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Covid-19 & other fears

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THE coronavirus pandemic has revealed that most populist leaders — from the US and UK to Pakistan — lack the vision and ability to lead their nations from the front in this time of crisis, which is testing societies, institutions and systems alike. So far, the populists have been largely engaged in the usual illusionary rhetoric, and are deficient when it comes to making decisions so urgently needed to build a comprehensive response to the pandemic.

The US and UK have functional democracies that can somehow put their populist leaders back on track to handle the crisis. But in countries like Pakistan, where democratic governance and the rule of law are still a work in progress, civilian governments remain under immense pressure to perform or lose the balance of power.

The power contenders are largely concerned with winning the trust and confidence of the people, which they believe is mandatory in order to serve their interests. Though the Constitution comprehensively defines the relationship between state and society, power stakeholders tend to find other means to extract legitimacy from the masses. For instance, a sense of growing insecurity among the people as well as the role of religion in the times of crisis could be two main sources to win people’s trust. The civilian government can provide a sense of security only through its policies and actions, but religious circles largely suspect them and tend to deal with the situation with caution and at times in different ways.

Faith is also the weakest link of many state institutions, but few have developed better capabilities to deal with religious actors, who are now testing the nerve........

© Dawn

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