The ongoing crisis created by COVID-19, on one hand, has been challenging social norms across the globe and on the other hand, is putting to test the leadership mantle of world lead­ers. From the way people inter­act with their personal habits and how they do business everything is changing. Society as a whole is undergoing a transformation. So­cietal changes in the wake of the epidemic are inevitable, bound to be huge and all pervasive. Unless these changes are moderated and organized well by a central force, the cost of transformation is set to be unbearable anywhere in the world. Hence this pandemic is put­ting to a tough test leadership of all countries. It has brought under spotlight basic leadership quali­ties of world leaders prescience and vision, strategic planning, public credibility, enforcement of decisions and resilience in face of criticism. Grappling with the fall­out of this outbreak is a study into the effectiveness of leadership.

In Pakistan, Sindh’s leadership stands out in mounting an effec­tive response to the outbreak and other governments have been compelled to follow in the face of determined and resolute stance and actions taken by the Sindh government. The first report of coronavirus infection was given by China to the WHO on Dec 31. It took two months for the first case of COVID-19 to surface in Paki­stan on February 26. Before detec­tion in Pakistan, the pandemic had already wrought havoc in some countries. In neighboring coun­tries, China and Iran, deaths were counting in thousands.

But in Pakistan, public discourse was diffused and the government response was tepid. When every­one else seemed to be confused, Sindh’s leadership demonstrated unparalleled prescience and set out to tackle what was to become the severest public health crisis ever. On the very day, the first pa­tient of coronavirus was reported that the provincial government or­dered the closure of schools and educational institutions for three days to evaluate the situation. Ex­cept for screening at airports, it was business as usual in the rest of the country at that time. The Sindh government then extend­ed school holidays for two more weeks and later, brought forward summer vacations and closed schools for three months. For do­ing so, the government received flaks as the decision was dubbed as anti-education and uncalled for. After schools, the Sindh gov­ernment also ordered the closure of restaurants and other places where crowds could emerge. And later on, when others were debat­ing on the definition of lockdown, the Sindh government consid­ered it necessary to enforce it and banned all non-essential activities.

Looking at the world experience, it becomes clear that the only weapon states have against this virus is containment. No cure for this disease has been discovered and medical facilities in any coun­try, whatever advanced and afflu­ent it may be, are not sufficient to provide medical care to infect­ed people after infection explodes. Therefore, for a developing coun­try, such as Pakistan, the choice is simple, to do whatever can be done to contain the spread. Con­sequences are dreadful and gory if it gets out of control. Actions taken by the Sindh government practically demonstrate that its leadership is acutely aware of the sensitivity of the situation and is resolute in doing all that is neces­sary to safeguard citizens at large.

Lockdown has a fallout in the shape of its impact on the liveli­hoods of daily wagers and down­trodden class. The Sindh govern­ment has drawn up an effective plan to reach out to the poor and needy and a substantial amount is being spent to help this class.

To counter any unexpected large surge in infections, the govern­ment in collaboration with Paki­stan Army has established a large isolation center at Karachi’s Civic Centre. Besides this, the govern­ment has provided an adequate number of personal protective equipment (PPEs) to healthcare workers. Furthermore, plans are afoot to arrange more ventila­tors and ICU beds. At the moment Sindh is leading other provinces in the number of diagnostic tests conducted and being carried out daily. Sindh Government opens the first drive-through virus test­ing facility in Karachi, as part of the attempts to stem the spread of the pandemic in the country, where infections are rising.

The federal government an­nounced lockdown till April 14. Eventually, it should have been early for getting better results. Welcoming it, Sindh government spokesperson Barrister Murtaza Wahab in his tweet said that “good to know that national consensus is developing with regards to lock­down. This is the only way to stop the spread of coronavirus and the desired objective of the lockdown will now be achieved.” He seems positive that federal and provin­cial governments will also work together on relief work, which is a need of the time.

While the war against coronavi­rus is very much in the early stag­es but directions and leadership shown by the Sindh Government is the only way it can be won. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has come out from this crisis as a visionary leader who has shown how de­spite serious resource constraints a leader can galvanize various stakeholders and the entire sys­tem to counter the most danger­ous challenge we as a society face.