Altered State of the World Post COVID-19:
Opportunities and Challenges – II 


Friday, 10th April, 2020 | 3:00 PM

Address: Online Event

Series: Webinar

What the world would look like in post-COVID-19 scenario?

To deliberate over this problem statement, the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) is organizing a series of Webinars using online platforms for interested audiences in the Pakistan and the extended global community. This series would include esteemed professionals from different walks of life with expertise in International Relations, Culture, Economics, Sociology, Security, and Public Policy. Their reflections over the plausible future scenario in the post-COVID-19 world would be consolidated subsequently as contribution to policy.

Webinar, COVID, World

The year 2020 commenced with the worst kind of pandemic – the COVID-19. Initially reported from China, it spread across the world, affecting the Atlantic countries, and widely dispersing in the Asian continent. The geopolitical landscape is currently witnessing a lockdown of the entire world. This lockdown has forced the humanity to use online platforms for conducting their social and professional activities while simultaneously maintaining social distancing. Nations across the world are coping up with the current crisis as the situation is further evolving. Realistically, the situation is nowhere close to normalizing. However, it would always be the darkest before the dawn, or so the humanity hopes for.

Keeping in mind the prevailing crisis around the globe, one may recall Barry Buzan as he was one who defined the concepts of sectors of security arguing that after the cold war the threats would emerge from non-traditional domains. These non-traditional threats include environmental, economic, political and societal. COVID-19 deems to stem from the domain of environment. COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, has nevertheless disturbed every aspect of societal engagement from individual to the states’ level alike. While majority of work in the world has come to a grinding halt, several communities across the world have turned to working online. It is therefore logical to wonder what the world would look like in a post-COVID-19 scenario?

To deliberate over this problem statement, the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) is organizing a series of Webinars using online platforms for interested audiences in the Pakistan and the extended global community. This series would include esteemed professionals from different walks of life with expertise in International Relations, Culture, Economics, Sociology, Security, and Public Policy. Their reflections over the plausible future scenario in the post-COVID-19 world would be consolidated subsequently as contribution to policy.

Continuing with its webinar series on “The Altered State of the World: Opportunities and Challenges,” the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research organised the second webinar on April 10. The webinar comprised of a cohort of young researchers from around Pakistan who have examined post-COVID-19 order from a new lens.

The opening remarks were given by the CSCR’s Director Academics, Talha Ibrahim. In his remarks, he stated that corona pandemic is the third of the kind major event shaping the world, where 1.6 million people have been affected so far. This COVID-19 is largely altering the socio-economic at national level as well as international level. Furthermore, he argued that the effects of this pandemic are also rendering a renewed optimism towards policy circles and academicians to foster a comprehensive approach towards understanding a globalised world as soon as the pandemic sets itself aside.

Hussain Nadeem was the first speaker of the webinar. He is the CEO of the Nerve Center, a data-driven research organisation working on both traditional and non-traditional topics of interest. He started by appreciating the CSCR for conducting the webinar in such difficult times. He argued that the current situation both at national and international level is in fluidity and it will remain for some time in the post COVID-19 world as well. He based this argument by arguing further that such fluidity stems from the fact that there is no real time data to analyse the effects of this pandemic with certainty. He further opined that one certain thing that can be deliberated upon is the fact that the world has changed in terms of security and globalisation.

Over the years, the democracy index has fallen short of its recurring average values where it can be categorically stated that democracy is collapsing in this scenario. He opined that the democratic values and norms are now fading away and are being replaced by the leadership of China, whereas, up till now the West have not been able to control or contain the pandemic. This ultimately will bring forth a change in the allocation of GDPs across the world. He deliberated that he foresaw more investment and funding towards the Research & Development sector in tandem with digitalisation. Because these are the two areas which can mitigate such a crisis at hand and also can maintain a normal day-to-day routine respectively.

In his concluding remarks, he said that we have to see how this pandemic will affect the mind set and mentality of individuals and society collectively. And time is an intervening variable here. If the stay of pandemic is short, the affects would be different, and if it stays for long time let’s say a year or so, it will have lasting effects on our psyche and mentality. He also applauded the central and provincial governments of Pakistan where they have succeeded in depoliticising the issue of coronavirus in Pakistan unlike in the United States, where they are heading towards presidential election and the nominees will use this crisis to their political advantages. Conclusively, he stated that with a recurring demise of these democratic values, the US political structure will also suffer.

Hassan Zaheer was the second speaker. He is a qualified sociologist from University of Karachi and a visiting lecturer at Iqra University, Karachi. He argued that in these dark times, the security community of Pakistan and the rest in general need to reinterpret the concept of security or more so, the concept of national security. He opined that now the threats and security issues are not and would not emanate from territorial tensions but from epidemics such as one we are witnessing right now. Therefore, there is a dire need to shift the focus from traditional notions of security towards more integrated public and health sector organisations and infrastructure.

The governments have to focus on two aspects of health care: legislation and coordination. The reason for pointing out such contours stems from the fact that there has been a polarisation between the central and the provincial governments especially the Sindh government over competing narratives of virus containment. However, he opined that there must be certain set of codes or protocols that should be invoked during such a crisis where the normal working of constitution can be suspended for some time in order to fight or contain a crisis like the one in which we are living.

