstances, civilization has made surface run off a major source of down- stream water pollution due to presence of agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, and industrial waste. To control latter’s harmful impact on earth’s water system, states have evolved certain SOPs and maintain hydrographs to keep checking the chemical content of water in a given area, referred to as ‘point source pollution.’

Agricultural surface run off is sub-surface run off, the part of water which first leashes into the soil, (natural filter) and moves laterally to the stream, river or ocean. Industrial waste is monitored and controlled through regulations that require industrial waste water to be filtered before it is discharged down stream. Regulations are in place for eroded material to be deposited in a place where it is considered safe. Because points of pollution are known and finite in all such cases, regulatory enforcement is possible. And yet – despite all this effort – agricultural and industrial waste continues to pose a threat to Earth’s ecosystem.

And now, this unprecedented and insane rush to disinfect the entire planet Earth with man-made chemicals is ‘non point source pollution,’ meaning it is generating dangerous run off from all over, all at once, on regular, relentless basis, polluting our ecosystem with harmful substances, poisoning marine life, avian life, and harming human health.

Run off is measured as the quantity of water that is discharged during a given period from a drainage basin and collects in lakes, swamps, ponds, rivers, seas and ultimately, earth’s oceans. Much of the US land, (hub of relentless urban chemical disinfection activity for last three months) for instance, drains into Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi watershed. All over the globe, surface run off drains into different water systems of the Earth in similar manner.

Urban land is mostly paved, i.e., it consists of vast tracts of impervious surface such as roads, roofs, pavements. On such surfaces, water does not get absorbed into the soil, which is a natural filtration mechanism, but runs off down stream into creeks, lakes, and rivers headed for seas and ultimately, Earth’s oceans. As we disinfect planet earth with sodium hypochlorite and other chemical substances, urban run off gets polluted with high concentration levels of harmful chemical disinfectants. This has adverse impact on marine life.

Hypochlorite has destructive effect on gills, makes it difficult for large size marine vertebrates to breathe, to absorb oxygen. Tiny microbes, plankton or algae, absorb pollutants in the run off. Fish or shell fish consume the microbes or absorb the pollutants directly. Birds consume the fish, increasing the level of pollutants in their own bodies. Birds also quench thirst directly from the run off.

Biomagnification is the process by which the concentration of a substance increases as it passes up the food chain. Organisms high on the food chain have a higher concentration of pollutants in their body than organisms lower down the chain, such as algae. We humans occupy a high status. When we eat sea food, say for instance oysters, we ingest run off chemicals. Ingesting high concentrations of sodium hypochlorite can ultimately lower our immunity to covid-19 as hypochlorite directly impacts the lungs and the esophagus.

In a 2001 lab study on impact of sodium hypochlorite on avian life, the aviary premise was cleaned with 5% chlorine bleach. Seven birds out of thirty five died after developing respiratory disease within twelve days of exposure. Clinical abnormalities started to show after six days of exposure. The reproductive system of all birds was damaged. Think of what we are doing to avian life by giving our planet a chlorine shower every hour, every day, every week, every month for the past quarter of a year. Think of what we are doing to Earth’s marine life – and think of what we are doing to our own health and that of our children.

We are not just endangering entire species of marine and avian life, we may even be ending some through this process.

In South Asia, the monsoon is upon us. During this season, there is a sharp spike in mean discharge per unit of drainage area. Massive urban run off is generated during monsoon and replenishes our rivers and seas. Run off in South Asia’s big cities has lately regularly created urban flooding because the capacity of the drainage system is overwhelmed during monsoon. If we keep adding chemicals to our run off, the monsoon induced urban floods will have devastating impact on avian life and down stream ecosystem, not to mention human health in such an environment. We can have higher rate of respiratory illnesses among human beings (rising parallel to Covid-19), higher rate of skin and eye disease among children and adults, and birds dying all around us.

We have to stop drenching our planet in chemical disinfectants. The carrier of covid-19 is ‘human body.’ Personal Protection equipment is designed to safeguard humans from the virus. Hand sanitization is utilized to mitigate contamination by touch of hand. Where, in this equation of prevention of inflow and outflow of virus, do the hard surfaces of our cities feature?

States of the world need to stop ‘NOW,’ or it could be “too late.”

EASING THE BURDEN ON HEALTHCARE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

COVID-19 is not a very dangerous disease as far as diseases go. Many who contract the virus don’t seem to be affected at all. Of those with symptoms, 80 percent end up modestly ill. Among those who do come down with severe illness, only five percent end up in critical condition. We are quite good at treating the disease. If people get adequate medical care, chance of survival is high.

Yet, this virus is plunging the world into chaos for two reasons. First, from the start of the pandemic, nobody in the world had natural immunity to it. Second, the world has no medication that can cure and no vaccination that can prevent the disease. The virus suddenly emerged a few months ago and is spreading rapidly through the world, infecting people in huge numbers and overwhelming health care systems of nation states.

