The Express Tribune Editorial 12 December 2019

Hooliganism at hospital


It’s literally unimaginable! A group of individuals or professionals storming a hospital just to register a protest. Words fail to measure up the intensity of the inexplicable mix of feelings evoked by the violent attack from lawyers, numbering a couple of hundreds, at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) in Lahore yesterday. They are known for doing it on streets. They have even done it at courts. But how could they choose a hospital — and that too for treating heart patients — for a protest venue! But they did it, without a shred of remorse. They gate-crashed the public-sector hospital, vandalised public property on the hospital premises, torched vehicles parked there, and even ransacked the intensive care unit, forcing the doctors and the paramedics on duty to run for their lives. Left unattended, several patients — according to a doctor — lost their lives. Several others needing emergency treatment were left stranded in ambulances outside the Battleground PIC. The total lives lost numbered between 3 and 6, according to different claims.
Even during wars, hospitals are off limits to aggression. But the hooliganism at the PIC continued, with all its callousness, for more than three hours, even after the arrival of heavy contingents of police. Teargas shelling by the police failed to deter the lawyers — who were angry at the uploading of a ‘mocking video’ showing a group of their colleagues urging the IG to press charges against two doctors — and affected the patients instead. Even a provincial minister, Fayyaz-ul Hasan Chauhan, who had arrived at the scene for calming the protesters down and listening to their concerns, was treated scornfully — thumped, jeered at, and dragged by the hair. Having avenged their ‘dishonour’ from the ‘mocking video’ and satiated their egos, the disdainful lawyers eased out of the place raising spirited chants and flashing victory signs. And the police could only nab two dozen from among the hundreds of these hooligans.
The Prime Minister has taken a notice of the violent protest. These guardians of law must be taught how to respect the law. No one should go scot-free. Time for the government to enforce its writ.


Orange Line Metro Train


The Orange Line Metro Train in Lahore began its test run on Dec 10. After three months of test run, the metro trains will likely start their commercial operation from March next. This is an encouraging development in a country where rapid mass transit system is non-existent in cities. The metro trains will travel a 27.1-km route of which 25.4 kilometres are elevated and the rest is underground. With 26 stations, it will initially handle 250,000 commuters daily. The entire operation of the electric trains will be controlled via computers. Orange Line is the first transport project of its kind to be completed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It was envisaged in 2013 by the then PML-N government in Punjab led by Shehbaz Sharif. Construction work on the project stopped for more than a year due to long litigation at the Lahore High Court and the supreme court.
Now we hope that work on the stalled rapid bus transit projects in Karachi and Peshawar will resume and harried commuters in these cities too will be facilitated. In Karachi, public transport is facing near-collapse. Once the city had local trains under the name of circular railway. Time and again the authorities have made several announcements for their revival, but so far nothing tangible has happened.
Cities in developed countries and most developing countries have local trains to facilitate commuters. The London underground, also known as the Tube, began operating in 1863. Some parts of it is overground. Local trains and underground railways facilitate commuters greatly. There is a special kind of romance attached to railway journey. It has prompted books and poems. Paul Theroux wrote The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Petagonian Express; Robert Louis Stevenson penned the poem From A Railway Carriage, which begins with these inspiring lines: “Faster than fairies, faster than witches/Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches.” We hope the people of Lahore will jealously guard their local trains.


The 18-year farce


A bombshell report in The Washington Post has revealed that top US officials held sharply negative views of America’s invasion of Afghanistan and had bleak assessments of the prospects for success. This goes counter to everything the American public — and the world — has been told for the past 18 years. The revelations came after a three-year legal battle over a freedom of information request led to the release of over 2,000 pages of interviews with over 400 officials on the war in Afghanistan. Apart from lying about the level of success in the war, the interviews reveal there was not even consensus on the war’s objectives, let alone how to end it. “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. We didn’t know what we were doing,” said Lt Gen (retd) Douglas Lute in a 2015 “lessons learned” interview. He served as an adviser on Afghanistan under presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama. The US didn’t even know who they were supposed to be fighting. “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” said Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary for the first six years of the war. Follow-up stories reveal even more.
The Obama administration’s support for Karzai despite knowing that he rigged his re-election also worried US officials. American Peter Galbraith, a former deputy UN envoy to Afghanistan, complained that the UN and the US were helping cover up the extent of election fraud. But the most telling nuggets came from former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley and former UN adviser Barnett Rubin. Hadley said the US underinvested in the civilian tools and capabilities of diplomacy, economic and social development, democratic governance, infrastructure development, and civilian institution-building that are essential for any post-conflict stabilisation effort to succeed. Rubin said, “A major mistake we made was treating the Taliban the same as al-Qaeda,” adding, “Key Taliban leaders were interested in giving the new system a chance, but we didn’t give them a chance.

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