Daily Times Editorial 2 October 2019

Change of guard in diplomatic corridors


Within a day after returning from the weeklong tour of the US, Prime Minister Imran Khan has brought in seasoned diplomat Munir Akram as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in place of Dr Maleeha Lodhi. The new nominee is a good choice with an impeccable diplomatic career but the abrupt manners in which Dr Lodhi was shown the door begs many questions. This does not seem to be a normal transition. By all means, the tour of the prime minister to the US was well managed, for which the credit goes to Dr Lodhi as well as the diplomatic mission in the US. One of the federal ministers, Fawad Chaudhry, even congratulated Dr Lodhi on her efforts to make prime minister’s tour a great success. Everything was normal until the reshuffle order. Dr Lodhi, however, rejected the impression that she was sacked. She tweeted: “It has been an honour to serve the country and am grateful for the opportunity to do so for over four years. Representing Pakistan at the world’s most important multilateral forum was a great privilege. I had planned to move on after UNGA following a successful visit by the PM”. With this, she wished success to her successor.
No one is indispensable, and neither is Dr Lodhi. Though not a career diplomat, she, however, has served the country on diplomatic fronts with integrity and dexterity. She bid adieu to her journalism career in 1993 when then prime minister Benazir Bhutto appointed her ambassador to the US. After two years, she came back to the same position in 1999 and remained there till 2002 and later moved to the UK to be high commissioner till 2008. In 2015, she was assigned the UN Representative post until 2019.
The government needs to explain the circumstances under which such an abrupt change had to be made. In the field of diplomacy, every single move is keenly observed across the world. Some hostile camps may see this change of guard as a sign of weakness of Pakistan, while many are calling it a routine shuffle. The measure taken in calm and professional manners exude the vibes of confidence. Our ranks of diplomats need confidence and full support of the government as well as the public. *


Pakistan without plastic


The Punjab government has stepped into the era of no-plastic a couple of days ahead of Sindh and six weeks after Islamabad. Now, the Sindh chief minister has also enforced a complete ban on manufacture, sale, purchase and use of non-degradable plastic bags of all sizes. With the ban enforced, many points in Sindh and Punjab saw the sale of cloth bags and oxo-biodegradable plastic/shopping bags of different sizes. In Lahore, the authorities swung into action against shopkeepers and small time vendors selling items in shopping bags. They were in fact caught off guard as the campaign was not as well advertised as it merited. Such occasional raids, however, sent stern warnings to violators as well as the public at large about the ban.
With Sindh, Punjab and the capital territory in a campaign against single-use plastic bags, hopefully other parts of Pakistan will also join. This campaign is more needed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan than other parts because of the presence of tourism driven plastic trash there. One such hearty development from Hunza did not receive the appreciation it deserved where the local council, with the active cooperation of the public, enforced a ban on plastic bags in the entire region. The governments of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan should take a leaf out of Hunza’s book and start a war on plastic.
A lot will have to be done to make the campaign successful. But it will not be out of place to give credit for the launch of the anti-plastic campaign to the ministry of climate change, which initiated the ban from Islamabad from August 14 this year, making selling and using single-use plastic bags an offence punishable with a fine. Plastic bags have been regarded among world’s worst inventions that damage the environment. Islamabad’s natural beauty has been damaged to a great
extent by the unchecked use of such bags. In Islamabad alone, two million residents would consume three to four plastic bags every day. Not anymore.
The public at large should be warned: under the law, the manufacturers of single-use plastic bags will be fined between Rs 100,000 and Rs 500,000. Similarly, strict punishment for the bags users is in place. *

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