Where the pandemic is in full swing, hospitals are being filled to the brim with patients. In some areas, hospitals lack enough room to take in the surge of patients and new facilities have to be built hastily.
The inability of healthcare systems to cope with the scale of the pandemic is a factor behind the severity of the COVID-19 crisis. When the pandemic gets into full swing in the developing world, which it is likely to do, a massive globe-spanning catastrophe will likely ensue.

Relieving medical systems from the burden is necessary. As preventing people from ever contracting the virus is not likely, the goal most of us hope to achieve is preventing too many people from being infected with the virus at the same time, known as flattening the curve (the curve on the diagram showing the prevalence of infections over time). Most people might still end up getting infected by the time the pandemic is over, but at least patients aren’t streaming into hospitals too fast.

To achieve flattening of the curve, highly restrictive measures are being imposed upon society. Mass gatherings are done away with, people are made to stay home, and non-essential economic activity is halted, but the economic slowdown adversely impacts the capacity of the medical sector itself. Even in the most advanced countries, such measures have often not eased the severity of the medical crisis. Healthcare systems are still feeling tremendous strain in the midst of the pandemic. Italy, for example, turned itself into a ghost country yet ventilators were still rationed for a period of time. As the virus continues its expansion across the world, we will need to find ways to solve this issue.

The overburdening of healthcare is terrible not only for people suffering from COVID-19 but people suffering from other illnesses that requires urgent treatment. People get injured, get cancer, suffer heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, respiratory distress, etc., and as coronavirus spreads, none of this stops.
This means that this pandemic further endangers people who need medical treatment for ailments besides COVID-19. Conversely, people who have coronavirus find it harder to get treatment because hospitals are busy treating other conditions. It’s happened in Italy. It’s happening in India. Reportedly, it has started happening in Japan. Patients suffering from another disease also run the risk of being infected with COVID-19 if they go to hospitals. If they contract COVID-19 in addition to the conditions they already have, the consequences can be severe. Lockdown measures also make it difficult for them to access treatment.

The situation is the worst for people needing treatment for respiratory ailments, because they need the same equipment and personnel used for treating COVID-19. Ventilators are essential not just for COVID-19 but for a lot of conditions. Most people with severe medical conditions have therefore become indirect victims of the pandemic. It is a grave issue.

We need to find a solution to the conundrum of healthcare systems buckling under COVID-19.

A solution can be found in the alteration the global education system is currently undergoing while in the throes of COVID-19 pandemic. The globe is turning to online education as temporary response to Covid-19 till vaccine is found. All over the world, including Pakistan, buildings that were being used for imparting education to people are shutting down as students are made to stay home and turn to online lessons.

PPLDM has already written about how online education provides cure to many of the fundamental faults in Pakistan’s education system while simultaneously freeing capital for investment in other sectors to accelerate our economic progress. Bill Gates has extrapolated that online education is the future of education because this pandemic will make families afraid to send their children to school and online education will evolve to be of too much convenience to be set aside.

Pakistan can convert its nation-wide school buildings into hospitals where Covid-19 patients are treated. Each room can isolate and serve a single patient, mitigating intra-hospital spread. We can convert some of the local school buildings into testing facilities. Some should be utilized for stockpiling of PPEs. Imran Khan wants to reopen the construction sector to boost economy. Let us start with converting our schools in our urban metropolis, and our rural areas, into general hospitals, hospitals that treat only Covid-19 patients, and medical test facilities including separate Covid-19 test facilities and for stockpiling of Personal Protection Equipment. Part of the buildings in far flung rural areas can be converted into safe housing for doctors with security that includes CCTV cameras. We are currently using our police to strong arm people in urban areas for lock-down enforcement. Police should be instead appointed to ensure security of school buildings thus converted into medical facilities, medical professional’s residences, testing facilities, labs, hospitals and stockpiling facilities. Military can collaborate in this endeavor.

Let us equip our school buildings with state-of-the-art medical machinery. Let us convert them into Covid-19 test facilities for now, and other essential medical facilities for population’s long term benefit. Let us use some of the school buildings as labs and some as PPE manufacturing factories. Let us spend the money international donors are providing Pakistan to fight Covid-19 pandemic in this manner. We will ease the burden on our health care system. We will also provide health care facilities to far-flung areas where Covid-19 is breaking out and where health care is either non-existent or in short supply.

Needless to mention, we have to make 4G and 5G technologies available to our areas where the same is hitherto nonexistent. We have to do this on war footing because these technologies are indispensable for online education/ home schooling to keep students safe from the pandemic without halting our human resource development because we are driven to halting our educational system.

