The Express Tribune Editorial 13 September 2019

Israeli hubris


Few had anticipated the ripples that would be created by the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in early 2014. A little over five years later, India has moved to annex the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir and now, Israel is talking about annexing large swathes of Palestine. The pronouncements come from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has long harboured a dream to “apply Israeli sovereignty” over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu has revived his long-held dream in a bid to whip up support for next week’s elections. However, unlike in Kashmir, where the Modi-led government had suspended the government in the disputed territory for months before finally annexing the region resulting in little on-ground political opposition, Palestinians appear far more determined not to give up another inch of their land to Israel.
With this conflict having garnered much world attention, Palestinian leaders have stated that any such move by Tel Aviv will effectively nullify interim peace deals from the 1990s which had helped end the last great intifada. Three major wars in the region over the issue in the past century, not to mention the centuries-old conflict over the region, means that the world is acutely aware of the gravity of the situation. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has already stated that the plan will constitute a “serious violation of international law”. But that throws no caution to the wind for Israel which knows that it enjoys the full, unflinching support of the US and other European powers to undertake gross violations of international law from launching wars with Lebanon to attacks on unarmed civilians in Gaza or even venturing into Syria. The real question is: will the fractured Muslim world ever wake up to back Palestinians’ cause or will it maintain its silence as it did with India’s annexation of Kashmir?


Sindh vs Centre

The PTI’s political ambitions in Sindh are no secret. The party ruling the Centre has, from time to time, been trying to make a case for change in the provincial government — being run by the PPP — citing the ‘sufferings’ of people at the hands of ‘corrupt’ and ‘inefficient’ rulers in the province. In December last year, there was a short burst of political activity for bringing a change at the helm in Sindh. Fawad Chaudhry, then information minister, had landed in Karachi in a bid to exploit a window of opportunity to topple the PPP government that opened up in the wake of a damning JIT report regarding the fake bank accounts case involving Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur. During the various media talks in Karachi then, the minister had called it “a right of the people of Sindh to become part of the change that the three other provinces have seen”, predicting that the tenure of Zardari’s ‘monarchy’ in the province was coming to an end. The PTI government soon backtracked though, apparently due to a fierce reaction from the top PPP leadership.
A change in Sindh is now back on the PTI’s agenda — albeit with a change in strategy, devised by a 12-member Strategic Committee formed by the Prime Minister. The committee, headed by Federal Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem and having six members each from the PTI and the MQM-P, was tasked to suggest solutions to the pressing issues of Karachi like shortage of water, failed sewerage system, poor public transport and other problems. And the Strategic Committee head says that he plans to advise the PM to invoke Article 149, a constitutional clause, and take over the administrative control of Karachi for its uplift. The suggestion that the barrister plans to make has already provoked the ire of politicians, writers, intellectuals and civil society activists in Sindh — some of whom have gone as far as calling the proposal a conspiracy against Pakistan, and demanding the proposer’s resignation. All that indicates that the political temperature in Sindh is all set to rise in the coming days, with the people of Karachi continuing to suffer as always.


Pakistani universities


Pakistan’s ranking in education remains unsatisfactory. We stay at the lower rungs of the ladder in the matter of education. We have not much to show by way of achievements in science and technology. Same is the case with culture. Our intellectual life remains stagnated. One indication of this is that Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) is the only Pakistani university to be ranked among the top 500 universities in the world, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020. The 2020 edition for the annual ranking was released on Sept 11. This includes close to 1,400 universities from 92 countries. In the list are 14 Pakistani universities. QAU is the top-ranked Pakistani university at number 401-500. The list also includes COMSATS University Islamabad (601-800); University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (801-1,000); International Islamic University, Islamabad (801-1,000); LUMS (801-1,000), and some other universities from Punjab and K-P. No university from Sindh and Balochistan finds a place in the list.
The rankings should be a wake-up call for our policymakers, an expert says. Good ranking raises the reputation of the country and of universities. Products of well-reputed universities carry prestige among the international community of the learned. Expertise in science and technology is necessary for progress and development. On it depends survival of nations. Where do we stand in scientific research is illustrated by the fact that from April 2018 to March 2019 Pakistani article count in various scientific disciplines was 182. China is far ahead of us in this respect.
British and American universities dominated the upper echelons of this year’s rankings. The US grabbed 60 of the top 200 positions. China and Japan represent 45 per cent of all Asian entries into the rankings. But do we still believe that beyond basic literacy and numeracy further education is superfluous. This mindset ought to change. Pompous rhetoric about space expeditions should stop.

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