The Express Tribune Editorial 25 October 2019

Deaths in a lorry

At least 39 people, including a teenager, were found dead in a lorry in England in what appears to be an illegal migration attempt gone horribly wrong. The bodies were found in a refrigerated shipping container. There is speculation over whether the victims suffocated or froze to death — temperatures in refrigerated containers can go as low as -25 degrees Celcius. The incident is the first in the UK since 2000 when the bodies of 58 Chinese migrants were found in a lorry on a ferry from the Netherlands.
Police say they cannot yet say where the people were from, let alone who they were. There was initial confusion regarding how the lorry got to Essex in England, although details have since become clearer. The lorry was registered in Bulgaria under the name of a company owned by an Irish woman, according to the Bulgarian foreign ministry. The Bulgarian PM later clarified that his country has no connection with the incident apart from the registration. Essex police now believe the container came from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in Essex, and docked in the Thurrock area early on Wednesday. The driver may have taken the unusual route to avoid checkpoints intended to curtail human trafficking. Major ports such as Dover now have heartbeat and body heat-detecting technology, making it harder for illegal migrants to use them.
But as further details about the victims keep emerging and we hopefully get answers to whether or not this was illegal migration or human trafficking, and criminal negligence or murder, one thing is certain: the victims were pursuing economic opportunities, something many developing countries cannot even offer their skilled workers. For most common citizens in developing countries, a functioning state that allows access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity would be enough to make them stay home. But for this, the rulers of such states must learn that power at the expense of the weak is not power at all.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2019.


Saving human lives


The Sindh CM has approved the rules for the Sindh Injured Persons Compulsory Medical Treatment (Amal Umer) Act 0f 2019. Under these rules, hospitals shall have to provide immediate medical treatment to any injured person without complying with medico-legal formalities. Before the promulgation of the new law, hospitals would refuse to provide medical treatment to injured persons whose medico-legal formalities had not been completed. This caused unnecessary delays, and in the process many precious lives were lost which otherwise could have been saved. This mostly happened in cases of traffic accidents and of firing. The police also argued about their jurisdictions, that is, in which police station’s jurisdiction a person had suffered injuries. This further delayed the provision of medical treatment to the victim.
On August 13, 2018 in Karachi, a 10-year-old girl named Amal Umar was hit by a bullet during an exchange of fire between robbers and the police. Her parents rushed her to the nearest hospital where doctors refused to give her treatment due to the lack of medico-legal formalities. The girl died while on the way to another hospital. It is generally believed that she died due to the delay in providing her the necessary treatment. Amal’s death caused public outrage. The Sindh Assembly passed the much-needed law in 2019 in the aftermath of her death. The law binds all hospital to provide immediate treatment to injured persons. Under the law, the police will not be allowed to ‘interrupt or interfere’ until the injured person is deemed out of danger. Doctors will also not be bound to obtain the consent of relatives while providing the necessary treatment. The law removes hindrances that delayed the provision of necessary treatment to injured persons.
Laws are there to protect people and make life comfortable. We hope this law will be implemented in both letter and in spirit and help save lives. We should all uphold the sanctity of human life.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2019.


The CSS enigma


The government is currently in the process of introducing a pre-screening test before participants can appear for the actual CSS examination. Following the PM’s approval, the proposal is now all set to come before parliament. The PM’s Special Adviser on Establishment says these changes are synonymous with the PM’s vision of transparency, integrity and efficiency-based governance. According to the adviser, the screening process will also split candidates into three groups: the Pakistan Administrative Service, Inland Revenue Service, and the International Relations group. Even though federal officials claim these reforms aim to eradicate the “superiority complex and lingering colonial mindset”, they seem to forget that the Civil Service itself is a derivation of the colonial legacy.
The deplorable CSS results paint a dismal picture of the country’s intellectual strength. Only 3.35% of candidates were able to pass the exam in the last four years while this year’s success rate was a mere 2.56%. Bureaucrats and CSS experts give two major reasons: ‘non-seriousness’ of CSS applicants, evident from the thousands not bothering to appear even after applying; and the varying standards of the education system in Pakistan that increasingly perpetuate class segregation. In contrast, the participants question the credibility of the FPSC marking practices and also blame teaching institutions for their lack of proper guidance.
Even though international institutions pride themselves on their low acceptance rate as a show of rigorous and careful selection, the situation here is quite different. Pakistan’s education system revolves solely around the dogmatic method of rote learning while the CSS exams are based on IQ, critical thinking and concept understanding — meaning that the bar is set high while the quality of candidates remains low. The FPSC system may be riddled with problems, like having an outdated curriculum, but it is important for educational systems to follow the core fundamentals of critical thinking and concept understanding rather than relying on memory as the only mental tool. It is only after we are able to upheave the intellectual capability of students that we can move on to revamping the structural systems of the civil service.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 25th, 2019.

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