THE death toll and the number of injured keep rising. As harsh winter conditions grip much of the country — particularly Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Balochistan, and parts of Punjab — the government has ordered immediate humanitarian assistance for the affected. And yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid a visit to patients at the CMH in Muzaffarabad, calling for relief efforts “on an emergency footing”. Over the past few days, the region has been ravaged by deadly avalanches and landslides that were triggered by unexpected rainfall, leading to the closure of several important routes in AJK and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. AJK has recorded the highest number of fatalities so far. It is followed by the resource-rich yet perennially poor province of Balochistan, which has been enveloped in a thick blanket of snow. With no let-up in the crisis, the total number of deaths has crossed 100. Meanwhile, the present state of gas shortage in the country has meant that many families cannot operate heaters and geysers inside their homes, and continue to remain at the mercy of the elements.
Experts consider such extreme winters to be yet another feature of the global warming crisis. Pakistan sits uncomfortably in the position of the fifth most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change — despite producing less than 1pc of the total greenhouse gas emissions. About a decade ago, the country was devastated by a series of floods which led to approximately 2,000 deaths, while millions of others were displaced from their homes. In more recent years, it has witnessed droughts in its southern parts, which have suffered from severe water shortages. The present government seems to understand the seriousness of the issue well. After all, in his first address to the nation as the newly elected prime minister in 2018, Prime Minister Khan listed the environment as part of his 11-point agenda. That same year, he launched his ambitious ‘10-billion-tree tsunami’ to counter climate change. And last year, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, he brought up the threat of climate change once again — this time on the global stage. Despite saying all the right things, however, it remains to be seen what large-scale measures are being taken on the ground to reverse the damage already done. Furthermore, if such extreme weather is to become the norm, there has to be better preparedness in order to avert future disasters.
When the world leaders came together to sign the Paris Agreement in 2015, it was decided that responsibility for climate change rested with all the countries. And yet, a handful of leaders of the world’s most powerful nations continue to deny the reality of climate change, despite all the evidence around them, and insist on the old ways of doing business. History will not forgive them and climate-related tragedies will continue to strike.
JUST when political observers thought that PTI maverick Faisal Vawda could not pull another rabbit out of his hat, he pulled out a boot instead. Then he placed it on the table, live on TV.
As if this weren’t enough, he declared that the PML-N and PPP — whose representatives were sitting next to him in the studio — were licking this boot. The military-style boot stayed put on the table, as did Mr Vawda and the show host in the studio. The opposition guests, however, did not. They walked off the set in disgust. By his theatrics, Mr Vawda embarrassed the guests, the host, his party, politicians in general, the military and ordinary citizens. The only person he did not embarrass, apparently, was himself.
Mr Vawda is no stranger to controversy.
When he is not driving fast cars or riding big bikes, he is threatening to hang a few thousand people or promising more jobs than Pakistanis can handle.
He also likes to stuff a weapon in his belt, don a flak jacket and rush to the scene of a terror attack in case his services are required. Thankfully, so far that stage has not been reached. But a new line in the public display of political crudeness has certainly been crossed.
By placing the boot on the table, Mr Vawda not only ridiculed the institution of the military, he humiliated all political parties, including the one he expresses loyalty to. He may have intended to make fun of the opposition but ended up reinforcing perceptions about the PTI’s own weak political credentials. His taunting was misplaced and mistimed.
It is true that the spirit of cooperation that moved bickering parties in parliament to sign into law the process of extending the tenure of military chiefs has been questioned — and justifiably so. But politicians can at least avail themselves of the momentum and work together on other public-oriented legislation.
The zero-sum attitude displayed by Mr Vawda, if allowed to run amok, will wreck all prospects of democracy’s return to normal functioning.
Opposition leaders have rightly heaped criticism on Mr Vawda’s crude theatrics. The PTI leadership should do the same.
Saner heads should have a quiet but firm word with Mr Vawda and explain to him how his attempts at cheap popularity are damaging political stability in the country.
Perhaps it is time Mr Vawda zipped up his embarrassing rhetoric, laced up his misplaced exuberance and tied up his oversized ego. The country would be all the better for it.
THE Bangladesh cricket team’s tour of Pakistan has finally been confirmed. This is a fabulous piece of news for Pakistan cricket — that celebrated the revival of Test cricket with a short series against Sri Lanka last month — and for the millions of home fans who had yearned for top-level international cricket to return to the country. The fate of the Bangladesh series hung in the balance for some time as the BCB had expressed its reservations about their team touring Pakistan for a longer period and had insisted upon playing three T20s instead of the two-Test series that was originally proposed by its Pakistani counterpart. However, all is well that ends well, and Bangladesh has now agreed to tour Pakistan in three phases. They will be playing three T20 games this month, a Test match in early February and another Test and an ODI in April after the Pakistan Super League is over. The agreement to this effect was reached during a crucial meeting held in Dubai on Tuesday between PCB chairman Ehsan Mani and BCB president Nazmul Hasan. It is significant to note that the meeting was facilitated by the ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, which is a clear indication that the world cricket governing body is now convinced about the improved cricket-playing environment in Pakistan and has unequivocally put its weight behind the PCB to host foreign teams.
Besides, the incident-free Test series against Sri Lanka at home last month has buoyed the PCB’s hopes and bolstered its confidence to negotiate home tours with fellow cricket boards from a position of strength. The good offices used in persuading the BCB to agree to the series and the PCB’s unrelenting stance of ruling out the neutral venue option for the matches have also worked in this country’s favour. Pakistan, in all likelihood, will have the upper hand in the two Tests against Bangladesh which may also substantially improve their position in the ongoing ICC Test Championship. So it is, indeed, a win-win situation for the hosts.