The lawmakers will have to make emergency laws to mandate doctors to work in designated far flung areas during health emergency. Many of those who have recently graduated from medical hospitals in Pakistan, but have opted out of working in the health care sector, should be drafted to work under enforced medical emergency and penalized for not doing so without good reason. In fact, many of our medical graduates do not go on to working in health care sector for no good reason at all. The state spends a huge amount on training of these individuals, but because the state is lax and has no laws for ensuring this crucial sector is staffed with adequate personnel, dropping out is easy and the rate is high. One NGO has estimated the dropout rate among female medical graduates and young workers to be 80%. This high rate is the rate of drop out only among medical doctors and does not include nurses. This practice must be discouraged and the Covid-19 emergency is an apt time to make laws to discourage this practice, indeed, a crime against society because a poor state’s precious capital is wasted by such irresponsible conduct. Those who don’t want to work as medical professionals should not avail the precious seats in Pakistan’s medical colleges and those who have availed them should be committed by law to give a specific period of their post-graduation life to serving in medical profession inside Pakistan. They can go out for further training, but work in Pakistan they must.

The contact tracing is an essential part of containing the spread of Covid-19. It helps collect essential data for researching the pandemic. For instance those who were in contact with a Covid-19 positive person but did not contract the virus are needed for researching if there are natural immunities to the virus.

Pakistan should utilize its students, including medical students, to carry out contact tracing. It can use teachers to supervise how students are carrying out their contact tracing responsibility. Contact tracing can be done from home through emails, cell phone text messaging and mail systems. Those who are entrusted with the job of tracing will have to work in close liaison with the police. Local police stations can make field visits to the residences or work places to help collect data on those who were exposed to the virus. A contact tracing hub should be established where data is collected and shared within Pakistan and with the international community. Pakistan’s software engineers should be mobilized on war footing to establish the hub and its operational mechanism should include local and provincial government, the education sector, the medical sector and the law enforcement, among other necessary personnel.

Infection prevention and control policy at local levels will be enhanced through buildings which have been converted from schools into health care and testing facilities. We should aspire to test as many as we can. We can instruct people in safety measures at testing facilities. We can enter into an arrangement with China and other friendly neighbors whereby we collect samples in Pakistan but send them for testing to labs in friendly neighboring countries that have capacity to do so. China has offered to help. Establishing testing labs in Pakistan and helping with test results is where we should ask China to help. We can also seek help from any friendly neighbors where domestic testing labs are not overburdened.

Testing our population, providing adequate medical treatment to our population and equipping our population with protection against the virus is the most effective way to overcome this calamity.

If our state follows the guidelines provided in this policy brief by converting our education system into online system and converting our existing school buildings in urban and rural areas into healthcare facilities, we would have a long term solution to the most fundamental problems in two critical sectors of our domestic economy; our health care system and our education system.

This PPLDM policy brief has been authored by Zeenia Sadiq Satti & Shahzeb Khan.

REVOLUTION IN THE MAKING AS GLOBE TURNS TO ONLINE EDUCATION

For the first time in history, the world is implementing an entirely new teaching model – online education. Necessity is the mother of this invention but unlike other adaptations to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, this one could last. It is a new pedagogical approach and when it develops fully, both teachers and students will find it indispensable.

In Pakistan, every educational institution should have a department dedicated to advances in learning and should conduct R&D for developing further expertise in using new technologies in education to make adaptation easier.

Though online education is called distant learning, it is actually a more intimate experience than class room learning, where a large number of students sit at a distance from their teacher. Online learning screens show a student’s close up, show facial expressions, display the name of the student in a box under the face as the student talks, making it easier for teachers to know students by their names. Students, who sit at home in their comfort zone are less shy of speaking than they are in class rooms inside a school building. Discussing Zoom, Harvard gazette writes, both students and faculty have been discovering all of its benefits. Break out groups and chat rooms are enabling much of the small group interactive pedagogy.

For science education, where labs are necessary instruments of learning, classes are being deferred during corona emergency till students have access to lab facilities. It is this aspect of online learning that requires development of sophisticated virtual programs that create lab like environment for students and teachers both. I see it happening one day.

For Pakistan, the benefits of online learning are enormous. Students and teachers save time commuting to and from schools. They also save capital that is spent on transportation, uniforms, school bags, etc. Families can save substantial portion of their earnings that is spent on children going to school. National savings rate can rise, making more capital available for industrial activity. All the time consumed in getting ready to go to school can be diverted to research and learning. Online learning is of great environmental benefit as it cuts carbon emissions from vehicles used to drive children and staff to and from schools. Carbon emissions have become one of the greatest hazards of our time and cutting down will continue to be the priority of human beings.

Online learning is also the best method of preventing drug trafficking and drug addiction in youth. Educational institutions are places where drug pushers find their markets. Peer pressure, curiosity about popular drugs and social conformity are prime causes of addiction in Pakistan. In online learning, students stay home, research on the internet, take care of the elder members of their family and spend quality time with their seniors. The latter have student’s best interest at heart. They can exercise parental controls to monitor internet usage by young adults and keep them out of harm’s way.

