Dawn Editorial 16 January 2021

British MP on IHK

DESPITE sustained efforts by New Delhi’s rulers to remove India-held Kashmir from the global discourse, people of conscience everywhere are discussing the situation in the occupied region, particularly after the Indian government made its controversial move to strip IHK of its autonomy in August 2019.
One of the most eloquent statements in defence of the Kashmiri people of late has come from the UK, where Labour MP Sarah Owen made a strong speech to highlight IHK’s plight in Westminster Hall. The lawmaker from Luton North raised arguments that demolish India’s dubious claim of being the world’s largest democracy. As Ms Owen rightly pointed out, the lockdown in occupied Kashmir is about “control”, while also mentioning disturbing reports of Kashmiri women and girls being raped.
Questioning her own government, which often raises issues of women’s rights, the MP asked if London’s “actions match the rhetoric”, with reference to held Kashmir. Moreover, discussing alleged mistreatment of Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang area, which the UK has criticised unambiguously, Ms Owen asked her government if it would take a similar stance on Kashmir.
The British lawmaker deserves kudos for highlighting atrocities in IHK that many other self-proclaimed champions of human rights prefer to remain silent on. India’s slick public relations and media machinery — particularly its more jingoistic private media outlets — often go full throttle to whitewash New Delhi’s dubious deeds in held Kashmir, mostly by trying to tar the Kashmiri freedom movement with the brush of terrorism.
However, the fact is that under India’s brutal siege it is common Kashmiri men, women and children who are suffering. Patients cannot be admitted to hospitals, students are deprived of education while young men live under the constant shadow of death, afraid that they will be termed ‘militants’ and gunned down by India’s military enforcers. Perhaps if more persons in power, particularly in the West, had the courage to call out India for its atrocious behaviour in IHK, New Delhi could be forced to rethink its brutal approach.


Gas liberalisation

AFTER drawing much criticism from both consumers and the opposition over its mismanagement of the energy sector that has resulted in crippling gas shortages this winter and expensive LNG imports, the government appears to have sped up its efforts to liberalise the gas market with the induction of private companies. On Thursday, Ogra permitted two firms to ‘build virtual (gas) pipelines’ to supply imported LNG to large industrial consumers including textile mills and fertiliser plants, power producers, CNG owners and others in or outside the networks of the two state-owned gas utilities. These companies will import their cargo through Gwadar and Karachi before transporting it to customers across the country in bowsers. A couple of days before, the regulator had issued gas marketing licences to two other companies to build their own LNG terminals. Until they complete their terminals, which will not be before at least 2023, these firms will use the excess RLNG handling capacity of the two existing terminals at Port Qasim. Both terminals have a combined capacity of handling 1.3bcfd of LNG with 1.2bcfd of it underwritten by the government, which pays hefty capacity charges to the terminal operators, mostly without utilising the capacity.
By selling its unutilised capacity to private marketing companies, especially during summers when residential gas demand is at its lowest, the government would be able to save a lot of money in capacity payments to terminal operators. That will help it reduce the consumer price of LNG and cut its losses on subsidy at the same time. Besides, the liberalisation of the gas market is expected to encourage competition and boost economic growth by ensuring reliable supplies of energy to industrial and other consumers of imported fuel. The involvement of private parties in the gas sector will make imports cheaper and more efficient, leading to the availability of LNG at competitive prices to customers. Moreover, with the end of state monopoly the loss of good customers may prod public-sector gas firms into becoming efficient and force them to work towards reducing system losses and theft. In view of the expected increase in LNG imports, both terminal operators have already started implementing their plans to enhance their capacity to accommodate private importers as more investors are showing an active interest in setting up new RLNG facilities and/or marketing gas in the country.
Competition is a healthy thing but the induction of the private sector does not automatically guarantee trickledown benefits to consumers. Private importers and marketing companies will be tempted to cartelise or indulge in other such practices to make quick money as in other sectors. Hence, strong regulations and vigilant regulatory bodies are needed to govern the market and protect consumers. Ogra’s failure to streamline the petroleum market and protect consumers underscores the need for urgent regulatory reforms in the oil and gas sector for an efficient and competitive energy market.



Osama Satti inquiry

THE findings of the judicial inquiry into the Jan 2 killing of 21-year-old Osama Satti in Islamabad merely confirms what observers and the victim’s family have been saying all along: Osama Satti was murdered in cold blood by personnel of the Islamabad police on Srinagar Highway. The report states that the level of brute force used by the policemen who shot the young man implies that their intention was to kill, rather than neutralise a threat. “Osama’s body lay on the road while police vehicles surrounded it to keep the matter hidden from the public. Instead of shifting the body to the hospital, the officials kept it on the road. It appears as if they waited for Osama to die,” it states. Contrary to official claims, the report reveals that Satti was killed by police personnel who fired at least 22 times from standing or sitting positions. The report also exposes the extent to which law enforcers went to cover up their colleagues’ brutal actions — from attempting to destroy evidence to giving the wrong address to Rescue 1122 and asking it to return. All this shows that police control was also compromised and ended up abetting the murderers. What is most lamentable, however, is that such revelations do not come as a shock any longer. There is a long list of victims across the country who have paid the ultimate price at the hands of the country’s trigger-happy security people. Only four months ago, in Turbat, a young student, Hayat Baloch, was dragged out from a date farm by FC men, shot and left to die, as a reaction to an IED attack on the security personnels’ vehicle. All this took place in front of his father, who pleaded to no avail that his son had been harvesting dates with him all day. Then there are the families of the more than 400 people killed allegedly by ‘encounter specialist’ Rao Anwar who await justice, as do the families of the innocent passengers targeted by the CTD in Sahiwal.
Though the speedy removal of several police personnel has been described as “encouraging” by Satti’s father, it remains to be seen whether this damning judicial report makes an impact on the overall professionalism of law enforcement officers. Unless such delinquent security personnel are tried and punished for the murders they commit, these brutal excesses will continue to plague the country.

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