The Express Tribune Editorial 22 November 2019

Respect for judgments

Court verdicts must be respected and accepted even if they are unfavourable, and the right to disagreement and criticism must not breach the norms of decency and decorum – especially by those who represent the State and those who are elected by the people. Such representatives of the State and the people are expected to lead by example and set standards by following rules and laws and siding with principles. The Western world is now matured enough to know how to react to legal judgments. Unfortunately though, in our society, court verdicts are only welcome as long as they favour you otherwise they are a product of bias, grudge, enmity, conspiracy and what not.
It was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s right to disagree – to the LHC verdict that led to Nawaz Sharif flying out of the country for medical treatment – but he was not expected to blurt out at a public forum. The PM’s remarks about the judiciary – during his scathing verbal assault on his political opponents at the opening of a motorway the other day – deserved to be met with a response. And thus, a rejoinder from the CJP himself. The top judge adopted a very polite tone to contradict, with facts and figures, the PM’s complaints about the “judiciary’s inability to treat the rich and the poor equally”. The honourable judge corrected the PM that it was he who had allowed the PML-N chief to leave the country, and the LHC only ruled on whether the government’s indemnity bond condition was lawful or not.
The fact is that the PM – trapped in his political rhetoric – was totally confused on whether to allow Nawaz, at the expense of his political capital, to go abroad for treatment or to block the exit of the ailing veteran politician at his very own risk. To enjoy the best of both, he attempted a way out, but that was ruled unlawful by the LHC. The option to move the Supreme Court rests with the PM if he really believes the LHC ruling has “augmented the impression of preferential treatment for the powerful”, but finding fault with the legal judgment in public only smacks of attempts at scapegoating others for personal weaknesses and failures.


India’s NRC

After the disaster that was the Indian government’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, Home Minister Amit Shah wants to conduct the same exercise nationwide. Last time, due to “errors” they left war heroes and established political leaders from Assam, including some from the BJP, off the list — effectively saying, wrongly, that the government did not recognise them as Indian citizens. With the stakes even higher this time, those who saw the incompetence with which the Assam exercise was done would not accept anything less than a general or a government cabinet member being certified “not Indian”.
Critics say the NRC effort is just a part of the BJP’s deep-seated bias against minorities, especially Muslims, and the campaign threatens to further marginalise them. The BJP denies this, but why else would Modi and the BJP fear innocent migrants? Surely the number of Indians leaving the country should be of greater concern. During Modi’s time as PM, some 800,000 Indians have legally migrated to the US, with the Indian-origin population doubling to 2.7 million. Many more have entered illegally, as the hundred deported every week would suggest.
Why do so many Indians want to flee the BJP’s economic paradise? According to a recent report in the Arizona Republic, the sudden arrival of families from India, for example, could reflect rising persecution against religious minorities, including Sikhs, Muslims and Christians, in that country under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist.” The report notes that some Indian migrants have died en route and goes on to add comments from Randy Capps, Director of Research for US programmes at the Migration Policy Institute. “Indians have been seeking asylum for years now… Many of them are religious minorities, Sikhs in particular… They are fleeing religious persecution in many cases so their motive on the surface doesn’t appear to be economic,” he said. Further proof that even middle and upper-class Indians aren’t safe unless they are the right religion.


Controlling rabies

In the past 10 months, around 186,579 people have been bitten by stray dogs in Sindh. After much hue and cry from the public and media, the provincial government has launched a programme to control the increasing stray dog population and wipe out rabies. Now stray dogs won’t be killed. They will be vaccinated against rabies and then neutered to prevent an unbridled growth in their population. The programme has been launched by the local government department with the help of NGOs and other concerned segments of society. In the first year, 500,000 stray dogs will be vaccinated and sterilised. The whole process will take 12 days. One rabies vaccination for humans costs Rs700-800 whereas vaccination for a dog costs Rs60-80.
The situation in Sindh as regards the growing population of stray dogs and dog-bite cases had worsened so much so that the Sindh High Court had to intervene. Complying with the court orders the local government authorities culled 34,000 dogs in in the province in the past three months. Besides being inhumane, culling causes environmental pollution. Now the global practice is to vaccinate dogs and neuter them to control their population.
Before the launch of this programme, the government has not shown the required seriousness on the significant issue of rabies and growing population of stray dogs. This is borne out by the fact that World Rabies Day is being observed on Sept 28 since 2007, but this goes largely unnoticed in Pakistan. Dogs suffering from rabies have red eyes, there is frothing at their mouths, bite everything including inanimate objects and are highly sensitive to light. Such dogs die within 10 days after contracting the disease. Now the success of the campaign depends on cooperation between the relevant government departments. Around 59,000 people die of rabies every year worldwide, with over 75 per cent of the deaths occurring in Asia and Africa.

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