During corona emergency, an unintended consequence of online learning is community-connect on how to respond to the pandemic. Online learning not only allows students and teachers to care for those at home who are at higher risk, the forum can be utilized discussing how society can equip itself for responding to emergency situations. Chat rooms can become forums where personal situations are discussed to establish patterns that underlie issues, and ideas can be discussed to find innovative solutions.

One day, online learning will be able to break the ‘school’ barrier and become more inclusive. The practice may one day establish an online learning community in Pakistan that is nation-wide. Globally, it can erase the north-south divide in education. Already, some of the great educators in top western universities have made themselves available to impart free education to students in developing countries. This movement is likely to grow in strength and will withstand capitalist tendency to make profit by imparting exclusive education. It is, in fact, a great revolution in the making that owes its existence to triumph of higher human ideals, upheld by great philosophical minds of our time, who want to uplift humanity from the darkness of ignorance and find it most satisfying that they can reach out to far off corners of the globe and can impart enlightenment to people with less resources.

Online education is the only means to breaking exclusive barriers in education system of our country. Imran Khan has specifically focused on this problem, in the book he authored during his political campaign and in his policy emphasis after becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan. A remote teaching hub can create teachers’ teams for different subjects and an inclusive online community of students and teachers can be built across provinces and far flung areas of the country. The urban rural divide can shrink, to the benefit of human resource development in the entire nation. The hub can be designed around a subject, instead of a school.

Online education can only improve the ethics in educational practices. Because of its transparency, teachers are likely to be more motivated to be accurate in their content and competitive in their methods. Abuse of students by teachers is not possible online.

Online education is not vulnerable to terrorism, school shooting, and other disasters such as earthquake or epidemics and pandemics.

Online education will free governments from having to spend on bricks and mortars to educate their people. Only higher professional learning institutions can be built to draw students to a premise. For all other school and college level education, from Kindergarten to Bachelors, online education can be availed as the system of education that gives results without costly investments that have nothing to do with development of human brains. Eco systems in rural areas would benefit because most trees in rural areas are felled to make roads just to access educational institutions. National energy consumption demand would be eased. Money saved from having to construct school buildings can be utilized for providing other services, including tele health.

For post-colonial world, online education is a great way to cement national bonds and keep divisive ethnic prejudice at bay. In greater humanity, it can be means to overcoming racial prejudice and propagating humanitarian justice. Online education can allow for instant translation. Imagine a child in Europe, conversing, up close, with another child of same age somewhere in Africa and both growing up learning ideas together.

Virtual libraries are easier to manage, easier to access, and cheaper to avail. Think of how many trees would be saved if humanity stopped printing books?

The benefits of online learning are many and far out-weigh disadvantages. The only disadvantage in online learning is system’s vulnerability to hacking. Online learning would have to evolve to safeguard against hackers.

Online education is a global revolution in the making. While describing this transformation in learning, I must say that history is ending – and is about to be made.

My country should take this revolution very, very serious. Here, there are to be found solutions to some of the most enduring problems in our education system.

A Strategy to Fight Coronavirus without Damaging Economy

Lockdown is only the most immediate response in controlling the spread of Covid-19, and is meant to buy time, every moment of which is precious and must be utilized to make a nationwide policy for infection mitigation and prevention. Center has to take lead and center-provincial co-ordination is critical to the successful implementation of national pandemic strategy.

If we lock down economy as the sole means to preventing the spread of covid-19, we run the risk of spreading all kinds of fatal social and political ailments, to the detriment of our polity. We make our state hollowed within. The state loses its weight as a functional polity. No political system can afford to pay the price of continued lock down for prolonged unspecified periods, least of all a developing state.

The first and foremost goal of pandemic survival strategy is to prevent the spread of infection. It is infection we must lock down, not ourselves and our economy. It is the spread of infection that must be contained, not economic activity that makes us strong as a polity. So what should we do?

We can take cues from prolonged observation of the foremost social interaction during the global struggle for pandemic survival – between health care professionals and patients. The health care professionals are surrounded by Covid-19 stricken individuals, interact with them from morning to evening, some-time even beyond, and manage to survive at a very high rate. The infection rate among the health-care providers themselves is a decimal fraction of the infection rate amongst unprotected masses who interacted with each other without protection. The death rate due to such infection is even smaller. How do the health care professionals manage this? By covering themselves with personal protection equipment to prevent getting infected and by having access to good health care when and if they have contracted Covid-19. The most necessary part of protection equipment during Covid-19 pandemic is respiratory masks called face masks made of fabric, (our most versatile industry is textile), goggles or face shield, (made of transparent plastic, another cheap material our industry is thriving in), and sanitized hand covering such as surgical gloves (Pakistan is self-sufficient in latex glove production). Shoes and gowns follow after the first three in priority. If medical professionals survive a high rate of infectious load with PPE, think of what ordinary masses can accomplish by doing the same.

