The Express Tribune Editorial 5 December 2020

Gas pipeline blasts


In recent months in Karachi, several blasts have occurred due to leakage in domestic gas pipelines, raising doubts about the competency of those responsible for gas supply and for ensuring safety of gas pipelines. In September, an explosion in a gas pipeline inside a home in North Karachi killed two people; in October, six persons died in a gas pipeline blast in an apartment building in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. In this incident, the explosion was so powerful that one floor of the building was completely destroyed, rendering many occupants of the flats homeless. The gas supply company insists that the blast had no connection with gas pipelines.
And this month, on Dec 4, a child died and six members of the same family were injured when an explosion occurred inside their home in New Karachi. The explosion is said to have happened after gas accumulated inside the house from a leaking pipeline. The family had reportedly disconnected the gas supply because of interrupted supply and they were using a gas cylinder. A bomb disposal squad came to the conclusion that the blast was caused due to a leaking gas pipeline, possibly at the place where the disconnection was made. Several such explosions within a span of a few months naturally raise the issue of safety, which needs to be addressed with utmost attention to allay the fears of gas consumers.
For the past several years, parts of the country have been experiencing a shortage of gas in winter as gas is diverted to colder regions. However, lately gas pressure remains low in homes all through the year. While successive governments have been promising that the supply of gas will improve soon, things have only been deteriorating .The continuing shortage of gas has given rise to serious safety concerns, so the authorities should be more focused on safety issues and ensure that complaints of gas leakage is rectified promptly. Negligence by gas workers is manifest in reportedly disregarding complaints and overbilling.



Resolution on Islamophobia


The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted a resolution calling for the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Pakistan co-sponsored the resolution with the Philippines. Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram urged all countries to fight Islamophobia as he introduced the resolution. The draft responds to the concerns of most countries, he said before its passage. The resolution also welcomes the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor and appreciates India and Pakistan’s agreement to allow visa-free access to pilgrims as “a landmark initiative for interreligious and intercultural cooperation for peace”. Unfortunately, this relatively tame clause was too much for the Indian envoy to bear. Ambassador Ashish Sharma comically claimed that Pakistan was using the clause “to deceive the international community” and settle bilateral scores. Perhaps the Indian diplomat would have been more comfortable if we went the Indian way and started blaming minorities for all that ails our country?
What was also surprising was that he managed to say, with a straight face, that “India firmly condemns… Islamophobia and anti‑Christian acts”. Perhaps he forgets that the BJP-RSS combine regularly makes headlines for attacking, torturing, and killing members of all minority religious groups, and especially followers of Abrahamic faiths. There was also some irony in his complaint that the resolution does not explicitly “acknowledge the rise of hatred and violence against Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism”. Given that most of the violence against Sikhs, Buddhists, and lower-caste Hindus occurs in India, this statement was either an own goal or an intentional effort to get fired. Akram rightly said, “It is beyond India’s capacity to comprehend gestures of peace and religious harmony. While Pakistan is opening its doors to Sikhs, one only has to see what is happening around Delhi to see how India treats its minorities, including Muslims and Sikhs. India should take steps to protect minorities and their places of worship.



PM’s 10 points


Prime Minister Imran Khan is leading the global initiative for debt relief aimed at helping poor and developing countries cope with the health and economic havoc wrecked by the reigning Covid-19 pandemic. It is PM Imran’s repeated and forceful calls for debt relief that have significantly contributed to the G20 countries’ decision to suspend debt repayments by poor nations for a period of six months. The Debt Service Suspension Initiative approved in May 2020 allowed debt repayment suspension till December 2020. Under the initiative, Pakistan’s $1.8 billion worth of external debt repayments due till December were also rescheduled.
To quote United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the coronavirus pandemic is the most challenging crisis the world faces since the Second World War – one that is killing people and will also lead to an economic recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past. PM Imran echoed similar views as he spoke at a two-day special session of the UN General Assembly through a video message. Attended by nearly 100 world leaders, the summit was held to discuss a response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic and forge a united path forward to better recovery, including access to a vaccine.
PM Imran used the opportunity to further press the developing countries’ case for fiscal space to stimulate the economy for maintaining and reviving growth. In this context, he presented a 10-point agenda for urgent action, outlining the measures the international community needs to take to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic. The agenda lays special emphasis on debt relief for poor countries, calling for: debt suspension till the end of the pandemic for low income and most stressed countries; cancellation of debt of least developed countries; and restructuring of the public-sector debt of other developing countries under an agreed inclusive multilateral framework.
It needs not be over-emphasised that the Covid-triggered crisis needs to be countered with a concerted global action; and the developed world is required to shoulder more responsibility. After all, in an increasingly connected world, no nation is an island.

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