In statistics if not in cricket, India tends to trump its perennial rival Pakistan. It is four times larger in area, seven times in population and ten times in gdp. Yet in the dismal realm of covid-19, bigger numbers are nothing to boast of. According to both countries’ official tallies, every week of the past month has claimed more Indian lives than the entire nine months of the pandemic have in Pakistan—some 6,500.
Whereas India’s burden is still rising by 70,000 new cases a day, Pakistan’s caseload seems to have peaked three months ago. Its daily total of new cases has remained in the mere hundreds since early August. India’s economy has also fared far worse. The Asian Development Bank predicts that its gdp will shrink by fully 9% in the current fiscal year, compared with a contraction of 0.4% for Pakistan.
“We have not only managed to control the virus, stabilise our economy, but most importantly, we have been able to protect the poorest segment of our society from the worst fallouts of the lockdown,” crowed Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, in a recent video address to the un General Assembly. Meanwhile, ordinary Pakistanis are doffing masks and disregarding social-distance rules. “I didn’t fall sick and neither did anyone I know,” declares Irfanullah Khan, a grocer in Islamabad’s Najam market. “Now it’s over.”