The above mentioned first three PPEs need to become the covid-19 survival gear for our entire population. Equipped with the same, amidst added precautionary measures taken during daily interaction such as social distancing (one meter or two) recurrent hand sanitization, avoiding handshakes, coughing and sneezing into folded elbow or tissue, nipping sneeze and cough in the bud by learning how to, (military can share its little training secrets) foregoing unnecessary outing, and keeping our retired elderly population and our children at home and providing for their needs would suffice as the essential anatomy of mass survival strategy during covid-19 health emergency, till the time a vaccine is out and ready to permanently empower humans against the viral enemy.

Needless to mention, we can not rely on global supply chain for PPE. And why should we? Every thing that is required medically for making the PPE, even the ventilators, is available here. We do not require the technology and the raw material that goes into the making of stealth bombers or anti-aircraft missiles. We don’t need iron and steel or lithium. We don’t need extensive mining capacity or advanced hardware and software technology. The raw material required for the PPE is plastic, the cheapest product of modern economies. The social interaction regulation requires legal frameworks, which too is within our means to conceive and enact during pandemic emergency. The enforcement of human behaviour, luckily, does not rely on police only. People’s instinct of survival and psychological fear of the viral enemy is far more powerful and effective a force than any policing mechanism can be. We need to develop awareness raising narratives and spread the same through our 24/7 electronic media which we thrive in as well.

We are spending state’s precious capital resource on providing food to the needy, who we have stopped from fending for themselves by preventing them from working to earn their daily wages. The same capital ought to be spent on increasing the capacity of the manufacturing sector in Pakistan to produce PPEs like the mask, the face shield and the gloves in numbers enough to fulfill the national requirement. Fortunately, unlike India, Pakistan is not plagued with a huge population of one billion plus people. Another luck factor is our youth bulge, the segment that is most capable of surviving Covid-19. In our neighboring countries such as the Middle East and Central Asia, the population is even smaller and more manageable and state’s capital accumulation is far greater due to steady supply of petro dollars for decades. Our region should be able to survive the pandemic better than others if it follows the above mentioned recommendation.

We need to equip our work force with PPEs – not just health care workers but every kind of adult worker. We need to manufacture the PPEs ourselves. We have cheap labour, unlike the west. We need to increase the capacity of our manufacturing sector, through mandatory rules, not polite requests, for production of the required PPEs. We need to arrange for what the WHO calls a “centralized request management facility” to avoid wastage and unnecessary stock piling at one place and desperate need and short supply at another. We need strict stock management regulation to avoid breakage, ruptures, and wastage. We need to provide speedy transportation for nation-wide supply of PPEs. We need to make rules for transporters and freight carriers, create subsidies for them to make timely delivery of items. We need to make laws to compel every kind of transportation available in our economic system, including airlines, trains, buses, trucks, delivery vans, to dedicate vehicles to maintain the PPE supply chain.

Instead, we are thinking of consuming our precious national funds for creating ‘Corona tigers’ to deliver food supplies to our masses, who we have locked down for unforeseeable period till some one in some foreign country invents a vaccine, or till herd immunity is developed. This is the road to stock piling of dead bodies and deadening of our economy. This is the road to decimating our statehood because if an enemy invades us after we are at an advanced stage of stifling of our economy, our ability to combat the enemy will have decreased substantially from the levels at which it stands today. In short, locking down our masses or carrying on our usual economic activity without personal protection against the virus is the road to becoming a vulnerable state – or worse – a failed state.

We need to isolate the virus. We need to lock Covid-19 down. We need to develop infection prevention and control policy that is realistic and allows us to thrive instead of emaciating our economic capacity. Till a vaccine is developed, we need to regulate human behaviour to prevent the spread of infection. We need to make emergency laws to enforce the behaviour that is required for survival. Social interaction laws during Pandemic emergency must be made by our law makers at federal level and enforced through-out the nation with penal penalties because lives are at stake. Enforcement mechanism should be applied nation-wide because the very nature of emergency requires center provincial administrative demarcations to be removed and a holistic, unified policy to be enforced.

