Pakistan Needs a Single Situation and Reaction Room for CONVID-19: why no “war footing”?

Where is the Pakistan Government’s “situation and reaction room”? Who is leading and managing this “situation and reaction room”?

We continue to get multiple view points on what the “government” is doing to respond to the CONVID-19. We have the Prime Minister dealing with media flanked by the Health Minister and the Chairman of NDMA. We then have the Chief Minister of Sindh issuing a statement on how he is handling “lock-down”. We have the erstwhile Finance Minister coming on flanked by the Health Minister and the Chairman of NDMA–looking and sounding imperious–and briefing the press on Government’s efforts. The Leader of the Opposition who flew in from BorisJohnsonland walked out of the joint Cabinet Briefing and ordered his party workers to work along the lines of his ‘plan’. A few minutes later, and no less imperious, Minister for Information gets control of the State TV channel and lectures the public on how the opposition political forces are scoring political points rather than helping respond to the pandemic. So, the public is asking, who is in charge! Conflicting narratives alone can break the back-bone of an otherwise strong Pakistani public.

Then there is the private sector or shall we simply call it the the ‘non-state apparatus’ which is well intentioned though tiered and in-efficient in its response. While most are on busy on social media, some are actually trying to deliver required responses like simply providing food and rations to the needy in the times of this CONVID-19. Duplicity of efforts and absence of coordination is leading to a waste of resources. It is not just the government but also the non-state apparatus that requires coordination!

The book on handling disasters is long since available and needs no rewriting on principles even if we can argue that tools of response have evolved. This book states the following key principles: a) one organization handles the response; b) this organization has unbridled powers over all tiers and sectors of government; c) this organization operates all assessment and intervention and monitoring through a single window; d) this organization is supported and enable through the “political will”; and e) it is lead by a single person who also is the only spokesperson. This is what worked for Pakistan and the reason why the 2005 Earth Quake response by our country is written as the best-practice to be adopted globally. The powers to be at present seem not to have read this simple but powerful book–panic not, just read this paragraph again.

Nested in this response approach is getting the single ‘institution’ right. Who will take on this mantle in the present scenario in Pakistan? National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) presently castrated through the 18th Amendment? The National Security Council (NSC)? What should the roles of Economic Affairs Division (EAD) and the Federal Ministry of Health (MOH) be? The answer to these questions lies in the enabling mandates of these very institutions. NDMA per its raison d’ etre is the natural institution for this leadership and single window operation. Its original act allows it the requisite powers and what that lacks can be provided through political will. NDMA’s website alone at this time shows that it is far from its role and is under performing by miles.

Which brings us to the personality who should lead this effort!? Views are solicited. More soon.

Published by #empowerpakistanbyazd

Amer Zafar Durrani is the President of Reenergia and Paidartwanai. He is an acknowledged development expert and entrepreneur with thirty five years of global experience spanning more than twenty four countries—of which almost 18 years were spent with the World Bank Group. His present work keeps him engaged in Pakistan, China, Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, Philippines, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan amongst others. He is now based in Pakistan and developing Reenergia as first of its’ kind ‘do-tank’—innovating and delivering solutions for improving lives while making a profit. In parallel, he has set up Paidartwanai Private Limited, an energy supply and consulting company with a mission to develop sustainable provision and consumption of energy through increasingly distributed and renewable energy systems. Amer is also a Senior Fellow at Pakistan Institute of Development Economists. He is also the Industry Co-Chair on the Energy Corporate Advisory Council in National University of Sciences and Technology, and a partner to NJHR, Geopolicity and RIZ Consulting. He continues supporting, through Reenergia, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), International Trade Center (ITC), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank Group, and the United Nations Office for Project Services, amongst many global organizations. In his personal capacity, he has been lecturing at the National Defense College and University (Islamabad), National School of Public Policy and University of Birmingham. He frequently appears as invited special guest in Media (TV and Radio) on issues relating to public policy and is a regularly speaker on various other international and local forums. Amer speaks Urdu, English, Punjabi, and can has working knowledge of Arabic, Russian and Dari-Persian. He is a graduate of the University of Texas, Austin, USA and has trained at the National Defense University, Pakistan and Lahore University of Management Sciences. He can be reached at adurrani@reenergia.com and adurrani@1818aluminwbg.org.

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