Asif Haroon Raja
Dawn of 2020
2020 was expected to be a year of respite and tranquility after having gone through hell for over 18 years. The global war on terror was initiated by USA and its western allies after 9/11 on concocted charges with a view to achieve geo-strategic and geo-economic objectives. The war being Muslims specific remained confined to Asia but flames of terrorism spilled into Europe and USA as well. Not only the US failed to achieve any of its sinister objectives, it got stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan and suffered setbacks on all other fronts which bruised its prestige as a sole super power. Ultimately the exhausted and frustrated sole super sought peace with the Taliban to end the bloody and insane war which cost him trillions of dollars and exit.
Peace agreement at Doha on February 29 gave high hopes to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan for transition from bloody war to peace. ISIS (Daesh) was incapacitated in the Middle East and 9-year destructive civil war in Syria is at the verge of ending. US troops deployed in Syria and Iraq are being thinned out. Arab coalition who had waged air war against the Houthis in Yemen have got tired and so are the American troops deployed in the Persian Gulf.
Hopes of better tomorrow evaporated in thin air with the sudden eruption of Corona Virus which came as a bombshell and appeared deadlier than the war on terror. A disease known as Corona novel or Covid-19 sprouted in Wuhan in China in December 2019. Beijing locked down 11 million residents of the city in January and then quarantined the whole of Hubei province of 50 million people. People of other parts of China were asked to stay at homes. Two new hospitals with 2300 beds were built in record time of 10 days in Wuhan and 42000 doctors/paramedics were dispatched to shore up health services in the infected city. 13 doctors died and 3300 contracted virus while saving lives of patients. Masks were made compulsory and 1.6 million masks were produced daily. After two weeks of isolation and preventive measures, the infection began to drop and by 21 March it dropped to zero level.
While China was fighting the coronavirus zealously, it started spreading to other countries and in no time transformed into pandemic. Codiv-19 spared none, neither the civilized nor the uncivilized world, rich or poor. As opposed to calm and cool response of Chinese government, panic gripped the Europeans and the Americans. People started stocking rations and drinks at homes. In USA long queues of people were seen in front of arms shops, buying weapons for self-protection against looters. International flights were suspended, borders closed and cities locked down. Hoarders seized the opportunity to make big profits by hoarding items like masks, synthesizers and tissue rolls. Bustling cities became ghost cities.
And Corona virus smiled and asked, “Where are your fighter jets, tanks, missiles and nukes”.
As of 27 March, 192 out of 197 countries of the world have been affected by this virus and the worst hit countries are China, Italy, USA, Iran and Spain. The total death rate has climbed to 20, 494 and 318554 have contracted this virus. 113120 have recovered.
USA is in the lead with 85612 tested positive and 1361 deaths. New York has the largest toll of infected cases. China is now second in the list with 3292 deaths and 81, 782 tested positive. In Italy the death toll is 8216 with 80, 589 infected cases. Milan city is worst affected. Its administration has expressed helplessness to fight the virus and dead bodies are being burnt. In Spain, fatalities are 4365 and virus-ridden cases are 57786. In Germany, 43938 people are infected and deaths are 267. Iran has 29, 406 confirmed cases with 2234 deaths. In France, 29155 have been tested positive and deaths are 1696. UK has 11658 positive cases and 578 deaths. Pakistan is so far on the rock bottom with 1235 infected patients and 9 deaths.
Covid-19 has been declared a global pandemic by WHO. Scientists are painting doomsday scenario warning that Covid-19 could kill millions unless strict preventive measures are enforced. Global oil and stock markets have slumped, Trade, business, tourism and manufacturing industries stand paralyzed, and world economy is in danger of plunging into recession. Bloomberg estimates $ 2.7 trillion loss to global economy. IMF and World Bank has suspended loan recovery from 8 countries including Pakistan. G-20 is bracing to fight back against economic havoc unleashed by Covid-19. Rumor mills are churning out conspiracy theories. The two global competitors China and USA are blaming each other, while Islamists see the virus as wrath of Allah owing to our sinful life.
Some hard facts. These are tabulated hereunder:-
Fact # 1. The US and China never got along with each other, and in their bid to gain monopoly over global economy have become arch rivals. After the fragmentation of Soviet Union and dwarfing into Russian Federation in 1991, the US became the sole superpower. After hatching a false flag operation on 9/11, the US made grandiose plans to rob the resources of the Middle East and Central Asia right up to Caspian Sea and to tame the Muslim world by incapacitating stronger Muslim countries. While the US spent trillions of dollars in fighting war on terror, proxy war and hybrid war, China on the other hand focused its entire energies on its four-point modernization program to develop its economy and technical and technological skills. Russia under Vladimir Putin also reemerged on the global scene and asserted its authority.
