Dawn Editorial 29th May 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998 — underscores an overlooked national issue: excessive and often late-notified public holidays. Regardless of the significance of the event, the wisdom behind turning such annual observances into public holidays must be reconsidered. Holidays, especially those abruptly announced, disrupt critical services and economic activities. Manufacturing is halted, banking remains shut, trade and retail sectors close their doors, and the entire machinery of daily life grinds to a halt. For a country grappling with economic challenges, each productive day is invaluable. Monday’s announcement caused chaos, particularly in the education sector. Matric exams — already delayed due to the heatwave — and intermediate exams were postponed, causing confusion among students, parents, and educational authorities. Such last-minute decisions create unnecessary stress and disrupt plans. Moreover, the timing of this holiday, just before the extended Eid holidays, exacerbates the issue. With Eid typically resulting in a three to four-day break, adding another public holiday so close to this period strains productivity even further.

The government needs to reassess its approach. While it is important to honour national milestones, this can be done without causing disruptions: special campaigns can commemorate these events without shutting down services and industries. Late-notified holidays also reflect poor planning and communication within government. Employees and employers are left in limbo, unsure whether they need to report to work or not. This uncertainty breeds inefficiency. It is imperative for the government to establish a clear schedule of holidays well in advance, minimising disruption and allowing all sectors to plan accordingly. While the importance of rest cannot be understated — Pakistanis are overworked as it is — the balance between honouring significant occasions and maintaining economic and administrative continuity should be handled with care, not on a whim.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even by the Zionist state’s standards. Eyewitness accounts of survivors reported by media outlets make for highly disturbing reading, pointing to the fact that a war crime against defenceless civilians — not the first in this conflict — has been committed by the ‘world’s most moral’ army. If anything, Israel’s conduct in Gaza since the Oct 7 attacks has been the epitome of amorality. Tel Aviv has had no regrets about the civilians it has murdered, the children it has orphaned, the mass graves it has left, and the forced starvation it has used as a weapon in the Gaza hellscape. At least 45 people were killed in the latest atrocity, with several victims charred. Israel says it struck the camp while pursuing Hamas fighters. Yet the ferocity of the assault can be gauged from the fact that a number of victims — including children — were left dismembered after the attack. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed the Rafah outrage was a “tragic accident”; but these words are meaningless as Tel Aviv’s war machine has continued to pound Gaza even after the refugee camp tragedy.

Condemnation of this monstrous attack has been pouring in from around the world, including the UN and EU. US officials, meanwhile, have highlighted the need to “assess what happened”, while timidly asking Israel to “protect civilians”. ‘What happened’ is abundantly clear; Israel has unleashed a genocidal war in Gaza in the name of going after Hamas, and in many instances, has used American money and weapons to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people. Therefore, those supporting Israel’s abominable war should shed the use of euphemism, as this fools no one. Moreover, the time for strong critiques of Israeli barbarism has long passed. If the world is serious about stopping the butchery in Palestine, solid action is needed. Both the brave states that initiated legal action against Israel, as well as the courageous voices in the West condemning their governments for complicity in genocidal violence, must focus their energies on isolating Tel Aviv internationally. People of conscience in the East and West must unite to economically and militarily boycott Israel for its shameless spilling of Palestinian blood. If concrete steps are not taken, then we must await the next atrocity.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

First steps

IT is, without doubt, a positive development. The chief minister of KP seems to have reached an arrangement that will allow him to stick to his party’s politics while he works with Islamabad on matters related to the governance and administration of his province.

In the context of present-day politics in Pakistan, this is no mean feat. There has been considerable tension between the centre and KP — the only province where the PTI managed to seize power and form a government — ever since the general elections.

From reserved seats to provincial funds, an electricity supply crisis and non-invitation to the Special Investment Facilitation Council meetings, Peshawar has clashed bitterly with the government in Islamabad, demanding that its ‘rights’ be restored and that it be given a seat at the table. However, from recent developments, it appears that the federal and provincial governments have finally managed to break the ice.

On Saturday, KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur finally attended the SIFC meeting to which he had previously not been invited, and it seems to have gone well. The federal information minister later issued a glowing appraisal of the development, stating, “I think today’s meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere with great positivity […] I think the good thing is that a message of unity was sent after today’s SIFC meeting that the centre and the provinces are on one page.”

Mr Gandapur, too, described it as “a very good meeting”, while iterating that his province’s resources should benefit both its residents and the larger country. He promptly apprised his party chief, Imran Khan, of the discussion in a visit to Adiala Jail. Then, on Monday, the KP chief minister also managed to reach an understanding with the ministers of interior and power over his province’s power issues, signalling a shift away from his government’s confrontational stance.

Both parties said they had arrived at a mutually acceptable solution to address prolonged load-shedding in the province, which seems to be rooted in rampant power theft. Signalling his commitment to mobilising his own party to lead the initiative, the KP CM revealed that the federal government, too, would play a part by extending some relief and relaxations. When asked what prompted the sudden thaw, Mr Gandapur deftly explained that his discussion with the two representatives of the federal government was a negotiation between institutions rather than a parley between individuals or the politics they represented.

This is a commendable approach. There is no reason why ordinary people should suffer because of the differences between their leaders. It is mature of the KP government to set aside its differences for the good of its people, and one hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

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