The Express Tribune Editorial 2 June 2021

A mindset of tolerance

 

Last week, members of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities in Berlin laid a foundation stone for a centre that would provide places of worship for the three major Abrahamic faiths. The planned complex, named the ‘House of One’ is intended by its founders to offer a ‘beacon of hope and inter-faith dialogue’ at a time when religious and ethnic differences are boiling into serious conflict in many parts of the globe. “The House of One project sends an important signal at this time,” the head of Germany’s Protestant church told the media in response to the development. “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are increasing. But they take people in the wrong direction, they fuel hatred and potentially lead to violence,” he maintained.
An interesting detail to note is that the centre is being built on the site of a 13th century church that was destroyed by the Communist East German government in the 1960s. In terms of tolerance and social justice, there is a lot that the entire world — including the West that would like to think itself its champion — needs to do. Symbols like the House of One play a vital role, but symbols as whole only take society too far. The hypocrisy in reaction to the sufferings the people of Gaza were subjected to only drives home at this point.
But before we in Pakistan and the rest of the Global South gloat, we would do well to check where we stand. In our country in particular, many, including even those educated and having sufficient exposure, would like to think everything is fine with us. On that we are severely mistaken. It was not long ago, for instance, that the question of building a Hindu temple in the federal capital became a source of controversy. That is just the tip of the iceberg too. Without outright calling them second-class citizens, we as a nation try our best to keep our minorities as such. And then, we berate them to their face and behind their backs. A simple question to ask ourselves is whether an initiative like the House of One would see fruition in our own societies.

 

 

Use of force against teachers

 

The police on Monday employed force to break up a protest by Peshawar University teachers and other staffers, injuring some of them. A few protesters were also arrested. Teachers and other university staffers were protesting against irregularity in the payment of their salaries, fringe benefits and pensions. The police came down hard on the protesters when they reached the provincial assembly building to make the authorities hear their grievances. The police subjected the protesters to batons in order to remove them from outside the assembly building. To add insult to injury, some government functionaries and ministers reportedly described teachers as terrorists.
Now teachers are finding themselves between the sea and a hard place. While the government is effecting cuts in the already insufficient emoluments of teachers, the police use disproportionate force when they protest for their rights guaranteed under the Constitution. This is happening in all four provinces where the police have used force against teachers, and no one seems to realise that teachers deserve utmost respect. Without them, we cannot even think of education; and what would be there in the absence of education. However, the contrary is happening: teachers are not being paid salaries commensurate with their skills and the nature of their jobs, and when they protest for their due rights, violent tactics are employed against them. If this trend is allowed to continue, soon people will avoid pursuing teaching as a career. The prevailing circumstances are enough to keep people away from academia, where there are neither sufficient salaries nor respect.
The police do not have a positive image in society because of their arrogant behaviour and unnecessary use of force. Parents don’t like their children to join the police force because of the image problem. Crowds need to be tackled tactfully. Above all, the police must exercise utmost restraint. Something seems to be seriously amiss in the training of police personnel. This needs to be rectified.

 

Green bond

 

The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has successfully listed the ‘Indus Bond’ on the London Stock Exchange, hoping to raise $500 million in financing for planned hydropower projects. Although it sounds like a large amount, the target is only a fraction of the $2.2 billion needed, according to the authority’s chairman. He says the investor response has been good thus far, which is also a good omen since Wapda plans to launch more such ‘green bonds’ as needed. The use of such bonds to raise funds for building dams or other infrastructure is certainly innovative, but with all foreign currency debt, there remains a risk of dangerous volatility for both investors and Wapda. State-owned enterprises in Pakistan have also been viewed with, at best, cautious optimism by investors, and the bond’s ‘B-’ rating, touted by some as being good, is actually quite low.
The reports we came across contained plenty of technical jargon but failed to clarify what the bond’s rating means. Fitch’s website explains it quite nicely. ‘D’ is a failing grade, meaning the issuer “has entered into bankruptcy filings, administration, receivership, liquidation or other formal winding-up procedure or that has otherwise ceased business. A rating of ‘B’ means “material default risk is present, but a limited margin of safety remains.” Fitch adds that a ‘B’ rating means “financial commitments are currently being met; however, capacity for continued payment is vulnerable to deterioration in the business and economic environment.”
Incidentally, since the Indus Bond has a ‘B-’, we looked at the next lowest rating to draw a clearer picture. ‘CCC’ means “default is a real possibility.” Standard and Poor’s also considers ‘B-’ to be junk bond territory, meaning that they are at high risk for default. While some investors may be attracted to the potential for high returns, they will likely be institutional investors who have little confidence or concern for the product and are just leverage-betting. So, looking past all the technical jargon presented by the government, the fact is that the bond is indeed a risky one, and at a time when the global economy is still shock-sensitive, there needs to be an abundance of caution when pursuing risky debt

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