Daily Times Editorial 10 October 2019

In the world of ‘no free lunches’

 

Neither hunger can be eradicated by feeding the hungry, nor can corruption be combated by putting in 500 people in jail.
The prime minister has initiated a soup kitchen scheme in Islamabad to be extended across the country to provide free meals to deserving people in a respectful manner. The step is praiseworthy but such soup kitchens, mostly on the patterns of primitive monarchic style, are not an appropriate response to the needs of the people. The best way to feed them is through creating jobs and cutting the inflation rate, and that can only be realised when the economy rebounds and strict but effective fiscal policies are followed. The prime minister, however, sees things differently. At the launch of the Kitchen Soup he said, “Ehsaas Langar is a real step towards the creation of a welfare state like Madina. This is our government’s top priority that nobody sleeps hungry in Pakistan.” He should be reminded that such handouts are not the real step towards the creation of a welfare state; they are but palliative steps. The good thing, however, is that the prime minister is mindful of the restlessness among the people because of the poor fiscal outlook. He wants the people to be patient and less critical of the government’s 13-month progress. Of course, people’s patience is waning, but the government’s long-term policies, which are sure to put the country on the right track, need to be advertised and conveyed to the people. The problem is with the communication strategy, not with the government’s policies. Blaming past governments for every ill can be a good election strategy, but not much more.
Also, Prime Minister Khan has announced his desire to put 500 corrupt people in Pakistan behind bars on the pattern of Chinese President Xi Jinping to purge the country of corruption. The statement reeks of vendetta, and this is not the first time the prime minister has expressed his desire to make an example out of corrupt politicians. The prime minister should ask himself what he has done in the last 13 months to fight corruption. No reforms have been put in place, and no lacunae removed in laws for effective prosecution and speedy trials. Instead, the process of accountability is gaining the impression of political victimisation.
No one can doubt the noble intentions of the prime minister but the government should speed up its policies to reform the economy and make the accountability process real and effective.

 

Battleground Al Qaeda

 

Al Qaeda, which has been out of the news since the capture and killing of its chief, Osama bin Laden in 2011, hit the headlines again lately because its South Asian head Asim Umar was killed in a joint raid by US and Afghan forces. The Afghan Taliban, who have been in talks with the US to strike a peace deal, have denied the news, dubbing it propaganda by “officials of the stooge Kabul administration,” but agencies of Kabul and Washington took weeks to confirm the news, saying that the Al Qaeda chief of the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) was killed on September 23 in a raid on Taliban compound in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province. The middle aged militant leader, picked by Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been leading the outfit since 2014. His head was claimed at the cost of heavy collateral damage. The intense operation, which had US aerial cover, also killed 40 civilians. Besides Asim Umer, five other AQIS members were also killed, including Raihan, the reported courier for Ayaman al-Zawahiri, said Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. There has been no word from Al Qaeda regarding the news.

Asim Umer’s killing has a greater relevance in Pakistan. He is reported to have masterminded the attack on a navy installation in Karachi in 2014. Moreover, he was trying to recruit militants from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar for coordinated attacks in the subcontinent.

The decline of Al Qaeda is a good sign. The rise of the outfit radicalised the Muslim world, and its influence in Afghanistan in the 90s also fanned the waves of militancy and sectarianism in Pakistan for decades. In a way, Pakistan has been the most impacted country because of the presence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan drew inspiration and initial funding from Al Qaeda. The war on terror, which was the byproduct of Al Qaeda-led 9/11 attack, brought many of its leaders to Pakistan from Afghanistan. Almost two decades on, the country has been struggling to fight the remnants of Al Qaeda.

The development sheds light on the continued ties of Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the latter had agreed to cut ties with the militant outfit in return for withdrawal of US troops. One may require a high degree of optimism to believe a Taliban-Al Qaeda divorce in the wake of a US-Taliban deal. Similarly, the world needs to pay attention to the phenomenal rise of militant groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban, and now Daesh.
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