The Express Tribune Editorial 11 December 2019

Secular India?


Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to take India away from its secular roots with another attempt to oppress Muslims. India’s lower house of parliament on Monday passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) after hours of intense debate. The bill reintroduced in the assembly by Home Minister Amit Shah allows Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before 2015. Opponents of the bill say it discriminates against Muslims and violates India’s secular constitution. The bill was first introduced in 2016, during Modi’s first term, but lapsed due to lack of support from the ruling coalition. One of the odd outcomes of the assembly debate on the bill was Home Minister Amit Shah’s full-throated defence of Christians. He noted that they were an oppressed minority in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. What made it odd was that this was the first time in his political career that he has shown concern for Christians, who regularly get beaten, robbed, raped and murdered by Hindutva fanatics in India.
India has erupted in protests and the intelligentsia has issued a statement calling for the withdrawal of the bill which they fear “will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country”. The ruling Bahartiya Janata Party (BJP) had enough seats in Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, to get the bill passed. But while they are a few seats short in Rajya Sabha, the upper house, a home minister accused of murder, kidnapping and extortion, and ‘disappearing’ witnesses would surely be able to convince a few members to see things his way. Even the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has said that the bill is a “dangerous turn in wrong direction” and has sought American sanctions against Shah and other “principal leadership” if the bill passes into law. “CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction [which] runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” USCIRF said.


Thank you, Sri Lanka!

Today is indeed a big day for sports in Pakistan: Test cricket is making a comeback to the country after more than a decade. Weather permitting, the cricket-mad Pakistani nation is all set to see their national heroes in action on their own soil in a five-day international game just today. The first game of the two-Test rubber, scheduled in Pindi Cricket Stadium from today, has been chosen to honour cricket legend Javed Miandad and Sri Lanka’s first Test skipper Bandula Warnapura who have been invited to the venue as special guests.
Terrorism has had its disastrous toll on almost everything in Pakistan. How could sports have an escape? And being the most popular sport in the country, it is cricket that took the severest hit. The terrorist act of March 3, 2009 in Lahore was rare in that it targeted our foreign guests — the visiting Sri Lankan cricketers. Even though we were — very fortunately — able to protect our guests, the incident was enough to scare foreign sportsmen away from Pakistan. And thus a drought of top cricket in the country for years and years.
The receding tide of terrorism in the country over the past few years, coupled with heightened security for visiting dignitaries, did manage to pull some foreign teams — include Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and an ICC World XI — to play limited-overs games in Pakistan. Besides, the Pakistan Super League, which is mostly played in the UAE, has also seen a few games contested in the host country. But Sri Lanka’s has been the first full-fledged international team to have graced the hitherto-deserted cricket venues in Pakistan.
The PCB’s efforts for the revival of cricket in all its formats in Pakistan are commendable. However, it is Sri Lanka that deserves true applause. We, as a nation, should be thankful to the government of Sri Lankan and the cricket authorities there for helping us in our efforts for cricket revival on our home soil. Thank you, Sri Lanka!


KE and safety issues


The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority has found K-Electric wanting in ensuring safety of people on several counts and has imposed a fine of Rs50 million on the utility supplying power to Karachi. An inquiry by the regulator has established that 19 deaths had occurred due to lack of earthing of low/high tension poles and leakage of current from the distribution system of KE. A number of people had died from electrocution during the monsoon rains in Karachi in July and August this year. Nepra had started a probe against KE in August and September and has come to the conclusion that the power suppliers were responsible for 19 of the 35 deaths. The regulator said the power utility had failed to fulfil “its statutory obligation to maintain safety standards” and the terms and conditions of its licence.
Nepra has ordered KE to complete earthing and grounding of its distribution network by April 2020 and carry out third-party verification of the work. It has ordered the power utility to complete an internal inquiry and fix the responsibility of its employees/management and submit its final report to it. It has ordered KE to share details of the compensation paid to the families of those who died of electrocution. The inquiry has found that the design of the distribution network of KE does not meet the requirements as laid down in the relevant Code and Manual. The inquiry report says KE allowed telephone/TV /internet cable operators to use its distribution network in a hazardous manner. It says “KEL failed to report fatalities immediately after occurrence to the Authority in a prescribed manner and also failed to restore supply of electricity within the prescribed time limits.” It is not clear what compensation amount KE will pay to the families of those who died from electrocution. Will those who suffered temporary or permanent disability as a result of electric shock be also paid any compensation? Nepra and KE should come out clear on this vital issue.


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