Dawn Editorial 23 September 2019

Kashmir & militancy

THE issue of Kashmir is an emotional one and dear to most Pakistanis. This is why successive governments in this country have given sustained diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris in their just struggle for rights against India. However, past adventurism, especially by non-state actors and self-proclaimed jihadis, has done more harm than good to the Kashmir cause, besides tarnishing Pakistan’s global reputation. In this regard, the prime minister’s recent comments about those wanting to cross over and fight in India-held Kashmir are timely and must be welcomed. Speaking to the media in Torkham recently, Imran Khan said that anyone wishing to cross over to fight in IHK would be an enemy of Pakistan and the Kashmiris. He said that such moves would help India blame this country for infiltration. Since assuming office, the prime minister has taken other steps (such as action against JuD and its supremo Hafiz Saeed) to show the world that Pakistan is serious about not letting its soil be used by militants.
The prime minister’s words have been praised in Washington, with American officials applauding “PM Imran Khan’s unambiguous and important statement. …” This newspaper has always called for action against militant groups, considering that Pakistan has often been accused of being soft on jihadis. Especially in times like these, with India looking to divert world attention from the atrocities it is committing in occupied Kashmir, and Afghanistan blaming Pakistan and issuing knee-jerk reactions after acts of terrorism on its soil, the state needs to send a firm message to the world that militancy of all kinds is unacceptable to this country. Where IHK is concerned, the struggle against Indian brutality is indigenous, and New Delhi must be prevented from painting this just struggle for rights in the ugly colours of terrorism.
Coming back to the Americans’ commendation of Mr Khan’s recent move, it must be added that the tone of State Department official Alice G. Wells was patronising, ‘reminding’ Pakistan “of its commitment to counter all terrorist groups”. While indeed this country needs to do more on this front for its own security, the US is hardly in a position to lecture others. It has a reprehensible tradition of arming, training and financing rival groups — from Latin American to the Middle East — to fight and overthrow ideological and geopolitical opponents. Where South Asia is concerned, the US once played the main role in building the jihadi infrastructure in Afghanistan, then, after settling scores with the USSR, it cut and ran, leaving Pakistan in the lurch. Terrorism is a transnational, complex issue and needs a cooperative approach to tackle; it should not be exploited, and certainly, those states with rather prominent skeletons in their own closets should not lecture others on the need to crack down on militancy.


From Nepra to NAB

THE power-sector regulator, Nepra, has included some extraordinary language in its latest flagship State of the Industry Report pointing to the damage that NAB has done to its operations, as well as the failure of long-term power-sector reforms. It laments that NAB is straying into the regulator’s jurisdiction, a complaint that is perhaps inspired by the detention of some Nepra officials by the anti-corruption watchdog. “Almost all the projects on which Nepra had made determinations in the past have been questioned by NAB, and the way the investigations are being conducted, it has completely stifled the morale of Nepra professionals,” the report says. This is the first time that the State of the Industry Report has been used as a vehicle to advance such grievances, and it shows the extent to which the damage wrought by the so-called accountability drive is being felt. NAB officials do not have the capacity to understand complex topics such as tariff determinations, yet they have the power to detain first and ask questions later. Even in cases where they seek to understand complex agreements or calculations, those who have engaged with them find that it can be an extremely vexing experience to try and explain these matters to them.
What is troubling about Nepra’s warning is that the damage being done could end up carrying a steep price tag, and it is the citizens who will eventually have to pay. If NAB inquiries result in officialdom being afraid to take decisions, simply out of fear that they will be made to explain their decisions later to people who do not possess the capacity to understand them, then it will result in severe demoralisation, perhaps enough to jam the wheels of government. That is precisely what Nepra seems to be warning about. To top it off, the regulator also warns that the status quo is in dire need of reform, and some near-momentous changes are needed in the immediate term. The cost of this failure is evident in the circular debt, which the report says had crossed Rs1tr by the end of last year. The minister for power seems to be pleased with his efforts to enhance recovery and contain the flow of circular debt. But the fact is that without deep-rooted reform, the problem will keep recurring. And this reform is not going to come about so long as government officials have to work with a gun held to their heads.


Rabies scourge

IN a widely circulated video, a 12-year-old boy is seen gasping for breath on his mother’s lap. As he lies there breathing his last, she sobs into her dupatta, equally helpless. As painful as it is to watch, the video shows the desperation of victims and their families affected by the deadly rabies virus in their last days. The boy is said to have contracted the virus after being bitten by a rabid dog in his village in Shikarpur. Approximately 40 days later, he passed away at a Larkana hospital. Prior to this tragic incident, health experts had been decrying the dearth of rabies vaccines in the country, particularly in Sindh, which has seen a number of cases this year.
However, when the issue was recently brought up with the PPP’s Saeed Ghani, he blamed the parents for delaying the child’s visit to the hospital. While the exact details of the case are not yet known, the comment is incredibly insensitive at this time. Many are not aware of the precise steps that need to be taken immediately after a bite from a potentially rabid animal, through no fault of their own. First, the area that has come into contact with the animal’s saliva must be rinsed with soap and water, followed by the administering of the anti-rabies vaccine and immuglobulin inside or around the wound, depending on the severity of the bite. It is the job of the government and health authorities to have up-to-date knowledge and to spread awareness about vital and timely steps to take in order to counter the spread of rabies. The response by the authorities to tackle the threat has so far been short-sighted. Forgetting that animals, too, suffer, stray dogs are killed brutally through mass culling, which proves counterproductive as it leads to higher rates of breeding amongst them. Instead, investing in trap-neuter-return programmes is a far more effective and humane way to reduce the stray dog population and thus safeguard human life.


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