The Express Tribune Editorial 20 February 2021

The PSL-6


Here we go! Defenders Karachi Kings are all set to take on Quetta Gladiators in the opening encounter of the sixth edition of Pakistan Super League – the PSL-6 – at Karachi’s National Stadium today. The next 25 days will provide full-on cricketainment to the game lovers the world over. For a second time in a row, the whole of the super league is scheduled on local venues. And the fact that none of the foreign players has been heard expressing qualms about playing in Pakistan is enough an evidence of the country having defeated the damaging perception of it being a pariah destination for sports. In fact, more and more foreign players, as well as officials, commentators and experts from aboard, are now willing to be a part of the prestigious PSL brand – something that comes in acknowledgement of the efforts of the government, the cricket board and security forces to promote the soft image of the country the world over.
That PSL has been a great multi-dimensional success story goes without saying. Apart from sending a powerful message to the whole world that Pakistan is safe for foreign travel and tourism as well as financial investment, it is making a huge contribution towards turning cricket into a profitable industry. The premier league has not only lifted the financial status of all those connected with the game of cricket in the country in any capacity, it is turning out to be a lucrative deal for all the associated corporate franchises. Besides, the broadcast of the matches to more than a dozen countries of the world is also fetching the much-needed foreign exchange against the sale of broadcasting rights. And in pure cricketing gains, the PSL has served to nurture promising talent that has come handy for Team Pakistan in its international undertakings.
In a welcome development for cricket enthusiasts in the country, the two stadiums where all the matches will be played are allowed to take spectators to fill 20% of the seating capacity. So here we go!



The climbing legacy


For two straight weeks, the whole nation held its breath while anxiously praying for a miracle. Unfortunately, fairytale ending only happens in movies. The grueling rescue operation carried out by the Pakistan Army in search of Muhammad Ali Sadpara as well as two other mountaineers was finally called off on Thursday and the three climbers were officially pronounced dead. In a rare moment of unity, people came together to express their profound grief and bade farewell to a brave heart, who for most of his career remained an unsung national hero.
Throughout his life, Sadpara was able to scale 8 of 14 Eight-thousanders — a feat only a superhuman could achieve. He was well known in his community for having a lively personality, a resilient spirit, an unwavering passion for his profession and his country — and for his entertaining dance moves. His son believes he was “passionate about the Pakistani flag to the point of insanity”. Even the worst of situations could not dampen his spirit and hope. He was a true patriot. However, due to limited national support, financial constraints and lack of formal training, Sadpara could not gain individual or international recognition. All his life he resorted to being a porter for international climbers in order to earn a living.
Even though the mountains have now embraced him forever, he has given Pakistan a legacy that we all can be proud of. We, in return, however, failed to give him the recognition that he deserved during his life. The dilemma that Pakistan seems to face is that we tend to cherish our heroes only when it is too late. Sadpara was a one of a kind gem who, with proper guidance and adequate sponsorship, could have been honed into one of the best mountaineers in the world. However, the dream hasn’t ended, it lives on in the hearts of youngsters who have developed a passion for climbing. It is about time that we encouraged such extreme sports and unique talents. Sadpara dared to dream big, so should we.


Covid vaccination


There is some good news on the Covid-19 vaccination front as PM’s Assistant on Health Dr Faisal Sultan has revealed that Pakistan will be getting 2.8 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in another two weeks. The vaccines are coming from Pakistan’s Covax programme allocation. If waste is avoided, the number is good enough to cover almost 1.5 million people. Sultan informed the nation at a presser the other day that Pakistan should be getting about 17 million total doses through Covax by June.
As things stand, about 60,000 frontline healthcare workers have been vaccinated using the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, only 500,000 doses of which are available. In addition, the Sinopharm vaccine, though effective, was approved without being thoroughly tested on senior citizens. This is why seniors, including those in the healthcare sector, are not being vaccinated with it. The vaccination strategy, according to Sultan, has been streamlined to help healthcare workers get easier and faster access to existing vaccine stocks. Non-frontline healthcare workers can get vaccinated from Monday, while vaccination for senior citizens — the most at-risk age group — will begin in March. Seniors will exclusively get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
While it is heartening to learn that vaccination for seniors will begin soon, we must also remember that the total vaccine doses earmarked through Covax are not enough to even cover the over-65 population of the country, let alone all healthcare professionals and younger, at-risk people. Estimates show that the over-65 population of Pakistan is about 10.3 million. With zero waste, Pakistan’s initial Covax allocation of 17.2 million doses will only cover 8.6 million people. The government needs to find ways to increase acquisition fast. Perhaps appealing to big businesses, including some run by the political elite, is a solution.
This is literally what is happening in the island nation of Honduras, which ranks alongside Pakistan in terms of economic indicators. Businessmen and private companies — knowing that their government can’t afford or manage the job — are covering the costs for vaccine acquisition and distribution. Would patriotic Pakistani businesses stand up to do the same?

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