As Pakistan goes into a countrywide lockdown to contain the coronavirus, police are finding new ways to punish violators – including with squats and stress positions – but residents are torn on whether the penalties go too far.
In a series of videos and images shared across social media on Monday, police in Karachi could be seen disciplining those caught violating the far-reaching travel restrictions, forcing them to perform squat-like exercises and to stand in painful and embarrassing stress positions – which some netizens dubbed a “rooster” stance.
While a number of commenters weighed in with praise for the officers’ strict enforcement of the lockdown, arguing many were not taking the coronavirus outbreak seriously enough, some were outraged over the punishments doled out.
“Though some may test their patience, Karachi Police needs to understand that it’s a lockdown not a curfew you can’t go punishing people!” one critic said. “Instead of being violent, you need to educate them to stay indoors.”
Others took no issue with the odd new penalties, but voiced concern that the lockdown violators were being made to stand too closely together, cutting against the advice of health authorities to keep several feet of distance from others as a precaution to avoid spreading the disease.
“First of all it’s a great initiative taken by the government of Sindh to lockdown Karachi but police and rangers … are punishing people by making them stand with one another. What if someone is already infected?” one commenter asked.
The dispute over police tactics comes as Pakistan implements sweeping containment measures to stem the fast-spreading illness, which has infected more than 870 in the country since February, killing six. A heavy police and military presence could be seen across a number of cities – Karachi in particular – including scores of armored vehicles and rifle-toting soldiers patrolling the streets.
Worldwide, the coronavirus has spread to 378,000 people in more than 160 countries, with nearly 16,500 fatalities reported. While the outbreak has largely subsided in its original epicenter in China, new hotspots have since taken hold in Europe, the Americas and other regions of Asia, infecting tens of thousands daily and pushing some healthcare systems to their breaking point.