The Express Tribune Editorial 17 September 2019

Dengue epidemic


It is well known that when the cause of a disease is known, it is easy to eliminate it altogether. Then why is it so that in Pakistan every year, during the rainy season, swarms of mosquitoes emerge or they are allowed to emerge. Among these are mosquitoes causing dengue and malaria. The dengue-causing mosquitoes breed in clean water though other species of the insect usually breed in stagnant rainwater. This year the twin cities of Islamabad and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have been hit hard by a dengue epidemic. In the past month, three people have died of dengue fever in Rawalpindi. The twin cities have seen a surge in dengue cases over the past week. They lead in the overall number of dengue cases reported across the country. According to figures released by health authorities in Rawalpindi on Sept 15, as many as 148 suspected dengue patients were brought in for treatment in the twin cities over the past 24 hours. The Islamabad Capital Territory Administration has announced that it is taking all necessary steps to control the dengue epidemic. Hospitals have reserved 10 per cent of all beds for dengue patients. Confirmed dengue patients are being provided with free treatment. The Islamabad district magistrate has announced action against those responsible for the accumulation of fresh or stagnant water. Action is also being taken against accumulation of water in junkyards and tyre shops.
A major outbreak of dengue fever occurred in Pakistan between 2008 and 2010. Gradually, the intensity of the epidemic has reduced but it does appear during every rainy season. A few years ago we had heard that a special variety of fish, which eats dengue-causing mosquitoes, has been imported from Sri Lanka. We don’t hear about this anymore. Whether it is dengue fever or any other disease the best prevention against them is cleanliness. However, given the present state of cleanliness in various regions of the country, it seems to be a distant dream.


Drone strikes and spiking oil


Drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities have reduced global oil production by 5% and sent prices shooting up by at least 19%. The attack was initially claimed by the Houthis in Yemen. But a report in the Middle East Eye by its editor-in-chief David Hearst quotes an anonymous Iraqi intelligence official claiming that the attacks were launched from the pro-Iran group Hashd al-Shaabi’s bases in southern Iraq in retaliation to Israeli drone strikes on the group’s Syrian bases in August. But the office of the Prime Minister of Iraq denied that its territory was used to carry out the Saudi Aramco attacks while vowing to act decisively against anyone using Iraqi territory to attack other countries.
Amid all this, US President Donald Trump has been quick to revert to his reality show rhetoric and has claimed that the US is ‘locked and loaded’, despite reports coming in for months that the Saudis and Israelis are both trying to push the US to engage in a hot war with Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran before even the Saudis had openly pointed fingers. “Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while [President Hassan] Rouhani and [Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad] Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy,” Pompeo tweeted. But he offered no evidence of the origin of the attacks, and even satellite images produced later only suggest that an attack from the north or northwest — meaning Iran or Iraq — is more likely from the Houthis in Yemen in the southwest.
The erratic US regime is risking significant escalation through its rhetoric, but; to his credit, such escalation is also something that Trump has avoided in his international dealing to date. In the short term, the strikes probably end all hopes of a meeting between Trump and Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, which would make many in Riyadh and Tel Aviv happy.


Exit Qadri

So Dr Allama Tahirul Qadri has quit politics — not for the first time though. He had done so in November 2004 as well. Then, he had resigned midway through his tenure as MNA during the times of military ruler Pervez Musharraf. While he cited Musharraf’s counterterrorism policy as the reason for his resignation, he also expressed his loss of faith in Pakistan’s politics to bring change in the country for the betterment of the masses. Qadri, also a renowned religious scholar, then moved to Canada to pursue his preaching activities under his Minhajul Quran International — a non-profit organisation that spans many parts of the world and provides educational, religious and cultural services.
It was not until December 2012 that Qadri — all of a sudden — found his long lost faith in politics as an agent of socio-economic change. He returned to Pakistan “to rid the state of the corrupt political elite” by leading a movement against the government which was then led by President Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP. Thousands of supporters of the firebrand cleric staged a sit-in in the federal capital demanding the dissolution of parliament followed by the formation of a caretaker government in consultation with the military and judiciary to implement key reforms like a new election commission and ban on corrupt candidates. The movement, however, failed and Qadri went back to Canada — only to return to Pakistan about two years later with the same political narrative and the same goal of toppling an elected government. His opponent this time was, however, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The movement met the same fate, even though it was bolstered by Imran Khan who was rather there in the lead.
Qadri is revered as a distinguished Muslim scholar of international repute who has written hundreds of books in Urdu, English and Arabic and enjoys massive following the world over. However, his political pursuits remain questionable. In particular, his sudden return to Pakistani politics — in 2012 and 2014 — and his vain attempts to bring down the government continue to draw criticism.

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