The Express Tribune Editorial 27 November 2019

Drugs in schools

 

In recent months, the Sindh government has been focusing more on the problem of growing drug abuse. It is paying special attention to curb the increasing substance abuse in educational institutions in urban areas. The government has admitted that the penetration of drugs into schools has reached alarming levels and the trend needs to be arrested. The increasing trend of tobacco smoking among young boys and girls might give a fairly good idea of the level of substance abuse prevalent among these people.
It is an irony that when educated middle-aged people and the elderly are giving up smoking having been convinced of the grave consequences of the habit the younger generation has taken to smoking in a big way. Examples are set from above and those below follow them. The older generation says they took to smoking after they saw their elders smoking. Now things are going in the reverse direction. The younger generation is not paying heed to anti-smoking and anti-drug campaigns. They start smoking and substance abuse just for the heck of it. Gradually they are addicted to the bad habits. Both habits are harmful to health and lead to premature death.
The chief minister has formed a high-powered task force to prevent drug penetration into schools. The task force is to work in close coordination with Anti-Narcotics Force personnel in K-P and Balochistan. Heroin and cannabis are smuggled in from Afghanistan, cocaine from South Africa and ice from other countries. There is a need to keep a strict check on the long Pak-Afghan border. The chief minister also suggested the setting up of a committee under the health department to work for rehabilitation of addicts. All stakeholders will be taken on board so that the intensified campaign against drug abuse and drug peddling can give the desired results.

 
 

Tackling street crime

 

Fortunate is a Karachiite who has not had an encounter with a street criminal. There are rather those who have fallen prey to the roaming robbers more than once. Some have even clinched a hat-trick of the unpleasant experience. As many as 18,000 citizens every year are relieved of valuables including cellphones, motorcycles and cars, besides hard cash, according to media reports quoting officials. And this means that nearly 50 citizens are robbed at gunpoint every day in the city that has at its disposal the services of more than hundred police stations.
While street crimes have been a largely unchecked phenomenon in Karachi for a decade and half, there had been a cut in the overall crime rate in the city for a few years in the wake of the Rangers-led operation launched in 2013, and thus the cases of street crimes also fell. Of late though, the menace of street crimes has witnessed an upsurge. See the figures quoted in the media: 92,889 street robberies were reported to the police between January 2015 and October 2019 in which 82,417 people were deprived of their cellphones, 11,305 of motorcycles and 1,167 of cars.
That some 220 people also lost their lives while resisting these robberies speaks of the callousness of those considered as petty thieves, and calls for devising a comprehensive strategy to deal with what has become a challenge as big as anything. The Sindh CM has approved a Rs102 million plan to bolster Madadgar 15 to better take on the street criminals. However, side by side there is a need to carry out a survey to determine which segments of society are involved in the street crime, what provokes them into it, and how they could be helped out of it. A survey carried out after the 2011 riots in England revealed that most of those involved in the loot and arson were the dwellers of shanties unable to speak English, and were thus marginalised. Time to learn from the British experience.

 
 

Islamophobia

 

Bigotry has once again proven its unique ability to unite communities and the world. After a small group of anti-Islam activists in Norway tried to desecrate a copy of the Holy Quran at a protest rally in the city of Kristiansand, citizens from all walks of life rallied around the local Muslim community to show that they stand “together, even if we are different”. Kristiansand Mayor Harald Furre said his city is “for everyone” and described the protest as a “planned provocation”. He also credited the police for subduing the violence which broke out between protesters and counter-protesters.
The protest by Stop Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) was led by prominent bigots Lars Thorsen and Arne Tumyr, the group’s current leader and founder, respectively. Thorsen was arrested after the protest, while no action was taken against the 86-year-old Tumyr — a former journalist who was kicked out of various political and intellectual organisations after making his bigoted views public some 20 years ago. So what motivated the protest? “This is a move by SIAN to provoke Muslims and get them to look dangerous and violent,” Tore Bjørgo, a professor at the University of Oslo who specialises in extremism, told Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, adding that “Some people fall for that.”
A Norwegian police commissioner has already said that allowing the rally was about allowing free speech, but the hate speech and the blasphemous act could lead to criminal charges against the organisers. In September, PM Imran Khan had made a plea to world leaders at the UN to end Islamophobia, noting that freedom of speech should not be used to insult Muslim religious sentiment. The commissioner’s words echo that.
Pakistan and Turkey have formally condemned the act, with Pakistan announcing on Sunday that it would raise the matter at the international forums by submitting resolutions to the OIC and the EU. But several Muslim states have remained silent. There are arguments for both approaches — condemn an act to avoid it being repeated, or ignore these unknown attention-seeking bigots so that they fade away. Now that a course of action has been chosen, we can only hope that the people express their outrage thoughtfully, rather than violently.

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