The one million-strong Corona Relief Tiger Force (CRTF) of volunteers will formally become operational in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan next week after a formal address to the CRTF members by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The CRTF, which was initially established and tested by the federal government in Sialkot, consists of reportedly a million volunteers, including teachers, students, engineers, medical workers, lawyers, social workers, and activists. With five major responsibilities allocated including ration distribution, implementation of the 20-point guidelines introduced by the government for prayers during Ramzan, awareness creation against coronavirus and others, it is positive to note that the volunteers will be playing their part, but in a limited, risk-free manner.

While this was a required move, considering we need to currently undertake more measures to combat the spread of the virus, exactly where the volunteers will be operationalised is still a concern. With Sindh currently exceeding Punjab in the total number of infections, the federal government must find a way to bring the provincial government on board as well. The reluctance of the Sindh government to refuse to adopt the force is disappointing – fighting the pandemic should be a united effort, not politicised.

Other than politics, one issue that could prevent the CRTF from being effective is disproportionate resources. Currently, two-thirds of the volunteers are from Punjab – when the need of the hour stresses that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa needs more attention due to its high mortality rate. The government is aiming to achieve this proportionality through the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) which are spread across various villages and districts of the country to enhance community mobilisation through data-mapping and tracking. This should work, provided the government has ultimate oversight overall. Constant engagement and authority of the government is essential to make any wide-scale plan to combat the pandemic work.