Fact # 2. In the backdrop of the above, over the decades, China worked extremely hard to develop its economy and was able to capture markets for its products all over the world. Today, you pick up anything, it’s made in China, from a tiny sewing pin to an Apple iPhone, and all made in China, manufactured or assembled in China. Owing to cheap labor, easy loans and rich benefits, all the big giants shifted their industries to China. Consequently, it has become the second strongest economic power of the world and is well poised to become the leading power.
Fact # 3: Spurred by galloping economy and ever growing GDP, huge foreign exchange reserves and surging exports, China embarked upon an ambitious gigantic plan, One Belt One Road (OBOR), also known as BRI, comprising six corridors of which CPEC is one project. BRI intends to reach the markets of South Asia, Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and Europe and will envelope 3 billion people. By virtue of this mega project, Chinese Navy will be able to gain strong presence in Indian and Pacific Oceans. This has what has alarmed USA, India and Israel, the three strategic partners each having global ambitions. Presently, the trio is making desperate efforts to scuttle CPEC which is progressing fast, to denuclearize Pakistan and to enfeeble military power of Iran, where China intends investing $400 billion in next 25 years.
Fact # 4: Failing to disrupt CPEC through proxy war and keeping Afghanistan unstable, the US picked up confrontation with Iran after cancelling the nuclear deal and then deploying a heavy force in the Persian Gulf. Prior to that, the three colluding imperialist powers had established military bases at Dokum in Gulf of Oman. Purpose of these offensive steps were to block the route of CPEC passing through Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The US then gave a green signal to India to make Indian occupied disputed Kashmir integral part of India and to make plans to annex AJK and Gilgit Baltistan so that the US, Israel and India could conjointly establish military bases in Ladakh. That way, CPEC could be choked at both ends. J&K under joint control of US and India is seen as the best alternative after loss of Afghanistan from where the US could keep a watch on all the regional countries and continue to meddle in their internal affairs.
Fact # 5. Simultaneously, the US and India together with Europe unleashed a vicious propaganda campaign to undermine CPEC and to spoil Pak China relations. Trade war was launched against China by USA. While China was accused of human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims in Sinkiang and riots were stoked in Hong Kong, PTM was launched in Waziristan to degrade Pak Army and to once again destabilize FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Apart from aggressive posturing of India and USA, IMF and FATF were used as tools to meltdown Pakistan’s economy.
Fact # 6. Pakistan continued to strengthen its nuclear cum missile programs, and in collusion with China the duo kept pushing forward the projects of CPEC. USA and India on the other hand ran into series of troubles. Afghanistan started to slip out of the hands of both. Tide in Syria and in Iraq turned against USA. Iran upheld its defiance against USA despite sanctions and bullying through military standoff. India failed to subdue Kashmiris in spite of prolonged lockdown. It is now faced with country wide protests against CAA law and its economy is declining.
Fact # 7. The US prestige was further battered after the missile attacks by Iran on its military bases in Iraq in reaction to killing of Gen Soleimani. Shooting down of US military aircraft at Ghazni by the Taliban causing deaths to 83 Americans was another rude shock. Moreover, it was highly upsetting for USA to see its three foes Russia, China and Iran getting friendlier and getting closer to the Taliban.
Fact # 8. USA has been crowing over its military might, economic power and invincibility. The Taliban shattered the US myth of invincibility. It was highly painful for USA to sign peace agreement with the Taliban on 29 February without making them agree to their terms. Washington wanted to show to the world that it had not lost the war and was withdrawing troops in the overall interest of peace in the region.
Fact # 9. It was under such unpalatable conditions that the US must have tasked all the brains to find a way out how to deflect the attention of the world from its pullout from Afghanistan, and to enervate the three monstrosities – China, Iran and Pakistan. UK and Canada were taken on board to develop a biological weapon far deadlier than the military weapons or Psy Ops, which would spread quickly and cause devastation.
Fact #10: Covid-19 attacked Eastern Chinese province Hubei, in the city of Wuhan and first death occurred on 11 January. In order to prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of mainland China, a state of emergency was declared by Beijing and Wuhan was locked down.
Fact # 11. International Airlines suspended their flight operations due to their ‘concerns’ about the virus spreading globally. Western countries started pulling out their citizens from China and people warned not to visit China. The wheels of manufacturing industry were slowed down thereby disrupting global supply chain and decreasing exports. Chinese stock market slumped and the Chinese Yuan slipped to its lowest level just in a month.
