PM’s China visit
THE high-level visit to China by the top political and military leadership of Pakistan has yielded some positive movement in this country’s attempts to draw international attention to the atrocities being perpetrated by New Delhi in India-held Kashmir. The joint statement released at the conclusion of the visit mentioned the Kashmir dispute as well as the UN resolutions, which is an advance on previous such statements. There is room for Beijing to build on this, since there is an overlap in the concerns of Pakistan and China regarding the arbitrary change of status of IHK that is internationally recognised as part of a disputed territory. In fact, the statement leaves the door open for further diplomatic action as it says that “China is paying close attention to the current situation in Jammu & Kashmir and [the Chinese side] reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements”. China, the statement says, is opposed to “any unilateral actions that complicate the situation”. Hopefully, Beijing will highlight the same concerns at the summit in Mammallapuram between China and India that begins today, and call for the matter to be resolved either within or with the assistance of the United Nations.
Pakistan renewed its commitment to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at the meetings, and presented the promulgation of an ordinance creating the CPEC Authority as a sign of its intention to fast-track the building of the corridor. The second phase of CPEC, which envisages the inflow of vast Chinese investments from the private sector into Pakistan, has been stuck for almost two years now. Progress is also at a standstill on an agreement on financing arrangements for the main railway upgradation project known as ML-1, the multibillion-dollar project that is supposed to upgrade the main line of the railway system from Peshawar to Karachi, enabling the high-speed movement of passengers and cargo. There was also an agreement between both sides to move ahead with the second free trade agreement. So it seems that the overall framework of China-Pakistan cooperation in the 21st century, which includes the corridor, the FTA and security cooperation has received a boost from the meeting, and one hopes that the government here seizes the opportunity.
The statement shows that the government may well have renewed Pakistan’s commitment to this overall framework, but does not seem to have brought any new elements of its own to the table. If all this is agreed on, one is left wondering why there has been so little progress in the past one year, given that these same elements have been emphasised in the statement released after the December Joint Cooperation Committee meeting in Beijing. If the government is serious, we should now see material progress on the ground.
Gift of life
FOR a nation that prides itself on its charitable instincts, Pakistanis are very niggardly about pledging their organs to save the lives of people experiencing end-stage organ failure. Last week, an event held by the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in Karachi put a human face to these patients’ suffering. Several of them, mostly young people living with renal failure, spoke about their despair at the non-availability of organs for transplantation and the cost to them in terms of their career plans and the impact on their families. Their stories may have differed in the details, but they all sprang from, quite simply, the very human desire to live. Certainly, dialysis does give kidney failure patients a fighting chance, but the procedure takes a steep toll in terms of quality of life and employment prospects.
SIUT, along with some segments of civil society, has been at the vanguard of a countrywide campaign to raise awareness about deceased organ donation through talks, seminars, public service advertisements, etc. The need for such a drive is clear: around 200,000 individuals die from organ failure each year in this country, including approximately 20,000 from renal failure — but until now there have been only seven transplants with the help of deceased organ donations. Despite all efforts, only 15,000 people in Pakistan have thus far registered as organ donors. Given that organs can only be harvested in specific circumstances — an individual being certified as brain dead while on life support, which keeps oxygen flowing to the organs — this number is nowhere near enough to make a real dent. Practical measures, such as more ventilators in hospitals, the subject of cadaveric donations being made an integral part of medical curricula, etc, are vital. The unavailability of living donors in the patients’ family, compounded by the lack of deceased organ donors, also fuels the illegal business of vended organs, and Pakistan has only quite recently shed its global reputation as a thriving bazaar for this practice. In order for this campaign to get some wind in its sails, it must be accorded due importance at the highest levels of government. After all, the health burden, not to mention lost working days on account of end-stage organ failure, is enormous. Top state officials, including the president and the prime minister — with his celebrity status — amongst others, should sign up as organ donors and encourage others to follow suit.
OVER the past few years, the law-and-order situation in Karachi appears to have improved drastically. When compared to its blood-soaked past, Pakistan’s economic powerhouse is now deemed a much safer and more livable city. Violence had become intertwined with the city’s identity, and most of its young residents had grown up only witnessing rampant terrorism, sectarianism, kidnappings, robberies and extortion, as powerful and often politically backed criminals operated with impunity on the city’s streets. But despite some improvements, the challenges regarding law enforcement, extremism and rising inequality are far from over. More worryingly, certain crimes seem to be on the rise again. Just last month, according to new data released by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, 18 people were murdered across the city in targeted killings or during armed robberies. Other crimes recorded in September include one case of kidnapping for ransom and three instances of extortion. In the same period, 163 vehicles were stolen, out of which 26 were snatched at gunpoint. Meanwhile, 2,806 motorcycles were reported as stolen, including 147 that were taken through armed encounters.
The violence has continued into the next month, which suggests that criminal elements are resurging. Just last week, a PTI worker named Muhammad Asif was killed as he was heading home from a mosque in Azizabad, when armed assailants fired upon him. Towards the end of the previous year, prominent MQM politician Ali Raza Abidi was shot dead inside his car as he tried to enter his house in Karachi’s Defence area. This was then followed by a spate of killings that targeted members of minority communities and various professionals. Such news reports will undoubtedly bring back a sense of unease to the residents of Karachi, who had started welcoming the ‘normalcy’ that other cities are accustomed to, as memories of the not-too-distant past return. The government and the law-enforcement authorities must ensure the city does not slip back into its old ways.