The Express Tribune Editorial 31 May 2021

Mobilising youth


Ostensibly, there can be one of two main outcomes of a major youth bulge. Boom or bust. All of that depends on how the youths are managed, moulded and directed. In the case of Pakistan, there now appears some effort to ensure that this bulge does not implode. The government has decided to allocate a whopping Rs100 billion package to fund startups by the youth. Simultaneously, the government has announced 170,000 skills education scholarships for youngsters. A sizeable chunk of these skill scholarships, however, will be reserved for emerging ‘high-end’ skills such as artificial intelligence and big data.
One of the most consistent policies of the ruling PTI has been its laser focus on ensuring that our youths are moulded into a boom for the country, lest they become a bomb. The digital realm has been particularly targeted by the government as the sector to enhance since it is the only one that allows the quickest access to global capital or employment opportunities for citizens while staying in the country. Since coming into power nearly three years ago, the PTI has worked to extend resources, through provision of cash on easy terms along with skills training for the youth so that they can stand on their own feet. The climate of doing business has also been eased, especially in how freelancers can receive payments and access global e-commerce gateways. An entire university dedicated to skills development has also been set up. With nearly four million people entering the job market annually, this is realistically the most cost-effective and efficient option to create jobs for these people.
However, three years appear to be insufficient time to fully reap the fruits of this policy. There is little argument that the future is digital and entrepreneurship is what helped the US become the largest economy in the world. While the government’s efforts are steps in the right direction, they need to be backed by a larger, more comprehensive plan with performance-based checks and balances to ensure a fruitful strategy.



Toxic ship at Gadani


This week, an old ship has anchored at the Gadani shipbreaking yard, even though Interpol had issued a warning as the ship contained toxic chemicals. While the Environment Protection Agency of Balochistan has sealed the plot where the ship is anchored, and an investigation has been launched to check the mercury levels aboard the ship, there are many questions that come to mind.
Foremost being, how did the ship even get to the Gadani yard in the first place? As per the Basel Convention of 2004, old ships that have been categorised as ‘toxic waste’ cannot leave their home country for scrapping without the explicit permission of the importing country. This law was set into place following many developed countries sending off their retired ships to mostly South Asian countries for scrapping, causing an environmental crisis in the poor countries. As a result of these regulations, Gadani was one of the shipbreaking yards to be adversely affected. Even in this most recent case, Bangladesh and India had refused to scrap the ship due to the high levels of mercury and other chemicals on board. Curiously, the deputy direc¬tor of Balochistan’s Environment Depar¬t¬ment stated that no such permission had been granted to the ship owner for scrapping at the Gadani yard. The authorities are now investigating how the ship got here.
Interpol’s warning regarding the presence of toxic metals and gases is not unfounded though. In 2011, four Bangladeshi workers died after inhaling toxic gases as they worked in a compartment of an old ship to dismantle it. Had the ship in question at Gadani not been investigated, a similar or perhaps worse loss of life could be possible. It was only last year that 17 people had died as a result of soya bean dust, an aeroallergen, and toxic material in the air due to pet-coke handling at Karachi’s Keamari Port. It is imperative for the government to thoroughly investigate how this ship was able to reach Gadani without permit and ensure strict measures to prevent any further accidents



PDM in a bind


The PDM is trying its best to get out of the stalemate it has been languishing in since the Senate elections in March. At the heart of this stalemate is the conflict related to the PPP securing votes from BAP – a ruling coalition member thought to be acting on the establishment’s diktats – for clinching the post of opposition leader in the Upper House. The PML-N and seven other PDM constituents want the PPP to show cause of why it sought support from BAP if it wants to remain a part of the opposition alliance. The PPP, for its part, insists that no PDM member party has the right to issue a show-cause notice to any other party within the alliance, let alone throwing it out.
In a bid to sort out the issue some way and carve out a way forward with consensus, a meeting of the heads of the PDM member parties – excluding the PPP, as well as the ANP which had supported the PPP candidate, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in the election of the Senate opposition leader and had quit the opposition alliance when issued a similar show-cause notice – was held in Islamabad on Saturday. The meeting was expected to come up with a final word as to the status of the PPP and the ANP. However, the PDM leaders sought to trivialise the issue, telling the reporters after the meeting that the two parties were not discussed in the meeting at all, and that if they wanted to rejoin the alliance, they could do so by explaining their position.
That the conflict within the PDM persists augers well for the ruling PTI. Also, within the PML-N, the biggest PDM constituent, the contradicting narratives held by the Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz camps are another source of relief for the government. And the good news from the economic front – that the GDP growth rate is on course to reach 4% – tops it all. So, are things beginning to fall in place for Prime Minister Imran Khan? Well, Lodhran is one front that still troubles the incumbent government. In order to neutralise this threat and save his government, the Prime Minister is required to make some compromises on his oft-stated political position that he would never give an NRO to any wrongdoer.

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