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The coronavirus outbreak may hurt Imran Khan's political future

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Populous Pakistan has not yet made the grim headlines spawned by the global coronavirus pandemic, despite reporting its first infections on February 26.

Sadly, in the weeks to come, it will. The number of infections is projected to spiral into the millions. And as the death toll mounts, the blame for the government's failure to learn from the mass outbreaks in neighbouring China and Iran will fall squarely on the government and Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose reluctance to act decisively may cost him dearly.

Initially, its response to the brewing crisis was lackadaisical. Responding to criticism in his first televised speech on March 17, Khan said his government had been monitoring the pandemic since January, but did not begin emergency consultations until the first cluster of infections was identified on March 12.

Notably, this discovery by the opposition-controlled Sindh provincial government exposed the failure of the federal authorities to properly screen and quarantine thousands of pilgrims returning from Iran.

Had Sindh's Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah not taken the initiative to start testing returnees upon learning of the first infections in the provincial capital Karachi, the metropolis of 18 million souls would have become another Wuhan, and health authorities in other provinces would not have been alerted to the infectiousness of the pilgrims.

However, when Khan addressed the subject, he was absurdly fatalistic. The spread of the coronavirus was inevitable, he said, but there was no need to panic because for the........

© Al Jazeera