The Express Tribune Editorial 11 May 2021

Three days of peace


The Taliban have announced a three-day ceasefire starting Thursday for Eid festival. And the government of President Ashraf Ghani is expected to reciprocate, like in the previous year. So the violence-hit Afghan citizens are likely to pass the three days of Eid in relative peace. While the days before the ceasefire announcement witnessed a spike in violence — also including multiple blasts outside a girls school in Kabul in what has turned out to be the worst terror attack in Afghanistan in a year — the time after the ceasefire is unlikely to allow any further calm, given the uncertain political future of the country in the wake of the US troops withdrawal.
The Saturday’s school blasts, meanwhile, rocked the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood which is home to the Hazara ethnic community who adheres to the minority Shia faith of Islam. The Hazaras have been a regular target of militants. Besides the nearly 70 dead in the three blasts near Sayed Al-Shuhada school, more than 160 people were also wounded. Most of those killed and wounded were female students, confirms the Interior Ministry. The school blasts were followed, a day later, by a bomb blast that hit a bus in the southern Zabul province, killing at least 11 people. Both the terror attacks have been blamed by the Afghan government on the Taliban even though Deash too has been involved in similar attacks in the past. The Taliban, on their part, have denied a hand in the attacks on civilians.
With the US troop pullout continuing and only four months away from completion, the surge in violence is pretty visible, further dimming the prospects of a dialogue leading to an agreement on a post-withdrawal political settlement between the main stakeholders — the Taliban and the Ghani administration. So while the September 11 withdrawal would bring the longest US war of history to an end, it is unlikely to result in peace in the war-torn Afghanistan. Time for all Afghan stakeholders to act in the interest of the poor Afghan civilians who have been longing for peace virtually since time immemorial.



Protecting old people


The government has taken a welcome step by promulgating an ordinance to prevent the eviction of old parents from homes. The ordinance will also make the offspring treat old parents with respect. In our country, the vast majority of people care for old parents, but the tendency to eject old parents and to treat them as something unwanted is discernible. The Protection of Parents Ordinance 2021 has declared turning out parents from homes illegal. Those found guilty of the offence shall be sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment with fine, or both.
The ordinance gives full protection to parents from being ejected from home. It will apply irrespective of whether the child owns or has rented the space. Parents can expel the offspring from the home owned by them. The parents shall have to serve a seven-day notice to the child to vacate the premises. If the child fails to comply with the notice, it shall be jailed for a maximum of one month and a maximum fine of Rs50,000, or both. The deputy commissioners have been given the authority to proceed if the child does not leave the home before the expiry of the notice period. If the official is satisfied that the parents are the legal owners of the house, the child shall have to vacate the premises despite the latter’s plea that it paid for the construction or purchase of the property. The guilty are liable to be arrested by the police. The parties can appeal within 30 days against the relevant authority’s decision.
The ordinance is unclear whether it applies to both male and female child. This creates confusion. It has also been left for the authorities to devise means to protect parents in cases where the house was built with the funds of parents or grandparents but was registered in the names of the offspring. The ordinance has come at a time when there is emptiness between time past and time future.



PM’s Saudi visit


While headlines focused on the Kashmir-related aspects of recent talks between the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the more significant and tangible development may well be the agreement on forming the Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council. The body would focus on enhancing bilateral cooperation and removing hurdles to investment, especially the deals already signed when Saudi Crown Prince Moham¬med bin Salman visited Pakistan in February 2019. The council was actually first announced during that 2019 visit, but operationalising it has taken far too long. Apart from drawing investment, the council could also evolve into a tool to help avoid blips in the relationship.
Meanwhile, the two governments also agreed to a host of other deals, including one relating to fighting drug trafficking and another deal relating to financing for energy, infrastructure, transportation, water, and communications projects through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). There were also reports of positives on the defence cooperation front, although few details on this were initially provided. Other agreements related to crime and punishment, which has significance given the huge Pakistani population in the country. Over 2.5 million Pakistanis live and work in Saudi Arabia. In fact, Pakistanis account for about seven per cent of the total population of Saudi Arabia, making them the third-largest population group overall, behind native Saudi citizens and Indian expats.
The agreement on Kashmir was technically a statement of support for a peaceful resolution to one of the world’s longest and most dangerous territorial disputes. Although a significant bilateral outcome, it should not be seen as the catalyst for peace. Rather, it was more of a gentle nudge for India to participate in talks with Pakistan in good faith. However, Saudi acknowledgment of Pakistan’s role in helping move the Afghan peace process forward was welcome and genuine. At the same time, talks of efforts to push for peace in war-torn Muslim countries such as Libya and Syria were also welcome. Perhaps more concrete details will emerge in the coming days about the finer points of the meetings, but what we can already gauge is that the tour was, all in all, a success.

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