Fact # 12. China is spending colossal amounts on the OBOR, development of western China, modernization of Chinese armed forces. Colossal amount was diverted toward fighting the calamity. The virus took the shape of national calamity, with substantial impact on China’s GDP. However, China didn’t panic and fought the disease on war footing.
Fact # 13: China which was the main target of bio weapon, is the only country which has successfully contained the disease. Patients are recovering and no new cases are reported. Life in Wuhan has almost returned to normal. China is now helping other countries like Iran, Italy, Venezuela and Pakistan by dispatching doctors and medical equipment without profiteering.
Fact # 14. The schemers could never imagine in wildest stretch of their imaginations that China will be able to tackle the pandemic so rapidly and that the virus would engulf the unprepared world. Covid-19 took the wind out of USA’s arrogance and egotism. Worst of all, USA is now the most infected nation in the world and it finds itself as vulnerable as any under developed nation.
Fact # 15. Quarantine have been enforced in North and South America, Africa, and Asia as a result of which the world stock markets around the world have become boorish, global trade reduced to half, GDPs have dipped, and global economy is in recession. Europe, Japan, Canada and possibly USA could face recessions.
Fact # 16. With global debt at $ 250 trillion, the corporates would now be seeking bailout packages from Trump to revive stock markets. The bankrupted US banks were reinvigorated by Obama administration after the 2008 global recession through $700 billion emergency program known as TARP to save the banking system. Discovery of shale oil had helped USA to save its economy from collapsing. This time due to heavy debt burden, bleeding of US economy in war on terror/ covert operations and collapsing economies of Europe, it may not be so easy for Trump to give hefty bailout packages and it will also be erroneous to view stock market as an indicator of economic health.
Fact # 17. In order to undermine the impact of China’s humanitarian assistance to the most affected countries, the IMF which is notorious for making the developing world debt ridden has come forward with a pledge of $ one trillion to the needy countries to stave off economic disaster. Iran which is among the top three most affected countries by Corona virus and had stayed away from the IMF has also sought $ 5 billion assistance from the IMF since it is badly impacted by harsh sanctions imposed by USA. On one hand the IMF is exhibiting its large-heartedness, but at the same time it has refused to extend loan to Venezuela.
Fact # 18. Anti-virus measures are hampering the global economy and despite endowments offered by the IMF and Federal Reserve, the world is heading towards another global recession which could be more crippling than the one in 2008.
Fact # 19. Rich countries are still shy of spending money on health care, hospitals, free medical services and extending support to the poor nations. Emphasis is on militarism and defence. The world spends $ 1500 billion a year on arms and defence while healthcare has been accorded low priority.
Fact # 20. China’s model of fighting Covid-19 is a beacon of light for other nations to emulate. It provides a silver lining that the disease is preventable, controllable and curable.
Fact # 21.While it is true that aged people with low immunity are more vulnerable to Covid-19, people suffering from malnutrition in 3rd world are equally vulnerable irrespective of their ages.
Fact # 22. 8 countries have applied China’s formula of quarantine which has locked down over one billion people in the world.
Fact # 23. Going by the track record of the big Satan, it is heartless and human life is of no consequence when it comes to its selfish interests. We have seen how mercilessly it destroyed one Muslim country after the other and killed millions in the last 18 years. It has been operating torture dens of Guantanamo Bay, Abu Gharaib and Bagram and using drones ruthlessly. Its two partners in crime, Israel and India are equally blood thirsty and barbarous. Under the circumstances, the possibility that Corona virus might have been transplanted in Wuhan cannot be altogether ruled out.
Fact # 24. One thing which shouldn’t be ignored is that virus of this nature is not a new phenomenon. The 20th century had borne the brunt of several epidemics in the form of Spanish Flu, Cancer, Influenza, MRS, SRS, Ebola, Aids, and Dengue fever etc. In spite of invention of new vaccine after every five years in USA, which each American is bound to use, 35000 Americans die of flu and 35 lacs contract flu every year.
Fact # 25. World annual death rate is 1.75 crore which come to 50,000 daily rate. Tuberculosis take lives of 15 lacs people annually, diarrhea 3.50 lacs, pneumonia 10 lacs, malaria 5 lacs, and measles 1.5 lacs. 40 crore people get infected by dengue fever each year. Covid-19 has not inflicted that much damage as was anticipated. The death rate stand at 2% and recoveries are 97%. So, why so much hullabaloo created over Covid-19 by media?
