The Express Tribune Editorial 12 October 2019

A charge sheet — finally


Finally, the MQM founder has been charged in London with incitement to violence – in a move that has the potential to bring the curtains down on a major political party of Pakistan which started off from Karachi as a students’ movement in the late 1970s in the name of Mohajir rights. Within years, the party turned into the only electoral choice of the Urdu-speaking community of the country – mainly concentrated in the urban areas of Sindh province – before losing the political track in the late 1980s. The use of violence in politics by the MQM resulted in Altaf Hussain, the party founder, and other leaders fleeing in exile to the UK in the early 1990s. This, however, did not affect the MQM founder’s clout and control over the politics of Karachi, and he continued to call the shots in the multi-ethnic city whose people had learnt to take violence – in all its forms – in their stride.
Through a mix of compliance and resistance, the MQM stayed relevant in the country’s politics till a decade and a half into the 2000s, with its leaders and workers leaving no opportunity to try and make a case for separation – sometimes very openly too. One such occasion came in on August 22, 2016 when the MQM founder, in a telephonic address to party supporters from London, not only raised anti-Pakistan slogans but also called the country “a cancer for entire world”. The address – that was followed by an attack on a media house by party supporters – turned out to be the beginning of the end of the MQM. While it was enough a justification for the state apparatus to make use of legal ways and means to contain the party, it has also landed the party founder in trouble in the UK, where hate speech is a serious crime.
The London police are known for doing a proper homework before taking an accused to the court. And this is what threatens the demise of the Altaf-led MQM which has already fragmented into nearly half a dozen factions.


Nobel Peace Prize


It is in recognition of the importance of peace in Africa that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The Nobel committee has selected Ahmed for the prize for his peacemaking efforts with Eritrea. The Nobel Institute said Ahmed was named for his moves to end his country’s conflict with next door Eritrea within months of coming to office in 2018. In a statement, the Nobel committee said, “…Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a bright future. He spent his first 100 days as Prime Minister lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalising outlawed opposition groups, dismissing leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life. He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.”
Though richly endowed with natural resources, a large part of Africa and Asia is ridden with conflicts. As a result of corruption and conflict people in many countries of the two continents are facing hunger, poverty and large-scale displacements. Conflict and corruption are forcing many Africans and Asians to leave their countries and seek refuge in peaceful environs where they can at least get their minimum needs fulfilled. It is because of rampant corruption and favouritism that prosperity in these countries has bypassed the common people. The local elites have pocketed the large chunk of the national income. There are few well-off people here and there and the majority lives a hand-to-mouth existence. The elites have no faith in their own healthcare and education systems. They seek medical treatment in Europe and America. Their children get education in First World countries. In these countries, now there is a growing realisation of the importance of peace and putting an end to corruption. The Ethiopian PM’s efforts will act as a ray of hope for countries experiencing conflict and corruption.


Singapore sugar ads ban


Singapore has announced plans to ban the advertising of numerous high-sugar drinks and juices as it introduces a series of measures to curb diabetes rates in the country, which are among the highest in the world. The drinks themselves may also be required to bear health warnings normally associated with more dangerous products. The measures are in line with Singapore’s reputation as a land of strict laws — the measures are much harsher than in other countries such as Mexico and the United Kingdom, where restrictions have been placed on the hours during which ads for high-calorie foods and drinks can be shown on TV. Singapore’s planned restrictions would go beyond TV and into print, and online channels.
There are also proposals to introduce taxes on sugary drink manufacturers and importers, and even a total ban on the sale of some beverages. The proposal offers some food for thought for Pakistan, which has an increasing diabetes problem and an abundance of cheap, unhealthy sugar-laden drinks and edibles available at every corner. While restricting advertising for sugary products may have some benefits, in theory, the experience both at home and abroad with tobacco and other restricted products suggests that manufacturers will find other ways to market these products. Lax enforcement would make policing such workarounds even more difficult. An outright ban on imports would be problematic, as several popular candies and confectionaries are not domestically manufactured and the vast majority are imported through proper legal channels. Allowing a black market to develop would be a double-whammy.
Increasing taxes, however, may be a more workable solution to discourage consumption. Higher prices will not make people quit candy, but they will invariably have to manage their dosage. This is especially important with children, who will not be concerned with the long-term damage they are doing to themselves with all that candy. And even mom and dad might think twice before eating that second rasgulla.

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