We are opening the construction sector. Steel, cement, concrete, bricks do not make PPE. The benefit of construction is long term. Whats more, we face an added danger in following orthodox construction techniques. The danger of climate change induced pandemics and biological warfare requires us to rethink technology that creates high risings. A Harvard professor has expressed apprehension that people who were locked down in western metropolis in high risings were infected through the air ducts whose inadequate filters became means of circulating viral spores in the buildings and caused infection to spread among people who work and live in such buildings in places like New York. Pakistan wants to make affordable housing in the shape of high risings. What kind of filters are we going to use? Can we afford anti viral filters? Can we afford their maintenance? How will we enforce maintenance? Besides, in this time of crisis when every one is praying to God for forgiveness and salvation, we are choosing to follow the path that defies God. Our holy book Quran Shareef tells us not to make permanent concrete structures for living. There is a good scientific reason for this. During natural disasters such as earthquakes, it is the buildings that kill us, not the tremors. While Imran Khan is credited with being the first one to even think of affordable housing, pandemic emergency is not the time to focus state’s energies on this sector. PPLDM has reiterated time and again that the sectors of economy we need to focus on are manufacturing and services. There will be plenty of time to construct buildings when we are out of this crisis.

A cabinet of experts, working on war footing, needs to prioritize sectors of economy that must be made operational. It needs to decide how to expand their capacity to fulfil pandemic fighting requirement. Once we have built our capacity to survive pandemics, we will equip ourselves for all times to come against not just viral attacks but also biological warfare, chemical warfare and hazards of the kind modern humanity is faced with. We will only grow stronger as a nation-state.

If we continue with lockdowns and spend our energies and resources trying to feed people, we will become a state with rapidly shrinking capacity for survival in a competitive world.

PLASTIC SUBSTITUTE AND ECONOMIC BENEFIT

Published in Pakistan Observer, 13 October 2019.

Sindh government has been vying for a year to achieve phased withdrawal of plastic bags, without success. On October first 2019, it announced serious enforcement of the ban on plastic under section 144 of the code of criminal procedure of Pakistan, entailing stricter punishment and monetary fine. Traders in Sindh province’s (and Pakistan’s) mega city, Karachi, have already announced non-cooperation, saying sudden abandonment of plastic with no better substitute would harm their business.

Co-incidentally, yesterday evening, (October first) I witnessed a woman stepping out of a car parked on a busy roadside in Islamabad. She suddenly jumped onto the road, seemingly oblivious to moving vehicles and hastily picked something up from the road. The tyres of a moving vehicle screeched right behind her but fortunately, the driver was able to steer clear of the woman and continue on a one way road.
I later found that one of the lady’s paper bags carrying tomatoes had burst open. Tomatoes fell on the road and she tried to pick them fast before they were crushed by a car.

I was stunned and couldn’t help telling the lady that she risked her life to save her tomatoes. She said when tomatoes suddenly fell through the paper bag, all she could think was carrying grocery home in time for dinner as her family was hungry. In hindsight, she realized how dangerous her action was for her life.

Had the lady been run over by a fast moving vehicle, we would have witnessed first human death by ban on plastic in Islamabad.

Paper bags are not a good substitute for plastic bags in terms of utility. They are not good for environment either because the manufacturing of paper bags is more resource intensive than plastic bags, requires four times more energy, generates seventy percent more air pollution and fifty times more water pollution than plastic. On top of that, paper bags generate many more tonnage of sold waste for municipalities to manage and paper bag landfills generate greater number of environmental contaminants such as bisphenol A, phthalates, phenols, mineral oils, polychlorinated biphenyls, and toxic metals. Some of these chemicals are in plastics as well.

Paper recycling requires industrial infrastructure and involves extensive transportation, itself an environment pollutant. When paper is recycled, dies and inks from paper are removed using chemicals that cause water contamination and air pollution. Paper has limited recycling capacity, only six to seven times before it can’t be recycled any more. Egg cartons made of cardboard is the last use of recycled paper, after which it can no longer be recycled. This means the solid waste from used cartons heads for landfills.

Pakistan neither has paper recycling programs nor industrial infrastructure for large scale recycling. The cost of instituting it is enormous. Paper bags that have carried groceries cannot be recycled because paper with food particles, or paper that is wet or damp, is no good for recycling. Even our paper mache making cottage industry cannot utilize paper recycled from grocery bags due to this. Scientists have observed that paper bags cause fourteen percent more eutrophication of water bodies compared to plastic. Four times more water is used in making paper bags, not to mention increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Bags made of cotton are much better for Pakistan’s environment and for our national economy. Large scale manufacturing of cotton bags will provide stimulus to our textile manufacturing and retail industry, cottage industry, and will re absorb the hundreds of thousands of workers who are faced with job extinction due to government imposed ban on the manufacture of plastic bags.

A cotton bag would have to be reused approximately two hundred times more to emit a level of global warming potential that is emitted through reusing of plastic bag just once. Cloth bags can be reused for years. Cotton is the least polluting material as it decomposes organically at the end of its life. For cotton bags to be hygienic while in use, they just have to be kept clean and dry.

