A national assembly session was held after nearly two months to debate over the issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope was that this session would provide an opportunity for policymakers to reach a consensus on the way forward and create a unified front to effectively deal with the crisis at hand. All in all, the discourse remained somewhat civil despite some fearing that members would use the platform to hurl accusations at each other. The government is rather clear on what it has in mind for the days ahead. Lockdown will be lifted gradually in order to prevent a total economic collapse.

The opposition on the other hand did not provide clarity on exactly what it wants. It lamented the federal government’s decision to lift the lockdown while simultaneously acknowledging that the economic situation is dire and many people are in bad shape due to prolonged inactivity. It would be better that they take a clear stance, and then an honest debate can be held on the merits of different options. Until then, this is just deliberately ambiguous messaging meant to do nothing more than provide political cover. The opposition’s criticism on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s absence in the session would have appeared more credible had the leader of opposition not skipped the session as well.

The opposition is not wrong in claiming that regular provincial health budgets will not suffice for tackling the pandemic, and the federal government has a responsibility to provide assistance where necessary. Coronavirus cases especially in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh are rising rapidly. The healthcare system is under extreme pressure. The federal government is best positioned to secure international supply chains for essential procurement. But provincial governments should not engage in a futile blame game to hide their own incompetence. Cooperation cannot be achieved solely through making angry demands. All stakeholders are responsible for creating a conducive environment.