Amid Coronavirus Pandemic a huge wave of disinformation and misinformation is circulating in every nook of social media in Balochistan as every self-proclaimed expert wants to spill their mind onto their timelines. From bogus homemade treatment options to fake videos, the confusion of genuine and fake has greatly affected every brain. This has not just added to unnecessary panic towards COVID 19 in Balochistan but also gaslighted the efforts of authorities on the matter whenever they were done. A false sense of mistrust is being observed towards the facilities being provided in the province which is an unfair perception of the current situation.

Analyzing the criticism on authorities of Balochistan in the last 10 days, it is true to mention that certain propagandas on social media came out to be completely false.

The topic of focus in the last 10 days remained particularly towards lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the healthcare worker protests. In this regard, Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal had met a delegation of doctors on April 2, 2020, during his visit to Bolan Medical Complex Hospital (BMCH) where all important postulates including provision of PPEs to healthcare staff on priority basis were discussed in detail. They had been assured that they will be provided with the material accordingly. By then, 1307 PPE kits of total 2126 kits in the possession of health department had already been issued for use in various areas as reported by Daily Situation Report (COVID-19) of PDMA dated March 30, 2020.

The protest that took place on April 6, 2020, which made headline for healthcare professionals’ arrestment in Quetta was portrayed as a harsh reaction from the Government of Balochistan. However, the on-ground situation occurred not because the protestors were being silenced but because Article 144 of the Constitution of Pakistan does not allow any forms of protest in the city. The missed jigsaw piece of the scenario according to the CM Balochistan was, “Police and Young doctors got into a situation of confrontation at 3 places where they were stopped from going further and a clash took place”. The clash eventually led the police taking action and arresting the protestors. 

It must be noted that many other residents of Quetta who had been violating the Article 144 had also been arrested as well so that compliance is ensured to the lock down, since nobody can act above the law. 

Hours later, the protestors were released officially by the government but they chose to stay in the jails and announced that unless their demands were catered right away, they will not leave. They demanded suspension of authorities involved in ordering their arrest and sustention of the secretary and special secretary on the basis of alleged corruption until which they will not be partaking in any negotiations with the government and will withhold their services in the hospitals from the next day. Meanwhile, the social media was storming with an untrue narrative once again, giving the impression that the government has not released the doctors.

Consequently, April 10, 2020, Honorable Prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan visited Quetta on a one-day tour. Once again, social media turned to a storm with disinformation on how a new isolation ward came into being overnight at BMCH. This again was categorically a false claim because an Isolation ward in the hospital had been established around 12 days earlier which on April 2, 2020, was officially visited by the CM to overlook the facilities in the ward.

While it is good to keep a keen eye on government actions as a concerned citizen, it is highly irresponsible on the public’s behalf to spread false information in a time when the leading force doing groundwork, supervision and management during this phase of lockdown are the officials of Balochistan. Criticism must always be a ladder towards improvement if it’s constructive, but in the current scenario of Balochistan the kind of misinformative criticism as mentioned above will only deteriorate the situation. 

Currently, the government of Balochistan is working with a vast multidimensional approach towards this one of a kind global health emergency of COVID-19. While it is true that it is their responsibility to provide for their region in an emergency, it is also true that they are working day and night in the risk of getting infected themselves at any point as we have seen in case of frontline officials of many other countries. It is indeed a difficult task to make prompt decisions and plan according to every new situation coming forward during this pandemic – a kind of situation which the region hasn’t seen since last century.

Some of the worth appreciating departments here are Pakistan Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Balochistan, CM Delivery unit, a vast provincial volunteer force under the CM, the commissioner offices of all districts, the Balochistan Police and law enforcement agencies and all other independent initiatives working on-ground in Balochistan. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 Surveillance Report Balochistan dated April 9, 2020, out of 219 total cases in Balochistan, 89 have recovered and discharged while 129 are under treatment. The total count of quarantine centers is 72 in whole province and 85 isolation centers.

It is true that no execution strategies can be perfect but standing parallel to our officials in time of need must be given a consideration too instead of only resisting. Every individual during this pandemic is urged to show their civic responsibilities by not becoming spreader of misinformation and propaganda so that one-sided picture is not painted on our behalves intentionally or unintentionally. The best things to practice and advocate at this point are the measures to help reduce the curve of COVID 19. Staying home, maintain good hand hygiene, complying to lockdown rules of your city and contributing to productive activities that may be considered a helping hand in coronavirus reduction. 

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The author is a media student from Balochistan. An avid writer/blogger with an interest in current affairs of the province. He is an advocate of media literacy and often writes fact check articles. Education and student activism are also his interests.

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