Dawn Editorial 29 September 2019

UNGA speech

PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan’s trip to New York has culminated on a high note after a hard-hitting speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
In the presence of world leaders, Mr Khan delivered a speech focused on four key areas: climate change, financial corruption, the perils of Islamophobia and lastly — and most importantly, since it was the main purpose of his visit — Kashmir.
On the first three issues, Mr Khan made some valid points although more informed input from his advisers could have yielded greater impact.
The prime minister spoke of Pakistan’s melting glaciers and the PTI’s tree plantation initiative. But at the UNGA, where the existential threat of climate change was a major theme, there was a need to underscore how Pakistan — a country that is seeking opportunities to grow its economy — needs the international community’s assistance to expand with the least possible damage to the environment.
His appeal to countries to assist Pakistan in combating the menace of money-laundering was also relevant, though at times the prime minister meandered into dharna-style politics which might have been lost on his international audience.
On Islamophobia, Mr Khan delivered a very pertinent message on the divisions a hate-filled mindset creates — indeed, it is a vital concern in a world that is increasingly seeing tragedies such as the one in Christchurch. Pursuing this theme on the international stage required more focused observations on the difference in perception between the Western and Islamic worlds.
But all shortcomings were compensated for by the subject Mr Khan saved for the last: the appalling situation in India-held Kashmir. He spoke with heartfelt conviction: “What I know of the West, they wouldn’t stand for eight million animals to be locked up. These are humans,” Mr Khan said as he spoke of the pitiable conditions that people are living under in occupied Kashmir.
“I have pictured myself locked up for 55 days … Would I want to let this humiliation continue? I would pick up a gun” are words that are likely to stay with those who listened.
Besides drawing attention to the plight of the Kashmiris, Mr Khan framed his plea to the international community by calling out the UN. “It is a test for the United Nations. You are the one who guaranteed the Kashmiris the right [of self-determination]. This is not the time for appeasement.”
Comparing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s association with the Hindu nationalist RSS to Hitler and the Nazis, he asked how the world would respond if it were Jews and not Muslims under curfew — a scenario that might resonate more with an international community that for decades has rightly viewed the Holocaust as amongst the worst atrocities in history. In delivering an unequivocal, thunderous message to the world on Kashmir, Mr Khan did the right thing for millions of Kashmiris living under siege. For that, he must be given credit.


Justice for Qandeel

JUSTICE has been done, an outcome seen far too seldom in cases of ‘honour’ killing. On Friday, a model court in Multan sentenced Mohammed Waseem, the brother of Qandeel Baloch, to life imprisonment for murdering his sister. Five others, including another brother, were acquitted, while a third brother who lives in Saudi Arabia was declared a proclaimed offender. The court ruled that the prosecution had conclusively proved the social media star was strangled to death by Waseem in July 2016 at her parents’ home in Multan. He later confessed to the police that he had killed his sister because he believed Qandeel had brought ‘dishonour’ upon his family with her risqué pictures and videos. His lack of remorse was typical of such cases in which perpetrators are motivated by patriarchal notions where women are repositories of honour and liable to be punished should they engage in ‘unacceptable’ behaviour. However, in an unusual twist, Qandeel’s parents themselves demanded justice for their daughter and steadfastly refused to pardon their sons, at least until recently when — perhaps worn down from the long legal proceedings — they submitted an affidavit saying they had forgiven the men.
If the anti-honour killing law had not been passed in 2016, just a few months after Qandeel’s death, that affidavit may well have allowed yet another murderer to walk free. While murder is a compoundable offence in Pakistan, to extend the concept of forgiveness or compromise to honour killing is antithetical to justice. Given the cultural context in which this crime is committed, the murderer and the victim belong to the same family (although sometimes men deemed to be the women’s ‘partners-in-crime’ are also among the victims). A pardon is thus almost inevitable, whether through an exercise of free will or under pressure from the wider community. The new law, however, has tightened this loophole considerably as well as enhanced the punishment. Now, the court can refuse to accept any compromise and, upon finding the accused guilty of honour killing, sentence him to life imprisonment. Hopefully, the maximum sentence handed down to Qandeel’s brother for a crime that claims close to 1,000 lives every year will become the norm rather than the exception. The social media star was often derided for her claims of being a feminist by virtue of living life on her own terms; nevertheless, in death she has struck a blow for women in her country.


Detaining citizens

OVER the past couple of weeks, there have been incidents where members of the public have been detained in Punjab and Karachi for allegedly flouting some vague ‘emergency’ regulations. ‘Rules’ were apparently violated during Punjab’s dengue emergency drive, while in Karachi, urgent measures to supposedly rid the city of heaps of solid waste were impeded. Nabbing citizens for allegedly violating the rules fools no one; everyone knows the disposal of solid waste is the responsibility of the provincial authorities. In Punjab, some 100 people have been arrested; FIRs have been registered against more than 500 others. In Karachi, a man was detained for throwing trash in an open space before being released a day later. These crises had long been in the making, and citizens cannot be deemed responsible for them. It is the authorities that failed to take measures to prevent conditions from worsening.
The Punjab arrests are absurd — many people were detained or had FIRs registered against them after dengue inspection teams found mosquito larvae in their homes and workplaces. The case of Karachi, on the other hand, is one of sheer negligence. The provincial government spent billions on setting up a waste disposal authority that did nothing to prevent Pakistan’s largest city from turning into a garbage dump. If there are no designated places to throw waste, where are people suppose to dispose of it? And if the authorities must hold the public accountable, it should be for logical reasons; they should not do so to gloss over their own incompetence. What will be the legal mechanism for proceeding against those who have ‘violated’ anti-dengue rules? Cracking down on the public will only fuel resentment. Some years ago, KP decided to arrest parents who refused polio vaccination for their children. This strategy had to be revoked because it politicised the issue and further endangered polio eradication teams who were already a target of the militants. Instead of wasting their time and resources, the authorities should get on with their responsibilities.


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