The Express Tribune Editorial 5 November 2019

Kashmir map changes


Pakistan has rejected new maps issued by New Delhi which show India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), and Azad Jammu and Kashmir “within the territorial jurisdiction of India”. Our Foreign Office took strong exception to a notification from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the new disputed boundaries after India’s illegal decision to remove IOK’s special status and split it into two union territories. The new Indian maps show G-B as part of Ladakh and AJK as part of the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory.
India has again tried to justified its controversial actions in IOK by claiming that Kashmir is its internal issue. This ‘internalisation’ approach of the Modi government towards regarding Kashmir is ironic, considering that the Kashmir issue was internationalised by India itself when it went to the United Nations in 1948. Unfortunately, after the UN issued resolutions in favour of the Kashmiri people rather than the Republic of India, the long-running policy had been to avoid acting on them. Modi has since decided to violate them outright.
Map-based propaganda, however, is nothing new for India. It has long issued maps depicting their territorial claims, regardless of actual control. Since 1961, the country has even criminalised excluding any part of Kashmir from a map. The rest of the world, including Pakistan, marks the region as disputed. The Indian propaganda machine even went after Microsoft and other tech giants for the crime of showing maps accurately identifying the dispute. Even now, Google’s Indian subdomain has to show the propaganda map rather than the actual one available to the rest of the world.
But the fact is that changing a map won’t change the disputed status of the region, let alone address the cause of the dispute. For that, India will have to start by bringing an end to its oppression of Kashmiris. Just recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Modi in New Delhi and told him about her concerns regarding India’s actions in the state while asking him about his plans to restore calm in the region. Nobody, including Merkel, appears to know how he answered the question.


Health sans cleanliness


A new medical drive has run into the same old problems. Around a dozen children at a primary school in Shangla, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, fell sick — one even fainted — after they were administered deworming medicine. The medicine was administered as part of a province-wide drive against intestinal worms that pose a serious threat to children’s health, education, and productivity. The medicine was supposed to have been tested and safe, but an apparent overdose of the medicine while being administered led to the adverse reaction. The episode recalled memories of children being rushed to hospitals earlier in the year during an anti-polio campaign and sparked rumours of hazardous medicine. Doctors and health authorities later clarified that the children had fallen sick due to heatstroke and dehydration.
Pakistan suffers from grave health issues, predominantly malnutrition and stunting while the health apparatus of the country too seems to be buckling under the crushing weight of a large population. True, reforms in the health sector are urgently needed and multiple governments have worked to introduce them to varying degrees. But even as the country remains enveloped in a dengue epidemic, the answer to Pakistan’s health problems may lie elsewhere. General cleanliness in our country and the access to safe and affordable drinking water for all remains a distant dream. Yet, if these two issues are resolved, they can help tackle most of our health concerns. Dengue is epidemic today because rainwater can collect, allowing dengue-carrying mosquitos to breed. We are too reticent to clean out these deadly pools of water.
Even though many are keen to parrot the phrase that cleanliness is half the religion, few practise cleanliness in their daily lives beyond themselves or their homes. Our streets are filthy. We prefer to chuck garbage out of our window rather than properly dispose of it at the dump. Along with health reforms, perhaps if we work to make our environment cleaner, perhaps then we may have a greater chance at fostering a healthier, more productive society.


Displacement and development

While effecting displacement of people for development and infrastructure projects, the humanitarian aspect of the issue should be kept uppermost in mind. The issue needs restraint, but it is seen somewhat missing during anti-encroachment drives in the country. At a recent event in Karachi, researchers involved in urban planning and displacements resulting from encroachments’ removal had in-depth discussions on these issues. They gave their input for the authorities and the population so that they can carefully tread the path. Displacements resulting from even the need for infrastructure development should be avoided. Though the authorities promise the affected people compensation for their lands, sometimes they are not paid any compensation or very little of it. In some cases, the affectees are entirely forgotten.
Experts at the discussions, especially renowned urban planner Arif Hasan, emphasised the need for anti-encroachment actions with a human face. Last year in Karachi, the municipal authorities carried out a major exercise to remove encroachments on their lands and against unauthorised structures. The main focus of the drive was to retrieve lands of the Karachi Circular Railway. The experts rightly observed that resistance from the affectees is weakened due to ethnic and other differences.
Encroachers in our country are quite resourceful. In the 1960s in Karachi, some people had illegally built houses on KMC land. When the KMC gave them the final warning that they would remove the illegal structures the next day, what they found that graves had appeared overnight in front of every house. This prevented the authorities from demolishing those houses.

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