Dawn Editorial 8 December 2020

Tourism or havoc?

ISLAMABAD’S Capital Development Authority is considering converting Pir Sohawa in the Margalla Hills into a tourist spot by constructing hotels and restaurants. CDA believes if this spot is developed as envisioned it could attract domestic and international tourists. According to a report in this paper, the chairman of CDA and the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis recently visited Pir Sohawa and issued instructions in this regard. They also reminded the CDA staff it was their responsibility to ensure the cleanliness of the area.
In their exuberance, the chairman and the SAPM may have overlooked the fact that Pir Sohawa is located in an area designated as the Margalla Hills National Park. This means it is protected area and cannot be subjected to wanton construction. The federal capital has a sad history in this regard. The protected green areas have been under constant threat by developers and government quarters alike for decades. Violations are more frequent than they should be. In fact, the area of Banigala was also one such protected area that fell victim to the avarice of influential people. At a time when concerns about environmental protection and preservation are growing, it is surprising to see the CDA management planning a project that would have the opposite effect. There is no doubt that scenic points in the Margalla Hills like Daman-i-Koh and Pir Sohawa are popular places to visit, but CDA must ensure their natural beauty of flora and fauna is not ravaged at the altar of ‘tourism development’. The relevant rules and laws protecting the Margalla Hills National Park are clear in this regard. The management of the civic body should consult them before embarking on a venture that will wreak havoc on the natural beauty of the area. Concerned citizens and preservationists of the capital should also take note of these plans and do whatever is necessary to put a stop to them before it is too late. CDA must reconsider.



Covid-19 deaths

IN an incident that can only be described as a terrible but avoidable tragedy, six under-treatment Covid-19 patients lost their lives due to the unavailability of oxygen at a major Peshawar hospital. In the early hours of Sunday, Covid-19 patients had to be shifted to other hospitals when the daily supply of oxygen was disrupted. Sadly, three men and three women aged between 45 and 65 years did not survive. Their deaths have sparked public criticism about the level of preparedness of the provincial government in tackling the pandemic. The findings of an initial inquiry suggest a “system failure” and has resulted in the suspension of seven people. Clearly, the tragedy was a result of poor coordination and mismanagement, pointing to, as the preliminary report indicates, the failure of the hospital administration and, possibly, the oxygen suppliers at a critical time. The incident is a stark warning to hospital management teams everywhere in the country about the severe consequences of such lapses. The Pakistan Medical Association has urged the government to increase beds and other facilities for Covid-19 patients to prevent further tragedies, and said “we have repeatedly been making mistakes and have not learnt from past experiences”. The authorities must go deeper into the reasons for non-availability of oxygen supply to patients at a time when Covid-19 cases are rising and hospitals should be prepared.
The incident does not bode well for the weeks ahead. The national positivity rate is at a staggering 9.7pc. Social media is flooded with accounts of death, critically ill patients, slow recoveries and despair. The NCOC is reporting more patients on ventilators. After Karachi and Hyderabad, Abbottabad has emerged as the new Covid-19 hub. Yet, despite this terrifying and growing increase in cases, hospitalisations and deaths, the government appears to be sleepwalking its way into a disaster. Beyond the opposition’s potentially superspreading political rallies, other public gatherings such as congregational prayers, weddings, mass funerals and private functions are continuing unabated. The opposition, too, has failed the public by ignoring this dangerous second wave. Its approach to the pandemic is not simply irresponsible; it also borders on criminal negligence.
This reckless behaviour by our political leaders simply cannot continue. The government, which was celebrating its success during the first wave and basking in the early glory of its achievement, must find a practical way to stem the growing number of cases. It is, after all, in the province where the PTI holds power that this heartbreaking episode of deaths due to alleged mismanagement has occurred. The time for self-congratulation and blame games is over. Public anger against the incumbent government due to a myriad issues — such as inflation, unemployment, power and gas crises — is growing. A failure to prevent Pakistan from hurtling towards a Covid-19 disaster will really be the final straw.



Muslims in India

IT has been 28 years since frenzied Hindu mobs tore down the Mughal-era Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. That sad event was a bellwether, signifying the horrors to come as the demon of Hindutva was unleashed to tear into the vitals of Indian secularism. Indeed, those that had taken part in that orgy of hate and violence are now controlling the levers of state in India, which bodes ill for minorities living in that country, particularly its Muslims. While Hindutva was once a fringe movement, with the Sangh Parivar linked to M.K. Gandhi’s assassination, today it dictates state policy, with the prime minister of India and other high officials proudly flaunting their association with the Sangh.
Considering the dangerous direction India has taken, the Foreign Office has rightly highlighted the need for New Delhi to protect minorities, especially Muslims, who are vulnerable thanks to the shock troopers of the Sangh, who make a mockery of the law, and worse still, formulate laws that enshrine bigotry and discrimination. In a statement, the FO recalled that the destruction of the Babri Masjid was a “blatant violation of religious and international norms”, while adding that in today’s India, Muslims were being “systematically demonised, dispossessed, marginalised”.
Indeed, the trajectory from the mosque’s desecration to the rapid spread of Hindutva is a frightening one. In nearly three decades the Sangh Parivar has gone from a conglomerate of rabid extremist groups to becoming the ideological mother ship of India’s ruling clique. Nehruvian secularism is dead, replaced by a muscular Hindutva that seeks to push India’s minorities to the margins, preferably purging the rashtra of all ‘alien’ influences. The lynchings of Muslims on suspicions of consuming beef, laws designed to disenfranchise Indian Muslim citizens by having to ‘prove’ their antecedents, as well as the latest law passed by Uttar Pradesh banning interfaith marriages based on so-called love jihad are all part of the grim reality that is the new India.
However, while the short-sighted and intellectually dubious ideologues of the Sangh may paint the Muslim as the eternal outsider, Islam and Muslims are very much part of the fabric of India. Any attempt to erase their contribution and physical presence can only be attributed to fascistic tendencies. Is the international community — which has sworn to never forget the fascist purges of 20th-century Europe — willing to apply the same moral standards and censure to India for persecuting its Muslims?


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