Daily Times Editorial 16 September 2019

The raging fires of Abqaiq


The Middle East has become a theatre of war while the world sits back and watches. The latest bad news from the region is a major drone attack on two facilities of Aramco, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)’s largest oil company. The attack started horrible fires at Abqaiq, the company’s biggest oil processing unit.
The company has, however, reported no causalities and the Kingdom’s official news agency says that the fires have been put out, which is an encouraging sign. Though the facility has a capacity to process seven percent of the world’s oil, the less worrying factor is that the attack happened at a time when the global market is already sluggish with diminishing demand. However, since the attack happened on the weekend, there are no credible estimates about the impact that this attack may potentially have on international prices.
Earlier in 2006, Al Qaeda made an abortive attempt to hit this facility by its suicide bombers but failed. This time, however, Houthis rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that they used 10 drones in it and threatened more in the future. For several years now, KSA-led coalition aircrafts have been dropping bombs on towns and cities of Yemen which has resulted in tens of thousands of human deaths. Situation on the ground is so bad that the UN has calls it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. On these grounds, the rebels try to justify their strike on the Aramco facility, claiming the right to react.
As expected the US accused Iran of this attack. The Kingdom is holding its cards close to its chest, which means the region must brace for a storm that is hidden behind this silence.
The rebels too have made their calculations well before launching this mega offensive and it is feared that any strong reaction will go in their favour as they intend to bring this war inside the Saudi territory.
If they succeed, ripples of unrest from this region will beset the entire world. The war has been raging for years but no meaningful attempt has ever been made to settle it other than sporadic UN resolutions. The world leaders should understand that if they continue sitting back, the situation can slip out of their hands so they must stand now and stop it. *



Issue ‘A’ class, solution ‘third’ class

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government seems to intentionally forget the tested principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ when it deals with its political opponents. It says it has decided to stop providing ‘A class’ facilities in jails to those facing charges of mega corruption. Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem said this at a press conference in the presence of Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Law Minister Sultan Mohammad Khan. One may link the announcement to the demands of former president Asif Zardari and PML-N leaders Maryam Nawaz and Rana Sanaullah regarding the provision of certain facilities to them in jail and National Accountability Bureau custody. Moreover, several other political leaders and top businessmen are also in the custody of NAB on corruption charges. The announcement is also in pursuance of the prime minister’s long time desire to deprive Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif of air-conditioners and abolition of ‘A’ class for prisoners.
At a time when government functionaries have started talking of loopholes in the NAO of 1999, the announcement of mere abolishing ‘A’ class for prisoners will just be taken as exhibition of political vendetta. Already armed with unquestionable powers, NAB authorities can apprehend anyone even at the stage of inquiry, and keep them behind bars for months. We have seen several people arrested by NAB and kept on physical and judicial remands for months and reference trials for years only to be later acquitted. The years of troubles leave a telling impact on the people.
The government had better introduce reforms in NAO for the curtailment of corruption from the country. Corruption is an established issue but efforts to check it become questionable when the watchdog itself follows corrupt practices at the behest of the government of the day. Recently, Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa also pointed towards the widely held belief and said, “We, as a relevant organ of the state, also feel the growing perception that the process of accountability being pursued in the country at present is lopsided and is a part of political engineering …”
The government should demonstrate ‘A’ class maturity instead of simply depriving prisoners of ‘A’ class facilities in jail. *



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