There are endless socio-economic benefits in using cotton cloth bags as the substitute for both plastic and paper bags. Producing millions of cotton cloth bags per day will create employment, stimulate textile and garment manufacturing sector, provide household and rural populations, especially that of women, opportunity to save and earn at the same time. Cloth bags can be re-utilized as cushions, pillow covers, even larger size bedding. The poor can use them to make clothing, especially children’s clothing and blankets. Rural women can use the cloth bags to create embroidered cushion covers, bed covers and ladies bags, thereby creating cottage industry that employs and empowers rural and urban women and reduces gender based poverty. There are endless benefits to the multiplier effect of manufacturing cotton cloth bags in Pakistan, but it is the government that has to take the initiative in making this possible.

Government must commission manufacturing of fabric suitable for bags to carry different goods. It must rate and certify each kind of fabric for distinct use, heavier, medium, soft (as shopping bag for apparel, for instance). The textile industry must be mandated to produce proper amount of material for end use utility through suitable subsidy, as starters. The manufacturing sector must be mandated to manufacture required amount of cloth bags. Recycling of cloth bags for both industrial purposes and for household utility should be taught in educational institutions and can be popularized through media. There is an endless array of utility end users can use cloth bags for.

The more cloth bags are produced, the more stimulus will be provided to the textile industry of Pakistan, the garment manufacturing sector in Pakistan, and the cotton growing farmers, not to mention the economic opportunities in savings and earnings that reuse of cloth bags bring to the citizens. The socio-economic and ecological benefits of bags made from fabric are endless. Government needs to pay attention to large scale supply of bags made from cotton, simultaneously as it outlaws plastic bags.

COLLABORATIVE DISASTER RISK REDUCTION IN CPEC

The China Pak Economic Corridor, CPEC, is one of the six planned corridors that form part of Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Launched in 2013, the other five corridors include Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIMEC), China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (CICPEC) China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor (CCWAEC), China Mongolia Russia Economic Corridor, (CMREC) and New Eurasian Land Bridge (NELB).

The BRI vision is a paradigm shift in commerce. The pivot of high finance is shifting from the west to the east and the BRI is an embodiment of this revolution in the making. CPEC, BRI’s pilot project, has a comparative advantage over the other five corridors, which pass through more than two countries involving longer terrains and complex negotiations. CPEC is mere 3000 kilometer long (making it the shortest of the six corridors) that begins at China’s Kashgar in Xinjian and ends at Pakistan’s Gwadar at the Arabian Sea.

CPEC is the pivot of the new course Pakistan is taking to become a regional commercial hub. The collaborative priorities, as described in the November 2017 agreement between Pakistan’s minister for Planning, Development and Reform and his Chinese counterpart, earmark energy, transportation, IT networks, medical services, poverty alleviation, tourism, and rural development sectors.

A serious omission in CPEC priorities is China-Pak collaboration in disaster risk reduction. In an agreement titled “Long Term Plan for China Pak Economic Corridor, 2017-2030,” consisting of thirty eight pages and approximately seven and a half thousand words, disaster risk reduction is not mentioned even once. Despite the neglect, joint disaster risk reduction inevitably became a preoccupation of CPEC planners as the Pakistani and Chinese scientists from the National Institute of Oceanography and the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, respectively, teamed up in early 2018 to study Gwadar’s seismic risk. Funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the expedition was necessitated by heightened seismic activity in the region, instead of being the outcome of a well thought out joint plan of disaster risk reduction R&D.

The regions of Pakistan and China constituting CPEC are known as disaster prone areas. Most of the higher than six MMI scale earthquakes in China since 1980 happened in Western China. According to the data from China Earthquake Network Center (CENC), since 1980, there have been 130 earthquakes between MMI 6 and 7, sixteen earthquakes between MMI 7 and 8, and two earthquakes higher than MMI 8 in China. Most of the earthquakes higher than MMI 6 took place in western China, consisting of Yunnan, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Xizang (Tibet) and Xinjiang. Western China is, therefore, an earthquake prone area.

Gwadar’s topography makes it vulnerable to the hazards of flooding, cyclones, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Gwadar lies on the head of a peninsula surrounded by ocean on three sides, which makes it vulnerable to tsunamis. When and if a tsunami happens, it would hit Gwadar straight on, which is the worst kind of tsunami impact for urban infrastructure.

Gwadar is located right next to the epicenter of the 1945 earthquake that devastated the region at MMI 8.1. The Makran Trench is where the Arabian plate (which contains the Arabian Peninsula) is sub-ducting under the Eurasian Plate at 4 centimeters per year. By not quaking for several decades, the Makran Trench is building up elastic energy. Sub-duction zones produce up thrust earthquakes, which are the most intense type of earthquakes, causing large tsunamis. It should be borne in mind that in the earthquake of 1945, only part of the Makran Trench ruptured, comprising eastern half under Pakistan, not the part under Iran. If the entire Makran Trench was to quake, the earthquake could be a magnitude 9.2, same size as the 2011 earthquake that devastated Japan, the most disaster resilient country in the world.

