Social distancing turned into social gatherings in Balochistan villages

Lockdown forced people to stay at their villages

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By Syed Muhammad Yaseen 

Akbar Khan smiles and portrays before the mobile camera at the new Kuchlak Bypass in a hilly mountainous area located almost 25 km north of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. “Yes take my photo”, Khan, a young boy wearing a white cap tells this scribe. Like Khan dozens of other youth were also gathered to watch a cricket match on the main road.

The bypass road was giving a deserted look since transport was suspended by the Balochistan government to halt the spread of novel coronavirus in the province. Boys were playing cricket matches and other traditional sports at various locations with no fear of vehicles passing on the road.

“Corona is infidel’s disease, it is nothing to do with the Muslims”, he replied when asked about the looming threat of a deadly virus that continues to penetrate in Pakistan like in other parts of the globe.

Offer your prayer, no corona will come to you, another boy interrupts my conversation with Akbar Khan.

Continued lockdown across the country in the wake of coronavirus has forced many people to leave cities and move towards villages and rural areas. Crowds of people could be seen in villages of Balochistan’s districts Killa Abdullah, Pishin and other areas. The two districts make around 1.6 million population of Balochistan as per the 2017 census report and most of their people have been running tea shops and Dhabas in Karachi and interior Sindh for a long time.

Scores of people have come from Karachi, interior Sindh, and various areas of Punjab to Pishin and Killa Abdullah after the lockdown order by provincial governments. Most of these people were running tea shops in Karachi and other parts of the country. “What we could do, our hotel was closed in Karachi”, Abdul Sattar who runs a hotel in Karachi’s defense said. Sattar was sitting with dozens of villagers discussing unfolding stories about the COVID-19 in Pakistan and across the globe at Killi Toorkhail Syedan. When we spoke to him, the villagers were commenting on the situation in Italy, which has been hit hard by the virus so far.

Every evening dozens rather hundreds of villagers gather and play football and other traditional games to pass time. Governments across the globe have called for social distancing to contain the deadly virus. However, in these frontier villages near Afghanistan, social distancing has turned into social gatherings.

“Will government compensate us for this closure ?”, Hayatullah, another person in the crowd told Quetta Voice. Hayatullah runs a hotel in Sindh’s Hyderabad for the last two decades.

The federal and provincial governments in Balochistan have announced to compensate the daily wage workers during the lockdown period. However, nothing practical has been done so far to compensate daily wage workers and deserving people.

In such social gatherings, no precautionary measures were adopted by the people. Most of the people were found concerned about their businesses and jobs rather than the physical impacts of COVID-19.

Indeed, Quetta city and district headquarters are giving a deserted look. However, a crowd of people can still be seen in villages with people adopting no precautionary measures regarding coronavirus. Fortunately, so far no coronavirus case has been reported from these frontier villages.

The writer is a pre-medical student and hails from Quetta contributing to various national and regional newspapers 

He can be contacted @Ystorai on Twitter 

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