Daily Times Editorial 6 December 2019

In-house change?


The idea floated by Pakistan Muslim League-N President Shahbaz Sharif about an in-house change – changing the government through a no-confidence move – is very much along the constitutional lines, but it is fraught with perils for both the people and the country. Calling Prime Minister Imran Khan a burden on the country, Sharif said that getting rid of the government was a better choice for “national interests”. The new stance of Sharif is a deviation from the earlier stand of the opposition which was calling for fresh elections. The demand has, however, fallen on deaf ears as the saga would have brought us back to the 1990s when no government was allowed to complete its term, thanks to the draconian Article 58 (2-B). The 18th Amendment made the Zia-era amendment history only to make possible the continuity of government for strengthening democracy. That changed the whole scenario as the Pakistan Peoples’ Party government completed its 2008-13 term; their successor also remained in government till the last day of the period despite several unconstitutional and illegal attempts to remove them. The incumbent government should also be the beneficiary of this positive trend.
True, the government is the product of reluctant coalition partners, but so is the opposition, where sundry enemies of yesterday are now united on a single uniting factor – anti-government. Any attempt to topple the government through a no-confidence move or street agitation will push the country towards uncertainty and economic misery. Moreover, the no-confidence move is likely to open the floodgates of horse trading and forward blocs, reminiscent of the 1990s’. In the era of swing majority, fair-weather parliamentarians make the most of the situation, and it is very unfortunate to note our political parties have still a good number of ready-to-ditch people for the sake money and lucrative slots. The shameful display of horse trading during the no-confidence move against Senate chairman earlier this year is still fresh in our memory.
The change in the opposition leader’s stance on in-house change seems to have stemmed from National Accountability Bureau’s action of freezing Sharif’s and his family’s 23 properties across Pakistan. Earlier, PML-N was blamed for taking a mild stance against the government in the wake of an alleged deal. The party also did not openly support the Maulana Fazl-led Azadi March. The opposition needs to keep pressure on the government for public’s rights.


Woes of Thar


The Sindh government has brought about a visible change in the infrastructure of the Thar region in recent years. The networks of road and water filtration plant have improved connectivity and water supply in the desert region while the Thar coal plant has opened up jobs for the local population. These developments have, however, hardly impacted human development indicators in the region, and a report by the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) paints a dismal picture of schools and hospitals there. The findings of a team which visited the area underscore the need for special attention towards the education and health sectors. The team brought forth issues like extraction of granite from Karoonjhar Hills and increasing suicides among local women. The mineral-rich area, otherwise, remains in the news for high child mortality rate, which has been brought down due to the efforts of the Sindh government. The commission, however, says the issue of child mortality in the desert region needs in-depth investigation.
Where there are mines and minerals, controversies follow and Thar is no exception. The unchecked extraction of granite from the Karoonjhar Hills and other minerals from the Nagraparkar area not only threatens the local ecosystem but also risks the elimination of local heritage and culture. The commission noted that though the extraction of granite has stopped now, the government should come up with a comprehensive policy so local culture is preserved. The absence of regulations has affected the people and in a few cases, children have fallen to death in deep pits left unattended after mining. Also, heightened mining activity has not brought many jobs and other economic opportunities to the local population. SHRC Chairperson retired Justice Majida Rizvi said they heard from the local labourers that they were mostly ignored in jobs and those hired were not paid government-approved wages. Such disparities will drive a wedge between the local population and mining companies. The Sindh Labour Department should intervene and address the issue. The commission noted that families of the 26 deceased (who died from lightning last month) still awaited the delivery of the promised compensation. Soon after the natural calamity, a group of provincial ministers visited the families and promised them financial aid. It seems the visit was just meant for a photo-op rather than addressing the problem of the grieving families.
The government also needs to study social and emotional behaviours of the people as several suicides, by young girls, children and even couples, have been reported in the region. Thar is the gem of the country because of its rich mines, diversity and interfaith harmony. It is time to improve its social indicators.

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