A lot of conspiracy theories are in circulation. It is being questioned whether it is a natural pandemic or manmade; whether Covid-19 was developed in a lab for use as a biological weapon to contain surging economy of China, or the virus accidentally leaked from the lab. The latter theory was picked up from the New York Post article in late February in which the social scientist Steven Mosher claimed that the bat virus was under study in an Institute of Virology in Wuhan. To add weight to his claim, he quoted SRS virus of 2003 which had reportedly escaped from labs in China.
Most of you must have come across a viral message on social media that in 2011, Hollywood released a movie with the name of ‘Contagion’. The movie revolves around today’s fear phobia of ‘Corona Virus’. Ironically, the reason of this strange virus was ‘bat’. The story that Covid-19 was transplanted to humans by the bats and animals has however been dispelled stating that Chinese have been eating them for hundreds of years without getting infected.
The world was made to believe that the consumption of bat and seafood were the causes of the disease. While USA is terming the disease as China virus, Beijing based Chinese military official blamed USA for having deliberately injected this virus in Wuhan during the international military games from 18 to 27 October 2019, in which 360 American athletes had taken part, but couldn’t win a single medal. He added that 5 of their athletes had fallen sick but doctors couldn’t detect cause of their disease. After their treatment and release from hospital, the five athletes were mysteriously flown back home in a specially chartered US plane. Eyebrows have been raised in China, Russia, Japan, Taiwan and Germany and probing questions asked why they were segregated from other 355 soldier athletes. Suspecting them to be biochemical soldiers, China has asked USA to hand over those five to WHO for testing whether they had contracted type C strain as in case of all other patients in Wuhan? This conspiracy theory rested on the premise that a lab in USA working on Coronavirus since 2017 had already produced a vaccine to kill this disease. A query is being raised is as to why this biggest bio lab was suddenly closed in USA in August 2019.
In November 2019, locals in Wuhan got infected with Covid-19, which coincided with incubation period of 13 days. On December 1, first confirmed case was found in Wuhan. Later, 80,000 people got infected. Research determined 5 types of strains of this virus, ABCDE. The US is only country in the world with all 5 variants. On January 25, a Japanese couple spent 10 days in Hawaii where they didn’t come into contact with any Chinese. They fell ill and on return to Japan, they were tested positive for Covid-19. Italian lab confirmed that Covid-19 strain found in Italy is different from virus transmitted in China.
Another story making rounds is that after finding out the source of origin, Chinese scientists added an additional strain in it and re-exported it back to USA.
I was wondering how coincidental and then it eventually struck my mind that there is some strange connection somewhere between this Hollywood movie and Chinese calamity. Late Saddam Hussain had revealed in 1991 that USA had threatened to spread coronavirus in Iraq. This virus is in existence for the last 70 years. As I put two and two together, the picture became clearer. It could be a fantasy, but there could be some truth in what I see from my lens. It seems a deliberate plan was made to ostracize China by painting it a contagiously diseased country from which the rest of the world should stay away. Just to remind, in 2015 Bill Gates had predicted the outbreak of virus.
Trump and his officials rebounded by naming Covid-19 as Chinese virus. There are suggestions that Chinese Americans are spreading virus in USA. Some quarters are talking that China might have planned to destroy US economy and shatter dreams of Trump to make US great again through bio attack. They say, how come Beijing remained safe, and how come Russia and North Korea are safe from Covid-19?
Gossipers say that while USA tried to crash the stock market and economy of China through bio attack, China played the master stroke by staying calm when value of Chinese currency declined and share prices slid down by 44%. When the prices fell down sharply, President Xi ordered to buy all the shares of US and European companies in one go. By the time the financial sharks realized that they had been taken for a ride, it was too late. China pocketed 30% of their shares and earned $2000 billion. China has now become majority shareholder of these foreign companies.
If the Covid-19 is engineered, the gory plan has begun to produce effects. Life in the world has been brought to a standstill as a result of stoppage of international flights, movements, and worldwide lockdown. The whole world is in tailspin.
Stories with substance
On August 6, 2019, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention of USA issued an order to a major biological warfare lab in Fort Detrick Maryland to immediately close down and suspend all operations due to its failure to contain contaminated waste, which might contain agents such as Ebola, Smallpox, Anthrax, SARS. In next one month time, there was outbreak of mysterious illness in USA causing respiratory diseases to hundreds. It was concluded that illness could be owing to e-cigarette. Symptoms of this disease were similar to Covid-19. Till January 2020, US people suffered worst flu in its history.
