Over three months have passed since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government announced Corona Relief Tiger Force (CRTF) to help government cope with the COVID-19 outbreak and other social challenges caused by the contagion. However, a huge difference between the federal government’s claims and the actual performance of the CRTF has made the Tiger Force controversial.
The Prime Minister Imran Khan had formally announced the formation of CRTF on March 31 in such circumstances when the country was passing through complete lockdown. According to the statements of PM, the CRTF was formed to help the government fight Covid-19 across the country.
Right after the formation of CRTF, the Chief of the Tiger Force and Special Assistant to PM on Youth Affairs Usman Dar announced the registration of the CRTF until April 10.
Meanwhile, by the mid of April, while giving statistics, Mr Dar said that around one million people had registered themselves for the CRTF that included doctors, engineers, lawyers, retired army personnel and others. Giving the break-up, he said more than 300,000 students, 133,000 social workers, 50,000 doctors, 40,000 teachers and 17,000 health workers had registered themselves to render their volunteer services for the country in the wake of pandemic.
According to the data available on different websites, the highest number i.e 619,000 volunteers have registered themselves as CRTF members in Punjab, followed by over 154,000 in Sindh, 135,000 in KP, nearly 14,000 in Balochistan, 13,800 in Islamabad, 11,300 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 5,800 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
However, after the formation of the Tiger Force many questions were raised about the specific responsibilities of the CRTF, as apparently it was lacking any particular roadmap and formal strategy, which has created doubts about the status of the Tiger Force.
It must be noted that the Tiger Force was formed by the government and responsibilities assigned to them included provision of food to the needy people, helping the security forces and district administrations, assist health experts in arranging the funeral prayers and burials of the Covid-19 victims and convincing the masses to adopt the SOPs while visiting the mosques.
However, according to the short survey conducted by Voice of KP, very few activities of the Tiger Force were witnessed in any of the mosques and markets across the country, particularly in KP province. Moreover, serving the quarantine centres across the country and launching awareness campaigns regarding the threat of Covid19 were among the important duties assigned to the Tiger Force by PM himself; however, survey conducted by Voice of KP in different quarantine centres in Mardan, Swat, and Swabi found that none of the Tiger Force member were serving the quarantine centres and awareness campaigns were yet to be conducted by the force.
While talking to the Voice of KP, a member of Tiger Force hailing from Mardan without disclosing his name stated that they were ready for serving the nation without any personal interests, but response of the government and non-serious attitude of the senior management of the CRTF proved that joining the force was mere wastage of time.
He stated that there were thousands of members registered in the CRTF, but very few of them were performing their duties in different places and the reason behind the lack of interest was absence of any proper road map and inconsistency in policies and decisions of the government regarding the Tiger Force.
Besides the criticism on CRTF within the party, many other political parties and journalistic quarters have also greatly criticized the PTI Tiger Force and have termed it a political gimmick and a strategy of PTI to secure its vote among the youths of the country.
Meanwhile, many senior journalists including Saleem Safi has suggested that the ruling PTI should have used existing and immediate government and non-government networks in relief efforts while observing implementation of SOPs rather than announcing a parallel force like the CRTF.
Many other political experts believe that the government should have restored the local governments in the provinces instead of forming the Tiger Force as it would take a very long time to train the force and equip them with necessary skills about how to deal with such tough situations.