Letters To The Editor

“If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

The effect of penalties over non-compliance of mask wearing

Pakistan is under a new coronavirus regime – one in which smart lockdowns are being imposed yet again. That also means there is a new set of penalties for those who break the rules, for example, by not wearing a mask. Compliance with coronavirus rules has been decreasing over time, which is expected. To combat this, the government has inflicted fines over non-compliance of mask wearing. Recently, an FIR was also logged against a man for not wearing a mask in Lahore for the first time. But the question is, will it work? I believe that it can work to some extent but not entirely. To see why simply increasing fines may not be the best way to change behaviour, let us follow the literature and distinguish between two aspects of compliance: Voluntary compliance is where we follow the rules even in the absence of enforcement mechanisms. This represents a high degree of cooperation and is the level of compliance that governments typically aim for. Whereas enforced compliance is when we comply with a rule solely to avoid fines. Enforced compliance typically increases adherence to only those rules that are observable and enforceable which means people might only wear a mask at a store but not wash hands at home. So, this represents a low degree of cooperation. In the situation of limitation of vaccines, voluntary compliance remains our best defense against covid-19. Yet recent rise in cases and the carefree attitude of Pakistanis show that there is a lot more that needs to be done to get people on board. Fines for failing to follow the rules may bring some people into line for fear of being found out. But to really get everyone involved in preventing coronavirus by washing hands, physically distancing and wearing masks, the government needs to communicate better and try to restore trust.

Ali Rizwan,

Respecting each other’s beliefs and cultural practices

Tolerance, a word commonly used to respect and accept other cultures, is a very important concept when it comes to inviting people of different beliefs, ethnicities, races and nationalities to coexist. But what is tolerance and why is it so important? Generally speaking, tolerance is the recognition of the universal human rights and freedoms of others, and it is not a passive concept. Tolerance does not equate to indifference or indulgence. Instead, it is a freely given acceptance of the differences of others, and it is the recognition of the value of those differences without judgment. In other words, it is a respect of diversity, and many believe that it is also the very virtue that makes peace possible. In Pakistan, a country with multireligious and multi-ethnic communities, tolerance is very important. It is essential to bring the people together with a view to contributing to the prosperity of the nation. Religious beliefs, which are the source of moral and ethical fundamentals in society, must be duly respected through mutual tolerance. Islam emphasises that its followers be considerate and tolerant of others, and this includes non-Muslims. Non-Muslims are required to have a strong sense of tolerance for the Muslim community, in the same manner as Islam requires Muslims to tolerate them. Recently, the Hindu festival of colour – Holi was celebrated and the Muslim people that took part in the festival were bashed by religious groups. Now some people might agree to this while other might oppose it. But what I believe is whether you’re celebrating a Hindu festival just out of courtesy and to promote goodwill or no, respecting each other’s beliefs and cultural practices is what really matters. That’s why one should always promote the principle of good behaviour, which encompasses the duty to be considerate of others, and not to make fun of others’ religious beliefs and cultural practices.

Mehak Nadeem,