Chinese secret agency has recently reported that Corona virus was experimented in a British lab Pirbright Institute as a biological weapon. The experiment was funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. After getting registered in USA, the product was transported to Canadian lab and from there to a lab in Wuhan. Before shipping it, an anti-virus safety exercise was conducted six weeks prior to the outbreak of this epidemic. Same team is now busy manufacturing anti-coronavirus vaccine. The master planner Israel has also produced a drug to treat this virus which will be available in markets in next 4-5 months.
Sudden upsurge of fatalities and infected cases has bred uncertainty and anxiety. Anxiety has led to restlessness and fright, and panic is impacting immune system. Covid-19 attacks humans gripped with fear, having weak immune system and suffering from malnourishment.
Why is the world so worried?
There are six reasons behind increasing fear phobia which is transforming into panic:
One. Media has created an unprecedented hype and turned this disease into biggest horror this world has seen.
Two. We have no idea how it spread its fangs; whether by breathing, or touching or from air? This feeling is akin to the victims of terrorism who never knew who was killing them and why.
Three. To what extent it can harm a human.
Four. How long the virus will persist? Medical experts opine that this virus will die its own death with the onset of warm weather and the temperature touching 30 degree C since it thrives in cold weather only. This is however an optimistic presumption since some are now saying that the virus can withstand hot weather.
Five. What is the cure for this pandemic? Although Trump is claiming that a tablet called Hydrochloroqin has been invented, its effectiveness is yet to be tested. Till such time effective remedy comes in the market, fear phobia will remain.
Six. Figures of those tested positive and negative dished out daily are misleading and erroneous. Barring China, no other country including USA has the resources, aptitude and above all the will to test all suspected cases. Figures are based on the tests of selected few. Screening means checking temperature only and will not reveal infection. During incubation period which lasts for 13 days, symptoms of virus are absent in the body. As such the patients keep transmitting virus to others during incumbency. This is the reason why Covid-19 is spreading so fast even in most advanced countries.
Situation in Pakistan
Coming to Pakistan, mercifully the situation is still well under control and there is no fear or panic seen among the public. There has however been a gradual increase in infected cases in March, which has reached 1022 and 8 deaths have occurred. Majority of cases came via Qom in Iran by the pilgrims who were not screened and isolated properly. Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan neither has ample resources, wherewithal or medical expertise to deal with this virus in case it expands exponentially as in Italy, Iran, and Spain, however, Pakistan is fortunate to have China as its next door neighbor which has pledged all out support and has already sent doctors and requisite medical equipment; assistance is flowing in. Pakistanis stranded in Wuhan were well looked after and not a single one contracted this disease. Pakistan also extended wholehearted support to China which was amply exhibited by the visit of President Alvi to Beijing at a time when others were staying away. Pakistan government has taken requisite preventive measures by partially locking down Sindh, Punjab, KP and Gilgit Baltistan and has called the army in aid of civil power in three provinces. Economic package has also been announced for the daily bred earners and price of fuel reduced. Social activities have been considerably curtailed. However, there are no mass sprays and cleanliness drive. Ventilators and test kits are too few. Next two weeks are critical for Pakistan during which the people will have to cooperate and exercise discipline by keeping themselves confined to their homes. While borders with neighboring countries have been closed, so far the whole country has not been sealed.
War on terror which claimed 76000 lives, lethal dengue fever, and Indo-US belligerence didn’t scare the Pakistanis. Nor will corona virus. There is a popular saying among Pakistanis. They say instead of closing educational institutes, shutting markets and movement, and confining them to homes, if news channels are closed for two months, corona virus would die its own death.
Global coordinated response
Now that the pandemic has become a global concern, and no one is safe, there is a need for a collective response. The world having become intertwined and turned into a global village is sailing in same boat. People have reached a stage of either swimming together towards the shores of safety, or sink together. Convergence should replace divergence, conflict turned into cooperation, and animosity converted into affability. Materialism to be substituted by humane and benevolent feelings. Virtuosity and fear of Allah should overwhelm deceit and impiety. These radical changes are already discernible in some European countries. Conflict zones are relatively quiet.
Irrespective of the manufactured conspiracies, we must not forget that “Man proposes, God disposes”. Allah alone is the curer of all diseases and afflictions and none else. We the mortals have to seek His forgiveness and blessings. The Coronavirus is not the first or last pandemic that humans have been facing in their history. There were ten earlier pandemics. Human responded to the challenges every time based on their trust in divine laws and guidance and their resolve to follow facts and not their whims and superstitions.
The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, former Defence Attaché, defence analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Center, Member CWC and Think Tank PESS. [email protected]
Brig. General Asif Haroon Raja a Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought the epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously.
He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt, and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently.
He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written a number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready.
He is a defense analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defense and political matters for numerous international/national publications.