By quoting example from Ehsaas programme, he argued that no mechanism or coordination is being witnessed and there is no overarching body to regulate such coordination. He further argued that we are also witnessing a fear-led production of information. The fear-induced crisis renders us with misinformation and fake news, where the public loses confidence in state machinery. He also stated that the narrative linked to COVID-19 is being deliberated by social as well as electronic media where journalists are not that much abreast with the sound academic knowledge of such crisis. So the need of the time is to induct respective authors and renowned scholars from every walk of life so they may present their arguments in a more educated manner to contain false disinformation on different platforms.

On the other hand, he opined that government should also provide consulting advisory to all those who are being affected by this pandemic and to the general public as well in tandem with funds being provided for public and private health institutions. He also feared that since the entire world is focused on COVID-19, what would be the present and future of those cases which are polio-related especially in Pakistan where social distancing cannot help them. He foresaw and analysed that other kinds of viral and infectious diseases can also increase and for those there must be some autonomous forum headed by Supreme Court to overlook the research as well the crisis at hand and followed by the future possible scenarios as to how to cope up with such calamities.

Another issue he pointed out was that Pakistan is facing a dilemma of data starvation especially in Karachi where 45 per cent of settlements have gone unnoticed. The data should be collected and it must inform our policies. He concluded by saying that we must have contingency based red teams to prepare the emergency plans for calamities of this sort. And for the said reason, we also would have to alter our decision making process.

Aisha Saeed was the third speaker. She is an independent analyst and features editor at Academia Magazine. She stated that 91.3 per cent of the world is affected by coronavirus with 188 countries facing a health emergency and in this case it is pertinent to discuss the future of education and how it will look like. The world will and the world has moved towards the concept of e-learning or online education. The government as well the educationists are also trying to cope up with it. These days it is comfortable attaining the learning and education via online platforms. The universities have also gone online, however, in the developing countries there are certain issues with the facilities of internet altogether. In that case she argued that education can also be imparted through TV and radio channels as it was the case during the outbreak of Ebola virus. On the other hand, corona pandemic has also exposed the facilities related to education and more so about online education. China can be best cited here as an example for providing online education. There was also some taboo attached with online learning especially in Pakistan where Virtual University is made solely on the same premise of imparting education through online technologies. This has also faded away as other universities in this crisis have come to adopt the same mechanism. So yes, as a result of such crisis, the digitalisation’s time has come sooner than later and we might see that universities would exist, but will operationalise from here onwards with additional technological infrastructure as well, may it be internet infrastructure or the laptops and smart phones with students. She raised a question that even in the current time; the universities are imparting education via online platforms but what about those remote regions of the country where people have no access to internet, let alone the sophisticated technologies like phones and laptops.

In short, corona has exposed the education system in Pakistan as well. More so, the universities and students alike were not prepared for such an over haul and moving towards e-learning. Some students are still struggling with it and we have also seen that some students boycott the online learning mechanism altogether for they were not used to it in the first instance. However, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan is working on it in addition to the provincial authorities but they must be cognizant of the fact that there is no alternative in the long run other than online education. We close the universities as a result of lockdown but we did not learn anything from it.

The CSCR’s Assistant Editor Hamraz Ahmed was the fourth and last speaker of the webinar. He started his talk by saying that times will truly reveal the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on globalisation. He said that travel bans and suspension of flight operations are causing distress for airline companies, denting international mobility. Moreover, he said that the effects of the pandemic are so drastic that they are altering the operational activities of neo-liberal institutions-led political systems.

On state control, he said that the current situation necessitates greater state role. This can put severe strains on state systems making the states shift their focus to sectors that have emerged important in the post-pandemic environment. Projecting about the post COVID-19 world, he said that the world might see the emergence of shorter supply chains, expanding over regions only. States can have the option to rule mass movements out completely on the premises of health insecurity.

He concluded by saying that increasing state role and eroding global connectivity is paving the way for the adoption of nationalised approaches by the states.

The Q&A session was followed by Hamraz Ahmed’s talk. The CSCR’s Research Coordinator Fahad Nabeel asked Aisha Saeed that do you think that reliance on online education will reinforce the educational divide already existing in the country in terms of access to quality education. To which Aisha Saeed deliberated that she agrees with the question being put forth. She stated that there will be more divide in the education sector as well. Currently, we have many forms of the education system in Pakistan. For private schools the curriculum is different, for the public sector it is different and then there are madrassas which have their own curricula. This pandemic has indeed exposed the gaps and loopholes in the education sector of Pakistan. So what to do about it will be up to the government to decide.

The other question was put forth by the CSCR’s Research Assistant Rida Anwar. She asked that as coronavirus has incentivised and further legitimised the governments to carry on with massive surveillance; can we expect the re-emergence of social issues like racism and Islamophobia?

Hamraz deliberated on the question in affirmative that xenophobia and racism would re-emerge out of all this chaos and this would not be a new thing for the fact as the world is already witnessing anti-immigrant and nativist policies and this trend is popping all across the world. Hassan Zaheer while replying to the same question said that corona pandemic will enforce such notions which would eventually lead towards non-democratic ideas.

The closing remarks were given by the Director Academics Talha Ibrahim. He stated that there were seven takeaways from this webinar for our respective audiences.

  1. He stated that this pandemic will render the collapse of democratic ideals across the world.
  2. The world from now on would be more focused on R&D and digitalisation in terms of funding and allocation of resources.
  3. We have to proactively manage the dynamics of fear production.
  4. The data would play a decisive role in the decision-making process which means that we would be in a dire need of empiricism.
  5. The education sector should readjust itself with the contours of online learning.
  6. There will be the emergence of globalisation with a nationalistic outlook.
  7. The supply chains will get shorter and narrow down.

At the end, he thanked all the speakers and participants.


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