The Express Tribune Editorial 24 November 2020

Killing for practice


At least 19 war criminals, all current or former members of Australia’s special forces, might finally face trial. They have been referred for potential prosecution in Australia for the cold-blooded murder of at least 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. Some of the victims were children. Some of the adults were just simple farmers. None of them presented any threat whatsoever. The details uncovered by the four-year Australian Defence Force investigation are disgusting — senior commandos were forcing junior soldiers to kill innocent people in order to “blood” them for combat. Soldiers would be ordered by patrol commanders to shoot prisoners and mark their first kill. Once a person was killed, the soldiers would then plant weapons and fake a fight scene to cover up their crimes.
These crimes continued for years, and we would not be surprised if the actual kill count is much higher. Even though there were rumours that this was going on for years, a culture of secrecy kept the information from coming out until a military lawyer named David McBride leaked classified documents to the press. Because of his actions, McBride now faces charges for the leak. McBride argues he did so in the national interest. We will go one step further and say McBride’s actions were in the interest of all of humanity. Australia has already said all citations awarded to special operations task groups for the investigated period would be rescinded. But compensating the victims is not enough. Even giving the accused soldiers the maximum punishment is not enough.
We cannot forget that the only reason these crimes will be prosecuted is because one brave man risked his career and freedom to do the right thing. Letting him suffer behind bars for forcing the military to investigate uniformed criminals would be a crime in and of itself. If Australia wants to show that their country truly condemns war crimes, the first place to start would be dismissing charges against McBride



‘Olive tsunami’ project


Considering the immense health benefits of olive and olive oil, the ministry of climate change is to plant olive trees on a large scale under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme. The olive wood is also a strong timber. Trees are to be planted in Chakwal, Hangu and areas where the soil is suitable for growing olive.
Increased olive cultivation will save the country billions now spent on the import of olive oil. Doctors are unanimous that olive oil is good for health. It helps digestion, prevents bad cholesterol, slows down the ageing process of skin, bones and joints and also protects against many forms of cancer. It can be enjoyed without the fear of digestive guilt, and this is why world consumption of olive oil and olive is on the rise. Pakistan has taken to olive cultivation late. It has long been spending precious foreign exchange on importing olive oil though the climate in most parts of the country is suitable for growing olive trees. The ministry of food and agriculture will help in identifying areas where olive cultivation can be carried out and also undertake research to increase yield of the crop.
Olive has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region since ancient times and the fruit and its oil are part of the region’s cuisine. Olive tree has been described as a camel among trees as they are able to store enough water to keep them going through long periods of drought, an almost everlasting tree. There are some in the Middle East that are estimated to be 2,000 years old. Olive is mostly grown in Spain, Italy and the Middle East. Olive oil is classified as virgin, fine virgin and extra virgin according to the amount of fatty acids they contain. It is the label of ‘extra-virgin’ on bottles of olive oil that leaves people amused. Olive oil is like the good old nine oils — a panacea for nearly everything that ails man.



Politicising the virus


Educational institutions across the country — including schools, colleges, universities, madrassas and tuition centres — are all set to close, again. Punjab has directed markets and shops to shut by 6pm. Elsewhere in the country, business centres are ordered to shutter down by 10pm, though there is little or no implementation on the orders so far. Banquet halls have come under new restrictions in terms of number of guests and venue setting. Smart lockdowns are in place in parts of major towns and cities. And in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a complete lockdown has been imposed for a fortnight, starting November 21. All that because the second wave of the coronavirus has hit Pakistan, with daily new cases in excess of 2,000 and daily deaths between 35 and 59 during the last 10 days or so. These figures had come down to their lowest level towards the end of August — 213 patients of the infection on August 31 and one death on August 29.
Interestingly, the government appears in a rush to put Covid containment measures in place — in a sharp contrast to how they went about when the lethal virus had crossed into Pakistan in late February. On the other hand, the opposition parties look pretty casual this time around — in what constitutes a U-turn on the position they had taken on how to tackle the deadly microbe when it had first hit the country. The Prime Minister then believed that the virus was “just a flu” and did not necessitate any major shutdowns to control it — a stance that had invited the wrath of the opposition “for belittling the pandemic and endangering the lives of the people”. And now the PM himself is warning of a “total lockdown” if the opposition jalsas continue to be the cause of the spread of the lethal virus and increase the risk to human lives. And contrastingly, these warnings are now falling on the deaf ears of an opposition which, at the onset of the pandemic, was hell bent upon having the people locked indoors “in order to save their lives”.
That’s all politics, isn’t that? Our politicians must stop politicising the reigning pandemic and adopt measures in pure public interest. The onus this time though is on the opposition.

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