Dawn Editorial 26 November 2019

Buzdar uncertainty

FROM being touted as a symbol of the common man’s empowerment in August 2018 to becoming the ‘imminent fall guy’ just over a year later, it has been a steep climb down for Sardar Usman Buzdar.
Read: Calls for Buzdar’s ouster rising in PTI
But even so, the signs are that while the Punjab chief minister may be down, he has not been ruled out.
The inability of the Buzdar setup is commonly listed as a significant failure of the Imran Khan government.
It is true that some of the most well-informed analysts believe that the ‘expendable’ sardar from southern Punjab could be sacrificed by Prime Minister Khan to meet the strong demands of change. However, there are problems with these views that see Mr Khan as just another pliant ruler.
The PTI chief has demonstrated, not least because of his inconsistent position on political matters in recent days, that it is not always easy to make him see the ‘logic’ of the steps that his alleged backers insist he must take. The unnecessary debate he managed to stir over the issue of Nawaz Sharif’s medical treatment abroad is an example.
The same mind that appeared to be in a state of agitation over Mr Sharif’s departure would not be prepared to see the Punjab chief minister being forced to exit. Hence, the topic of discussion in the many emergency meetings that have taken place between Mr Khan and Mr Buzdar could well be on survival, instead of dismissal.
It has also been observed that those who speak of an impending ouster of the chief minister disregard many factors.
If Mr Buzdar’s nomination as chief minister was a compromise between Mr Khan’s supporters in 2018, there are now too many groups within the PTI to call it a united entity. In fact, the gulf is widening and there are many power-wielders in the province, who Mr Buzdar would have to cut down to size in order to rule effectively.
In other examples of widening divisions, the general secretary of the PTI in central Punjab resigned over intra-party differences, while in a show of extreme resentment, a large number of PTI Punjab lawmakers stayed away from a recent parliamentary party meeting.
These are enough signs to caution the more astute PTI members against taking the risk of holding elections for a new chief minister. Mr Buzdar had won the chief minister’s post by the slimmest majority in the house — securing 186 out of 371 votes. The tally included votes by the PTI, plus by the PML-Q and three independent MPAs. Against this backdrop, there is no reason for Mr Khan to expose his government and party to the tough test that an election for a new chief minister in Punjab could turn out to be. He already has too many monsters to deal with. Creating a new one will not help matters.


Plenty to hide

OVER 100 days since the lockdown of India-held Kashmir, New Delhi is unable to silence voices from around the world condemning its behaviour in the occupied region. The latest of these has emerged in the US Congress, with Arab-American lawmaker Rashida Tlaib introducing a resolution that serves as a searing indictment of Indian actions in IHK. The resolution calls for many things, including asking India to lift the communications blockade and allow the provision of medical treatment without obstruction. The document notes that India’s actions in the occupied region “are not reflective of the shared democratic norms and values between” Washington and New Delhi. Indeed, far from being democratic, India’s brutish methods in the held region have more to do with fascism. As reported, a group of Indian activists have been barred by the authorities from visiting areas in IHK outside Srinagar. The activists include a former union minister as well as former government and military figures. Indeed, the question arises that if New Delhi has nothing to hide, why is it preventing its own citizens from seeing the conditions that prevail in IHK for themselves? Perhaps because there is plenty to hide, as the attitude of the authorities in held Kashmir reeks of a colonial mindset. For example, when family members of detained Kashmiri leaders visited them recently, security men reportedly frisked a toddler. Such degrading behaviour shows that while India has snatched their freedom from them, it is now trying to rob the Kashmiris of their dignity as well.
It is hoped that pressure from all quarters continues to be put on the Indian government, and that people of conscience across the world go on highlighting the dismal human rights situation in IHK. While the current ruling clique in New Delhi has shown it has a thick skin by shrugging off criticism, the world needs to keep raising a voice for the Kashmiris, who have lived under suffocating conditions for so long now. When powerful foreign friends of India — who up till now have preferred to pay only lip service to the Kashmir crisis — begin to speak up and condemn its behaviour in IHK, chances are that New Delhi may change its brutal approach. The US and European states are quick to point out human rights abuses in countries that are geopolitical rivals. It is time they called a spade a spade when it comes to India’s treatment of the beleaguered Kashmiris.


Women doctors

A REPORT in this paper has shed light on a new initiative which will attempt to bring 35,000 non-practising women doctors back into the field through the innovative use of technology. Launched by the Dow University of Health Sciences last year, the eDoctor programme has so far recruited 700 women medics in its training sessions. Many of these women left or were made to leave their careers many years ago and now have adult children. The programme offers them re-training courses that will update their expertise and knowledge of the medical field and enable them to practise once more. The problem of women doctors not continuing to work after graduation, marriage or motherhood has been a long-standing issue in our society, and written about countless times before. But there are also many men who leave the country to practise their profession in other lands. Unfortunately, and partly due to the brain drain and large number of non-practising doctors, Pakistan has one of the world’s lowest doctor-to-patient ratios. It takes many years to create a doctor, and the amount of time and money that go into producing the nation’s healthcare providers are seen as a waste of resources if the medics are not in position to tend to the sick.
While the concept behind eDoctor is certainly inventive and well-intentioned, and hopefully will achieve what it aims to do — deliver important medical services to the needy segments of society, while providing employment to women — there is the question of its outreach and how effective and sustainable it will be. But there is another, deeper malaise that needs to be addressed too, and that is not related to technological advancement: why do so many Pakistani families disallow women from having a career after marriage? It is unfortunate that even in this day and age, the Pakistani woman’s role is restricted to the confines of the home — regardless of how educated she is, or her potential to contribute meaningfully to society.


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