Dawn Editorial 2 January 2021

Nursing excellence

IN a refreshing bit of news, eight Pakistani nurses and midwives have been included among the Global-2020 100 Outstanding Women Nurses and Midwives. The list comprises 100 professionals from a total of 43 countries who have been recognised by global agencies including WHO, UNFPA, the International Council of Nursing and International Confederation of Midwives for their contribution to raising healthcare standards across the world. Interestingly, all eight Pakistani nurses acknowledged for their services are graduates of the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. This list comes at an appropriate time; the services of healthcare workers have never been more significant in a world reeling from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As front-line fighters against Covid-19, workers in the medical field have been greatly lauded. However, the discourse — at least in Pakistan — has revolved mostly around doctors, and not enough has been said about the nursing profession whose members are equally, if not more, exposed to Covid-19 as they carry out their duties at various public and private hospitals. Though this worldwide list of 100 best nurses comes at the conclusion of a year-long WHO campaign, it is a good effort towards drawing attention towards the significance of the profession itself.
Indeed, the ambit of services nurses provide, from specialised critical care to family planning at homes, is the bedrock of any country’s healthcare system. It is therefore unfortunate that the government has greatly neglected this profession. The Pakistan Nursing Council has failed to function as an autonomous body due to the indifference of successive federal and provincial governments. This is why very few of the approximately 160 nursing schools in the country provide adequate teaching to students, leaving them untrained and unskilled. In fact, the shortage of trained and skilled nursing staff has been one of the major issues faced by tertiary care hospitals treating critical Covid-19 patients. One hopes that the government invests in producing skilled nursing staff, thus improving the quality of healthcare services overall.



IHK killings

AS 2021 begins, there are few signs that New Delhi is willing to change its tried, tested and failed methods in India-held Kashmir. Yet New Delhi’s attempts to militarily subdue the Kashmiris and make them renounce their desire for freedom and dignity are bound to fail; despite the passage of over a year since India revoked the disputed region’s autonomous status, the people of IHK have yet to accept this illegal move. However, the Indian establishment continues to employ brutal methods to crush the Kashmiri spirit, as was witnessed during a dubious recent ‘encounter’.
As per reports, three youths were gunned down by Indian forces on Tuesday after they were cornered inside a home. While the occupied region’s police say two of the victims were “hardcore associates of terrorists”, the families dispute this. Among the victims were two students said to be on their way to Srinagar for tutoring.
Unfortunately, it seems that due process does not matter for much in the held region, as New Delhi’s armed enforcers are free to kill whomever they choose. The incident bears a grim resemblance to an episode that occurred last July, when three labourers were killed. Then also Indian forces had claimed weapons had been found on the victims. However, this lie was recently exposed when an Indian army officer and two others were charged with planting weapons on the bodies.
It appears that the right-wing BJP-led government in New Delhi is aping the tactics the Israelis use against the Palestinians. In occupied Palestine, too, an armed-to-the-teeth military machine uses unrestrained force against a dispossessed population fighting for its rights, often murdering children and women in the process. Yet sadly, some of the most powerful actors on the world stage shield both Israel and India against criticism of such blatant rights abuses, and instead, tout their ‘democratic’ credentials. This hypocrisy must end.



Amnesty extension

THE decision to extend the construction amnesty scheme was widely anticipated. Prime Minister Imran Khan described the extension of the fiscal, monetary and policy incentives announced in April last year to encourage investments in real estate as a ‘New Year gift’ for the construction industry. According to the FBR, the government has extended tax amnesty, the most controversial part of the package, for investors — builders and developers — for another six months to June 30, as well as the period for them to avail a fixed tax regime to the end of the calendar year. Moreover, the deadline for investors to complete their projects registered with the FBR under the package has been stretched to September 2023. Likewise, buyers of housing units and plots will enjoy tax immunity on their investment until March 2023. The banks will continue to disburse cheaper, subsidised mortgage finance to consumers till December. Both the prime minister and investors are hopeful that the package will offset the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and create jobs.
Indeed, the incentive package has largely produced the desired results of reviving a dormant construction industry and creating employment opportunities for daily wagers. The sale of construction material eg cement, steel and glass has grown rapidly with land prices in many cities peaking again. This has afforded the government, which had otherwise been struggling to show some achievement on the economic front, an opportunity to brandish the numbers to underline its ‘success’ in rescuing the economy from the virus’s adverse impact. Still, the tax amnesty for real-estate investments has also raised questions about the ruling party’s position on corruption and its so-called accountability drive. If real-estate investors can be given a waiver on ill-gotten money, why target the others and not extend a similar amnesty to them for the sake of the economy and political stability?
While Mr Khan happily informed the nation that real-estate incentives had so far brought in investments of Rs186bn with more projects worth Rs116bn in the process of registration, there are indications that the bulk of new investments has been made in land rather than construction. There is no doubt that several construction projects that had stalled because of fear of NAB action or the government’s economic stabilisation policies — especially in Karachi — have been revived, explaining the increased cement and steel sales. But the fact remains that investors have mostly used the scheme to launder their illegal money through land sale and purchase instead of investing in construction. The real impact of the incentives package on the construction industry will not be known unless the FBR starts to release the details of the projects and updates the status of construction activity on a quarterly basis. Similarly, the State Bank should devise a mechanism for reporting new housing finance disbursements by the banks for the sake of transparency.

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January 2021
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