Dawn Editorial 9 August 2019

A tepid response

THE crisis in India-held Kashmir could trigger global consequences, yet the world has not responded to Pakistan’s urgent exhortations with the level of robustness the situation warrants. Instead of full-throated condemnation, there is language of equivocation.
Indeed, some countries, most notably the US and UAE, have even gone along with India’s brazenly false assertion that stripping Kashmir, an internationally recognised disputed territory, of its special status is an “internal matter”. Saudi Arabia’s bland reaction thus far avoids expressing any opinion whatsoever. China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend, issued a forceful statement, but one that pertained solely to Ladakh where it has a territorial dispute with India. Turkey expressed “concerns” over the situation and undefined “steadfast support” to Pakistan.
Read: India calls actions in Kashmir internal matter: US
New Delhi’s depredations in India-held Kashmir, particularly egregious under the Modi government, have been exposed for the world to see in more than one UN report, the most recent just a month ago.
Indeed, on Thursday, UN chief Antonio Guterres called upon India “to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir”, recalling the Shimla Agreement.
Read: UN chief calls for ‘maximum restraint’ in occupied Kashmir
Despite this, the fact that the latest act of naked aggression by India against the hapless Kashmiris has met with such a tepid response speaks to a failure of Pakistan’s diplomacy, not only in the recent past, not only during Mr Modi’s premiership, but over decades. Seasoned diplomats were sidelined and input by pragmatic politicians and opinion makers was ignored in favour of ruinous policies that garnered ill-will in the international arena and allowed hostile powers to discredit the Kashmiri cause.
Moreover, in the present context, why did Pakistan appear to have been taken by surprise when the Indian government scrapped Article 370? After all, one of the main planks of Mr Modi’s hyper-nationalistic re-election campaign was the promise to do away with Kashmir’s special status.
Yet there was no effort by the Pakistan government to lobby foreign governments to push back against any such attempt. A fait accompli is far more difficult to counter than an action still in its incipient stage. Even during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit, an unexpected offer by President Trump — entirely of his own volition rather than due to any effort by the Pakistani delegation — to mediate on Kashmir, sent a wave of elation in government circles.
Given what has transpired in the few weeks since then, it was clearly a premature reaction, shorn of context and without considering the limited scope of what the world wants at present from Pakistan.
There is, however, little doubt about what this country must do for itself. Much introspection is in order, an assessment of how we have arrived at a point where we appear to be isolated and lack for staunch allies, that too for a cause that is undeniably just. Now that Pakistan is decisively acting against the militant groups that have hobbled its foreign policy and compromised its standing in the world, it should develop a far more effective diplomatic strategy, executed by those best suited to the task.


Water crisis

WHEN the 1,000 to 1,500 protesters from Kharo Chan completed their ‘long march’ to Thatta in July, cries of “Karbala, Karbala” could be heard from amongst them. This was reportedly the third march of its kind since January — all part of an attempt to draw the government’s attention to the acute water crisis that is being faced by the coastal communities of Sindh. Marchers complained about the difficulty they had in simply accessing clean drinking water for themselves. For years, the Indus delta region has suffered from freshwater shortages and loss of land due to soil erosion. With a rising population, unequal distribution of resources and the pain of climate change being felt throughout the land, their cries turned louder. Sadly, they continue to fall on deaf ears. However, it seems that this predicament is not unique to them, but part of a worrying global trend. According to new data released by the World Resources Institute, 17 countries around the world have to contend with “extremely high” water stress — in other words, a quarter of the world’s population is at risk of running out of water. Besides Pakistan, the list includes Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, the UAE, San Marino, Bahrain, India, Turkmenistan, Oman, and Botswana. Several of the countries that are identified as ‘water-stressed’ face the dangers posed by two extremes of nature: floods on the one hand; and droughts on the other. For agriculture-dependent economies such as Pakistan, such erratic weather and rising temperatures spell disaster.
In the past decade or so, we have witnessed both natural calamities. Together, they have created scores of climate change refugees in their wake and destroyed lives and property. But the reality of these extremes only further highlights the fact that the current water shortages are very much an issue of mismanagement of resources and the unnecessary wastage of water caused by shortsighted planning that does not take worst-case scenarios into account — until it is too late. For instance, groundwater is depleting at an alarming rate as it is not stored sensibly to see through difficult times. In a recent, rare appearance in parliament, the prime minister advised that we should “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” in the context of the increasingly hostile relations with India. One hopes that our policymakers extend this philosophy to the country’s water crisis as well.


Coaches sacked

IN a rare display of wisdom and prompt decision-making, the PCB has shown the door to head coach Mickey Arthur and three others on the recommendation of its cricket committee after the Pakistan team failed to reach the semi-finals in the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup.
The decision, a bold one, has been well-received in cricketing circles and was on the cards after the national team’s below-par campaign at the quadrennial event. For once, it was not a knee-jerk reaction and the performance of each coach was thoroughly debated by the cricket committee comprising legendary names such as Wasim Akram, Misbah-ul-Haq, former women’s team captain Urooj Mumtaz and others.
Besides Mickey Arthur, bowling coach Azhar Mahmood, batting coach Grant Flower and trainer Grant Luden all came under the spotlight for their inability to motivate or train the players well enough for some tough international assignments, the most challenging being the World Cup.
Ultimately, coaches are judged by the balance sheet of the results they achieve; sadly, for Arthur & Co, they showed too many debits and too few credits which eventually led to their ouster. The greatest moment for them was the Champions Trophy victory in England in 2017 that led many to believe that the country had finally unearthed a group of young match winners who would be a force to reckon with at the World Cup. Instead, a downward spiral was witnessed in the past year and a half as Pakistan struggled to put together a winning combination, both in Tests and ODIs.
At the brink of the abyss, retracing one’s steps is always a challenge. Mickey Arthur and the others had enough time to overcome the shortcomings but that did not happen and Pakistan did not make it to the semi-finals.
At this point, Pakistan cricket needs coaches who can inculcate a team culture, work on the players’ mental strength and develop their tactical nous. Talent abounds. It simply needs to be groomed and channelled for success.


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