The Express Tribune Editorial 4 November 2019

Caught in a French lorry

In a shocking development, some 31 illegal Pakistani migrants were caught hidden in a lorry in Southern France on Friday. The episode reflects the desperation of jobless people who sometimes are ready to risk life and limb to cross into the continent of their dreams. It’s no small mercy that they were found alive. The 39 people discovered in a refrigerated truck in Britain last month were not so lucky. Both incidents expose, in no uncertain terms, the risks faced by migrants en route to Europe. The group of 31 Pakistani migrants was discovered during a routine check on a motorway near the Italian border, French prosecutors said. The migrants, who included three teenagers, were handed over to the Italian authorities.
Phenomenon of illegal Pakistanis entering Europe is not new. Thousands of Pakistanis fleeing poverty, unemployment and law and order problems have been attempting to illegally enter Europe. Every year, thousands of Pakistanis make abortive attempts to enter Greece via Iran and Turkey for better working opportunities. Most of them are arrested in Iran and Turkey and sent back.
Last year, the Pakistani ambassador to Greece wrote a letter to the Pakistan Foreign Office detailing the dire state of Pakistani human trafficking victims in Greece and seeking urgent attention of the government to curtail the crisis-like situation. Small wonder then that Pakistani illegal immigrants constitute a huge chunk of people deported from different countries annually. According to one report, over half a million such illegal immigrants, sent back home during the last six years, hailed from Pakistan.
Among the long list of countries, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and Turkey, took the top spot, deporting the most number of Pakistanis. According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Interior, since 2014, Saudi Arabia has deported more than 325,000 Pakistani nationals, UAE 52,000 and Oman and Oman jointly sent back home 47,000 Pakistanis. Human trafficking is a global problem, affecting the lives of millions of people around the world and robbing them of their dignity. Authorities should scale up efforts to prevent its nationals from bringing shame to the motherland.


Our worst impulses


The Internet may have revolutionised our lives for the better in countless ways, but something about it also brings out the worst in us. The choice of anonymity and the umbrella of remoteness it affords let many users to give in to their nastiest impulses, amplifying some of the most repressive tendencies of any society. As with other ills, it is usually the marginilised segments of society that end up being the worst hit by such behaviour. In Pakistan, a disproportionate amount of online bullying and violence is aimed at women, further restricting space for them to participate in public discourse.
Take a recent report by Media Matters for Democracy. An alarming 95 per cent of Pakistan’s women journalists have admitted that online violence and negativity has had an impact on their ability to carry out their professional duties. As much as 77 per cent of them have revealed that they have to do self-censorship in order to counter cyber bullying and mitigate a toxic online environment. With physical spaces already highly restricted for women in the country, the fact that they find even virtual spaces suffocating to such a high degree should shock us to our core. The report stated that the sexualised and personal nature of abuse directed towards women journalists further stifled women’s voices in public discourse. As a society, a lot of thinking on our part is due if we are to work towards building a better life for ourselves and others. As individuals, the best starting point would be to check our own impulses when presented with a choice to act abhorrently online.
Even so, there is a limit to the degree of online policing that can be carried out to make online spaces less toxic than they currently are. For women journalists, that is where their organisations and the journalistic fraternity should step in with structures for support. A starting point could be to simply have more legal advice and counseling sessions for women journalists on how to tackle online harassment.


The grand sale


The Saudi Aramco, an oil-producing behemoth, has announced the world’s biggest stock flotation. The move fits into Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s ultimate scheme to diversify the economy and make it less oil-addicted before the 2030 mark. But it falls short of meeting Saudi Arabia’s ambitious goals, possibly because the timing for the selloff might not be right and perhaps even due to the overestimated value. Having said that, the money generated by going public with Aramco, the country’s most prized and profitable jewel, may not contribute enough in the grand scheme to fund Prince Mo plan.
While local retail participation is expected because there is a sense of national pride in oil-giant, the timing of the Aramco selloff has several hurdles and may not attract foreign investors in the future. Firstly, it clashes with global trends against the use of fossil fuel and the surge in concern for the environment. Top institutional investors like Temasek Holdings Private Limited, a Singapore- based sovereign wealth fund, plan to reduce their exposure to fossil fuels, potentially ruling them out as backers of Aramco.
Secondly, confidence in the kingdom received a severe blow following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Foreign investors, who are expected to be invited, might be reluctant to invest in the country where human rights record is less than enviable. Lastly, both Saudi Arabia and the executives at Aramco are likely to be dogged by questions about the drone attacks that virtually crippled the global oil supply in September. While the physical damage from the attacks may have been repaired, investors remain worried about the vulnerability of Aramco and its units to future assault, more so, given the political tensions between Saudi Arabia and Yemen that show no sign of closure – not at least in the near future.

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