Dawn Editorial with topic background, Vocabulary (April 05, 2021)
THE culture of entitlement prevalent in this society appears to have wavered not a whit even during a national health crisis. Reports have surfaced that 1,400 vaccine doses at three government hospitals in Lahore — Mayo, Services and Mozang — have allegedly either gone ‘missing’ or ‘been administered to unauthorised persons’, while many vials have spoiled. In Mozang Teaching hospital, 350 doses of the vaccine were spoiled allegedly because of improper storage, for which the medical superintendent has been suspended for “extreme inefficiency”. The vaccines in the three hospitals had been provided for inoculating health professionals, many of whom are still awaiting their turn. Several reports have also emerged on social media of celebrities and politicians’ families getting vaccinated out of turn against Covid-19. Many have been brazen enough to post videos of themselves getting the jab.
However, this is not to say that people who are eligible for the shots, including health professionals and citizens over 60 years of age, are signing up for them in droves. Registration, which has recently opened for those 50 years and over, has been sluggish and only a miniscule percentage of those eligible for inoculation are on course to receive it. So far, only 0.8m doses of the vaccine have been administered. Last week, Pakistan received its first two consignments of purchased vaccine totalling a million doses. According to government authorities, orders for millions more will be finalised in the coming months. That is reassuring, but an effective campaign to motivate people to get themselves inoculated is sorely needed. Too many are still sitting on the fence, inclined to risk infection rather than trust science. That Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi were diagnosed with Covid-19 after their first doses of the vaccine is unfortunate. Vaccine sceptics are likely to see it as ‘evidence’ of the medication’s ‘inefficacy’. Such misinformation must be robustly countered with facts; it takes up to two weeks after receiving the second jab for immunity to kick in.
The third wave of Covid-19 is tearing across the country, especially in Punjab and KP, making it all the more essential for the vaccination campaign to gain traction. In most urban centres, aside from Karachi, the positivity rate is well over 10pc; last week, it was 17pc in Lahore and 15pc in Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. On Saturday, out of 55,605 tests conducted, 5,020 people tested positive, the second highest figure this year. Eighty-one patients succumbed to the disease. Given these frightening statistics — that have resulted in the UK placing Pakistan on a ‘red list’ — restrictions in most provinces have been further tightened. Where masks in public places are mandated, fines should be imposed on the spot so that people realise they have no choice but to take the SOPs seriously. Only by collective action can we win this battle.
Saudi FM on Israel
WHEN a number of Arab countries — led by the UAE — established ties with Israel last year under the so-called Abraham Accords, the million-dollar question was (and remains) when Riyadh would establish links with Tel Aviv.
There has been speculation in the media regarding secret meetings, with one report saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the northern Saudi region of Neom last November. Riyadh flatly denied the meeting took place, though Saudi officials, including the all-powerful crown prince, have softened their tone towards the Jewish state. In the latest indication that attitudes are changing, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan recently told CNN that normalisation with Israel would bring “tremendous benefit to the region”. In the same breath he added that Saudi-Israel ties depended on the establishment of a Palestinian state — Riyadh’s standard line.
Clearly, efforts are afoot to establish ties, yet the ‘thorny’ question of Palestine and its people stands in the way. The fact is that there are quite a few common denominators between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Primarily, they are both members of the US-led geopolitical bloc, while both states share great animus towards Iran — a feeling reciprocated by the Islamic Republic. However, while it was relatively easy for the UAE and Bahrain to make public their ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia faces a tougher challenge, as it hosts Islam’s holiest sites. Therefore, if it openly courts Israel, it will be seen as ‘betraying’ the Palestine cause.
The fact is that the Arab states that have rushed to establish ties with Israel had already ditched Palestine. The peace process is practically dead while the two-state solution is in intensive care, repeatedly battered by a rapacious and unforgiving Israeli establishment that is unwilling to see a viable Palestinian state, non-starters like Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ notwithstanding. In such a scenario, any Muslim state that establishes relations with Israel has pretty much abandoned Palestine.