Dawn Editorial 14 February 2021

Senate nominations

ALL major parties including the PTI, PML-N and PPP have announced their candidates for the Senate elections scheduled for March 3. Many of the names in the final list are expected ones. The PTI has nominated finance adviser Hafeez Sheikh because he needs to be elected in order to run the ministry with full powers and also preside over the National Finance Commission. Dr Sania Nishtar’s nomination was also to be expected. Prime Minister Imran Khan has praised her work as head of the government’s flagship Ehsaas programme. The PML-N has fielded senior people like Pervaiz Rashid and Mushahidullah Khan though the party’s chairman Raja Zafarul Haq will be retiring and not returning to the upper house. The PPP has also chosen to give tickets to key members like Sherry Rehman and Farhatullah Babar. Prominent among those from the PTI who have not got a Senate ticket are parliamentary affairs’ adviser Babar Awan, commerce adviser Razzaq Dawood and accountability adviser Shahzad Akbar. Given the respective party strengths within the Senate electoral college, and if people vote along party lines, the PTI is expected to emerge as the largest party in the house, followed by PPP and then the PML-N.
The surprise nomination is that of federal minister Faisal Vawda. He won his seat for the National Assembly from Karachi in the 2018 elections but of late has been embroiled in a controversy that threatens to disqualify him. He is accused of not declaring his dual nationality on the day of filing of nomination papers. The Election Commission of Pakistan is hearing the case and Mr Vawda has refused to attend the hearing despite being formally summoned. The fact that the PTI has awarded him a Senate ticket may mean the party is expecting him to be found guilty and de-seated from the National Assembly. In other words, is Mr Vawda possibly being rewarded for deliberately providing wrong information to the ECP? Another surprise was the reward of a PTI ticket in Balochistan to Abdul Qadir who was not even a party member, but an outcry from within the party appears to have forced the leadership to take the ticket back. However, it goes to show that in these elections, all remain willing for compromises.
The Supreme Court is hearing a case on whether the mode of voting in these elections is mandated by the Election Act 2017 or by the Constitution. The decision will determine how the election is held. The opposition believes many PTI legislators will not vote for party candidates in a secret battle and there could be some surprises in store. This may explain why former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been fielded as a joint candidate of the PDM. He is a strong candidate and his victory or defeat would have significant symbolic and substantive political value.



Women’s cricket challenge

PAKISTAN’S women cricketers fell short of expectations on their recent tour of South Africa, losing the closely fought ODI series 0-3 and going down 1-2 in the T20 contests. Though there were some fine individual performances, especially from captain Javeria Khan, Nida Dar, all-rounder Aliya Riaz and right-arm pacer Diana Baig, the team’s inability to get their act together at crucial stages saw them go down by narrow margins to a buoyant home side. To be fair, the African safari was the team’s first tour in the Covid-19 era and the players have blamed their rusty performance on the lack of tours and activity at home during the past year. Their argument did seem to carry weight as towards the end of the South Africa tour, the players managed to win the last T20 on the basis of the Duckworth-Lewis method. The team carried their good form on the subsequent tour of Zimbabwe where they beat the hosts by a huge margin of 178 runs in the first ODI before the tour was abruptly abandoned due to travel chaos.
Having said that, the critics and ex-coaches of the team insist the players need to work on their mental toughness to hold their nerve in order to convert close games into victories. The team’s new coach David Hemp is a professional and is optimistic the team can become a competitive outfit. But the fact remains that during the past three to four years, the plummeting graph of women’s teams such as Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Ireland makes it clear that their respective boards ought to prioritise and invest in women’s cricket to make an impact at the world level. It is hard to remain oblivious to the lack of resources and support for women players as compared to men’s teams. In order to give the players more exposure and prepare them for bigger challenges, a dedicated women’s cricket league on the lines of the PSL could be one solution.



Close Guantanamo

FOR nearly two decades, the American gulag at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been synonymous with egregious abuse of power and open disregard for fundamental rights. Put into use after the 9/11 events to house so-called high-value prisoners and circumvent the safeguards of the American legal system, Guantanamo has delivered anything but justice, instead becoming a grim symbol of the extralegal methods even established democracies can resort to. While Barack Obama during his time in the White House did make efforts to shut down the facility, Donald Trump reversed these small gains and kept the penitentiary open. Now, as Joe Biden settles into Washington, there are voices from within his administration saying that the new leader is reviewing efforts to close down the detention centre. Of course these efforts will meet stiff resistance by the Republicans, as was the case during the Obama presidency. But if President Biden is serious about upholding the human rights agenda, he needs to shut down Guantanamo without delay.
The fact is that some inmates have been held in the facility without conviction or charge for nearly 20 years. This is an affront to the basic demands of justice. Take septuagenarian prisoner Saifullah Paracha, who says he was abducted by the CIA in Bangkok. He claims he was implicated on the basis of testimony extracted after torture. On the other hand, Ahmed Rabbani, who says he was captured from Karachi, was reportedly tortured for 540 days in Afghanistan before being shifted to Guantanamo, where he has been held without charge. These are only a few stories; a number of horrific tales of torture and violence have been documented from this notorious facility. While the US promises ‘liberty and justice for all’, clearly, the detainees of Guantanamo are excluded. No legal system on earth can justify keeping people in detention for decades without framing charges. Therefore, it is time Mr Biden did the right thing and closed Guantanamo. ‘Black sites’, gulags and torture used as an instrument of policy are some of the unsavoury by-products of the ‘war on terror’, and America needs to come to terms with this dark chapter of its recent past. Governments all across the world — democratic as well as authoritarian — have used these brutal methods to forward their aims. However, those that claim to be the champions of human rights, should either abandon such methods, or stop making such claims.

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