Dawn Editorial 6 February 2020

Cancer risk

IN a recently published report, WHO has warned that the lack of investment in the prevention and care of cancer will increase the risk of disease by as much as 81pc in middle- and low-income countries by 2040. The countries in this category have limited resources to spend on battling infectious diseases and improving maternal and child health. They have even more limited systems in place for effective treatment and management of cancer patients. The WHO report was released to coincide with World Cancer Day observed across the globe on Feb 4 every year. The report attempts to highlight the global inequalities of the cancer burden. On the one hand, where the cancer risk was increasing manifold in poorer countries, better treatment facilities in richer countries resulted in a 20pc drop in cancer mortality rates between 2000 and 2015. However, the reduction in cancer mortality rates in middle- and lower-income countries was just 5pc. The report warned that the incidence of cancer across the world would increase by around 60pc worldwide, with the majority of cases being reported from poorer countries.
The findings should raise great alarm in Pakistan; the country’s limited resources all too often have to combat outbreaks of illnesses such as dengue fever, AIDS and polio. Besides, there are several other ongoing health challenges such as failure to vaccinate children. Dealing with cancer is much further down on the list of priorities. No wonder then that Pakistan has the highest prevalence of breast cancer in Asia, while there has been a drastic surge in the incidence of oral cancer due to the consumption of harmful tobacco and betel nut products. Before becoming prime minister, Imran Khan had built a state-of-the-art cancer treatment facility. Perhaps he can put his prior experience to use by encouraging health officials to come up with a comprehensive plan for raising awareness about early detection and prevention of common cancers prevalent in the country, and equipping public-sector hospitals to combat and manage this painful disease.


Muslim voice

WHEN Prime Minister Imran Khan laments the absence of a ‘Muslim voice’ in the world, he raises an issue that demands profound analysis.
Speaking to a Malaysian think tank in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Mr Khan referred to disasters that had struck some key Middle Eastern states and regretted the Muslim countries’ inability to forge unity.
How can — let us ask frankly — the Muslim world have ‘one voice’ when there are among the states differences that do not remain confined to the realm of diplomacy but spill over into ferocious multilateral wars?
Precisely at this moment, Muslims are shedding each other’s blood in three countries — Syria, Yemen and Libya — with hundreds of thousands killed, maimed or rendered homeless. Some non-Muslim powers are, indeed, involved in these tragedies, but their roles have been marginal, most of the fighting being done by armies and militant outfits which are Muslim.
In Yemen, two major Muslim oil powers have been locked in a devastating four-year-old war, which has pauperised the Arab world’s poorest country, leaving over 100, 000 dead — 12,000 of them civilians.
Nothing highlights the extent of mutual hostility more than the Saudi decision to not allow Iran to attend the OIC’s Jeddah moot which was to give its reaction to President Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ hoax on Palestine.
As for India-held Kashmir, not only has the Muslim world — with the exception of Turkey and Malaysia — largely kept its lips sealed, one Gulf country has actually called India’s annexation of the occupied territory its ‘internal matter’, while last year the then Indian foreign minister was invited as the guest of honour to an OIC meeting in the UAE.
While this narration of Muslim frailty is geopolitical, let us not fail to examine the socioeconomic causes which have hindered the emergence of the Muslim world as a powerful force in world affairs.
Today, large sections of Muslim peoples live in a pre-industrial milieu when even many Third World countries have mobilised their national resources to enter the space and digital age. For Muslims, science and technology basically means importing mobile telephones and flying jetliners built in the West.
Muslims have made little effort to take their society forward in education and science, despite the huge financial resources that some Muslim countries command. While very few Muslims have won the Nobel prize, the talented Jewish community has produced nearly 200 Nobel laureates. Thus a community which constitutes a tiny percentage of the world’s population has bagged 20pc of all Nobel prizes, Israel’s tally being 12.
If we want a ‘voice’, then all Muslim countries must first set their house in order, combat poverty and bigotry, create egalitarian and democratic societies and make a determined bid to achieve all-round progress in science. A people who depend on aid hardly deserve a ‘voice’.


Afghan peace process

IT is a fact that the tangled knot that is the Afghan conflict will not be undone overnight. Apart from the fact that the country has witnessed decades of instability, starting from the Soviet invasion in 1979 up to the American invasion in 2001 and onwards, the fact that numerous players are involved also complicates matters. For example, on the Afghan domestic front, there is the elected government, which is itself a mixture of the country’s numerous tribes, ethnic groups and power brokers, whose interests do not always reconcile. Opposing Ashraf Ghani’s government are the Taliban, Afghanistan’s principal militant actor — a group that at one time ruled from Kabul before being dislodged by the Americans. Then there are the foreign elements that have played a key role in Afghanistan’s internal affairs; the Americans top this list, though other regional players are also involved in the game. But it is a fact that were the Taliban to reach a settlement with the US as well as the Kabul government, they would go a long way towards ending years of conflict and achieving a durable peace. However, the long-running negotiations between the US and Taliban have yet to achieve the ideal results, though at times it has appeared that both parties have been tantalisingly close to an agreement. On Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman accused the Americans of stalling the peace process and “blame-shifting”. The statement appears to be a reaction to the US secretary of state’s recent comments that the Taliban must reduce violence in order for the peace process to move forward.
The statements from both sides may well be public posturing to put pressure on the other and achieve maximum gains behind closed doors. After all, US officials recently visited Afghanistan and Pakistan to brief both states on the status of the negotiations. Indeed, the Taliban need to shun violence, especially the targeting of non-combatants, to send a signal to all concerned that they are serious about peace. However, the US must also realise that there is a small window of opportunity here, and if the Taliban are rebuffed they must shun the peace process altogether and return to the battlefield for the long run. This outcome will only spell more misery for the people of Afghanistan. Both sides need to drop maximalist positions and reach a doable agreement, while the Afghan government must be kept in the loop for the peace process to succeed.


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