In a sign that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is mounting in Pakistan, two more lawmakers succumbed to COVID-19 on June 3.
Mian Jamshid Uddin Kakakhel, 65, a member of the provincial parliament in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, became the fifth lawmaker to die of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He died days after testing positive for the coronavirus and his admission to an intensive care unit at a hospital in the capital, Islamabad.
The same day Shaukat Manzoor Cheema, a provincial lawmaker in the eastern province of Punjab, also died of the virus. “[He] was a cancer survivor and had other complex health issues as well,” Bilal Farooq Tarar, his colleague from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, wrote on Twitter. "His condition had significantly improved a few days back ... he was taken off the vent,” he added. “Deteriorated all of a sudden today."
A day earlier, another provincial lawmaker died of COVID-19. Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, provincial minister for human settlement, died of the coronavirus in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province.
"Baloch died due to the coronavirus. He was a brave and diligent member of the PPP,” Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, the most senior elected official in the province, said in a June 3 statement while referring to his Pakistan Peoples Party by its acronym. “It will be a difficult task to replace him."
Also, on June 2, family sources said Haji Munir Orakzai, 61, a member of the National Assembly or lower house of the federal parliament, died of cardiac arrest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s western Kurram district. He had apparently recovered from COVID-19 in early May.
On May 20, two other provincial lawmakers died of COVID-19. Shaheen Raza, 60, a member of the provincial assembly in Punjab, died at a hospital in the capital, Lahore. Like Kakakhel, she was a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf political party.
The same day Syed Fazal Agha, a member of the provincial legislature in the southwestern province of Balochistan, died at a Karachi hospital. He was also a former provincial governor of Balochistan.
The lawmakers’ deaths came amid a mounting death toll and rising infection rates in the country of 220 million people.
On June 2, Pakistan recorded 4,131 new coronavirus infections -- the highest single-day increase since the country witnessed its first cases in late February. At least 67 people died of the coronavirus on the same day, which took the total death toll from COVID-19 to over 1,650. Pakistan has so far recorded more than 80,000 cases.
Critics blame Islamabad’s bungled and seemingly contradictory approach to containing the coronavirus pandemic for mounting infections and deaths. Opposition politicians and independent commentators blame Prime Minister Imran Khan for easing the lockdown last month at a time when more robust steps were needed to contain the spread of the virus.
The government, however, says it is doing its best to contain the virus. “PM Imran Khan urged the nation to act responsibly and maintain the SOPs [standard operating procedures] given by the state in order to combat the spread of COVID-19,” a June 2 tweet by the prime minister’s office said.