Dawn Editorial 2nd December 2023

Massacre resumes

FTER a week of relative peace in Gaza, the truce between Israel and Hamas was shattered on Friday when Tel Aviv resumed its savage bombardment of the forsaken Strip. Though the Israelis claim Hamas had violated the truce, their intentions were always clear: this was only a temporary pause, and the slaughter of Palestinians would resume at the first available opportunity.

The ruthless Israeli defence minister, a former general, had a few days earlier told troops that “we will fight across the whole of the Strip”. Certainly, a peaceful solution to the hostilities was not what the Israelis were seeking.

Besides, while matters remained relatively quiet in Gaza, conditions in the occupied West Bank — where Hamas does not rule — were stifling, as Israeli troops and rabid settlers have unleashed a campaign of terror against the Palestinians in this area.

Many of the West Bank casualties have included children. This vulgar display of state-sponsored violence shatters the myth that Israel wants to eliminate the ‘extremist’ Hamas, and is willing to work with the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank.

The fact is that for those who call the shots in Tel Aviv, all Palestinians — regardless of their political affiliations, combatants as well as non-combatants — are worthy of extermination.

Already over 15,000 Palestinians have been butchered since the Oct 7 events. Now, Israel has vowed to target southern Gaza, considered a ‘safe’ zone for Palestinians, as well. It is evident that for the Palestinians, there is no safe space in their entire occupied homeland, as the Israeli war machine seeks to hunt them down everywhere.

Efforts should, of course, be made to renew the ceasefire, but they should also push for a long-term cessation of hostilities. It should not be a cosmetic truce that allows the Palestinians to bury their dead, then prepare for digging more graves.

The keys to a long-term ceasefire lie with the US, which is Israel’s primary foreign patron, as well as the Arab states that have normalised ties with Israel. Washington needs to push its friends in Tel Aviv to stop the butchery, while the Arabs should use their considerable financial clout and geopolitical influence to call for an end to Israel’s genocidal war.

Otherwise, the Palestinian body count will continue to mount, exposing the hypocrisy of the international ‘rules-based order’.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

Wearing poison

A RECENT study by Karachi University has cast a spotlight on the contamination of children’s jewellery with toxic materials. The research examined ornaments manufactured between July and August for Independence Day celebrations. A staggering 74pc of the analysed samples contained dangerous levels of lead and cadmium. Internationally, stringent safety standards exist to protect young consumers. For instance, the US and EU have set regulatory limits for heavy metals in children’s products. These standards are not just guidelines but enforceable rules. But Pakistan lacks such comprehensive regulations, leading to the unchecked circulation of potentially harmful items. We must enforce similar safety standards. Safe materials, such as non-toxic plastics, untreated metals like stainless steel or sterling silver, and natural fabrics, should be used. Conversely, materials prone to contamination, attractive for their low manufacturing cost — such as recycled electronic waste — must be strictly regulated or avoided.

The health implications cannot be ignored. Heavy metals can cause mental retardation, neurocognitive disorders, behavioural disorders, respiratory problems, cancer and cardiovascular diseases in children. Awareness drives are crucial to educate parents about the risks posed by these seemingly harmless items and safer alternatives. Moreover, the government’s role in establishing and enforcing safety standards is paramount. Regular inspections and quality control checks should be institutionalised to ensure compliance. Manufacturers and retailers found violating the rules should be penalised. The scientific community’s research will also play a crucial role in shaping these policies. Regular updates on new findings can help in continuously refining safety standards and rules. The study’s findings are a wake-up call. It is time for a concerted effort from all stakeholders — the government, industry, scientific community, and the public — to ensure that the joys of childhood are not marred by hidden dangers. Let us commit to making children’s jewellery safe, ushering in an era of conscious consumerism and child welfare.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

Next steps

LATE Thursday, the ECP issued its final delimitation list for constituencies for the national and provincial assemblies, thereby striking off a major item on its election to-do list. It is now hoped that, with the completion of this important step, the ECP will quickly proceed with the remaining items on its agenda ahead of the upcoming general election.

Notwithstanding all the official promises and assurances made in recent weeks, there is a growing sense of unease over whether the polls remain on track.

The Islamabad gossip mill has been churning out various theories to explain why certain stakeholders would like to see the polls put off for another few months, and these theories have been taken seriously enough to have been dissected at length in various talk shows and op-eds.

The fresh talk of poll delays seems to have annoyed the ECP, however. In a separate statement issued earlier this week, it rubbished all speculation, insisting that everything was going according to plan.

The preliminary delimitations issued by the ECP had attracted over 1,300 challenges, and it is expected that the Commission addressed all or at least most of them before issuing the final list.

There is also the matter of two petitions which have been filed with the ECP, arguing that the cold weather and Balochistan’s deteriorating security situation should be reason enough to delay the polls, at least in the affected districts.

Separately, an impression is gaining currency that the decision-makers want more time to continue stabilising the economy, as they feel their recent efforts have only just started bearing fruit.

While such chatter may be taken as a sign by some that polls may be pushed forward, the ECP should ignore the noise and proceed purposefully in discharging its responsibilities.

The ECP has made a solemn commitment to the Supreme Court to hold elections on Feb 8. It must demonstrate that it is doing everything in its power to deliver. Now that the final delimitation list has been issued, the ECP should waste no time in announcing the election schedule.

There needs to be a greater sense of urgency regarding the polls, and it seems that one way that people will stop getting distracted by conspiracy theories and bad ideas is if they are given some concrete timeline to hold the authorities to. A formal schedule will also place pressure on the state to get its act together and begin preparing in earnest to usher in a new government.

A sense of complacency seems to be setting in, and many seem happy to let things run as they are. However, it is high time for a democratic government to take over the state’s affairs. The ECP has a duty to facilitate this transfer at the earliest.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

December 12, 2023

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