The Long Term Plan for China Pak Economic Corridor states that “The CPEC will greatly speed up the industrialization and urbanization process in Pakistan and help it grow into a highly inclusive, globally competitive and prosperous country capable of providing high-quality life to its citizen.” (from website.) Despite overwhelming need for disaster risk reduction in CPEC, in this vision of prosperity of Ahsan Iqbal, regional collaboration in disaster risk reduction does not once appear as a priority. In “Restraint of Natural and Geographical Factors,” Xinjiang’s “weak industrial base” is listed, “cost of construction and management of operations in difficult terrain” is listed, “energy, infrastructure and governance deficiency” is mentioned. DRR appears nowhere on the document as one of CPEC’s challenges.

The risk of extreme weather phenomena, including strong cyclones, is higher. As a consequence of earth’s crustal movement, earthquakes is a clear and present danger. The terrain CPEC is built on is disaster prone. Alongside these hazards, CPEC gives Pakistan an unprecedented opportunity of availing Chinese expertise in collaborative disaster risk reduction. Pakistan’s deficiencies in financial and technological resources can be compensated if China partners actively in managing potential and real disasters in CPEC. It is better for Pakistan to seek foreign collaboration in a well-planned manner than to leave it to developments that be.

Pakistan’s legislature needs to make relevant laws and government needs to sign treaties on controlling water pollution, solid waste pollution, noise pollution, livestock epidemic emergencies and transportation and food scarcity hazards. Disaster risk reduction along CPEC needs to be made a priority area of tripartite collaboration between China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the third major investor in CPEC. Collaboration in DRR technology, including early warning systems and remote sensing, is a dire need of CPEC – a project mainly consisting of infrastructure development for uninterrupted commerce. Not just the infrastructure, but the communities along the CPEC also need to be safeguarded against natural and man-made disasters through collaborative action on awareness, mitigation and management of disasters.

The vision of a University at Gwadar, laid out in the CPEC agreement, must be revisited to create an international center of excellence in disaster risk reduction and disaster management studies, harboring a climate change and earth sciences resource center, equipped with state of the art technology and online connectivity to other Universities in Pakistan with similar programs. Scientists from China, Eurasia, and the larger international community of disaster and climate scholars should be visiting faculty, conducting joint research and imparting knowledge to Pakistan.

CPEC needs to be built as a “model” of disaster risk reduction and the sooner Pakistan and China paid attention to the importance of this joint venture, the better CPEC will serve its purpose.

Zeenia Satti is CEO of Pakistan’s People Led Disaster Management. She blogs at https://zeeniasatti.wordpress.com/.

FORENSICE VALUE OF NEW ZEALAND MOSQUE MASSACRE VIDEO

If it can happen in New Zealand, it can happen anywhere. The first thing I heard when I woke up on the morning of 15 March, the Ides of March so ominously referenced in the Shakespearian play about Julius Caesar, was that 49 people were killed in a mosque shooting in New Zealand.
In New Zealand?!?

It sounded so unbelievable that at first I thought these were just muddled first reports. But it turned out, that is exactly what happened.

A 28 year old Australian man reportedly massacred worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and live streamed the gory massacre on Facebook. Instead of repeating his name so often in news and creating a terrible situation for those who share the same name, where ever they may be, we should call the man “brute terrorist.” Though the terrorist act committed in New Zealand is not new, the violence perpetrated by the brute terrorist was novel in one way; he live streamed the massacre of individuals as they were praying. His video went viral, not because humanity has suddenly become full of sadists who entertain themselves with such videos, but because the video is associated with breaking news and a shocking atrocity.

The video has subsequently become the subject of news. It keeps getting removed from social media but keeps making a stubborn come back because somebody uploads it somewhere and there are not enough people at the back end to cleanse the system so quickly, experts tell us on media.

While the video should definitely not roam free on social media and be watched by all and sundry including children, the video is valuable from the point of view of risk reduction and terrorism management. It should be circulated to police academies all over the world where professionals should use it to assess what possible acts victims could have performed to safeguard their lives when the gun man suddenly appeared and started shooting at them. A plan of action should be designed, with input from global law enforcement networked for the purpose. Such plan should be made available to common folks in urban areas to learn what to do in such a situation to minimize loss of life. Such heinous acts have taken place in the past, and are likely to take place anywhere in the world in future as well. While states must act to minimize the failure of intelligence and produce better law enforcement, acts of urban terror such as the New Zealand mosque massacre can not be prevented altogether. But knowledge of what people can do to safeguard themselves during such atrocities can be disseminated to all through social media. Television channels all over the world can be made to disseminate the knowledge in local languages.

An international network of police officers can and should use the brutal terrorist’s video and use it to develop and disseminate skills that that can be utilized by potential victims of similar acts of terrorism – which is really the global urban community.

From the perspective of DRR, the brute terrorist has actually done the law enforcement a favor by recording his act in all its forensic details.