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The Express Tribune Editorial 6 April 2021

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The basic contract between a state and its citizens is that the former will care for all of its needs. In exchange, the residents will be provided with a set of rights, provided they uphold their promise of abiding by a set of responsibilities such as following the law and paying taxes. But in practice, all the land and lives in the country seemingly belong to the state which does not owe anything back to its citizens — the basic unitary component of any state.
Hundreds of poor people, who have sunk all of their earnings in keeping a small thatch over their heads have been rendered homeless on the pretext of anti-encroachment operations along the Gujjar and Korangi nullahs of Karachi. Affectees speaking at a news conference at the Karachi Press Club recently claimed that the operations caused at least two people to die of heart attacks over losing their homes. They said the operations affected communities who were about to celebrate their respective religious festivals.
The operation that came months after a similar operation, carried out on the orders of the Supreme Court, rendered hundreds homeless for daring to live on land that was earmarked for a non-existent circular railway. This is what epitomises the failures of the state. An aspect that was ignored completely was that the court had ordered the state to “relocate” the affectees of the circular railway operation rather than just make them homeless. Unfulfilled were empathetic vows from powerful politicians of giving a roof to these people.
This country has too long been swayed on the promise of providing housing to the growing ranks of poor, feeding the hungry and clothing the destitute. But all it has done towards the fulfilment of that promise is to sell an illusion to the masses, robbing them instead of everything they had. Many in this city, who live in their palatial mansions, may feel removed from this tragedy. This is the real slumber from which we have to rise and seek a new contract where the state is subservient to its people and break our colonial chain.

 

 

Rising economic inequality

 

The growing economic inequality in Pakistan can largely be traced to corruption, mismanagement and a lack of direction. What Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday gives a strong indication of what basically ails the country. He said so far his government had returned a significant amount of the total debt left by the previous governments. When he took over the reins of government in 2018, the country was facing an imminent default. This forced the incumbent to seek economic aid from friendly countries and a $6 billion bailout package from the IMF. The latter is influencing the country’s economic policies, thereby increasing economic inequality in the society where it had already been sharp.
The impact of policies being pursued in accordance with the IMF conditions is being felt in all spheres of the economy as a result of increased gas and power rates, enhanced taxes and cut in spending on the social sectors. With the ever-increasing amount of money going into debt servicing, little is left to spend on development sectors. Thus corruption, debt and debt servicing have resulted in a vicious cycle. The sins of one set of rulers tell upon the sons unto the third and fourth generations.
Corruption has led to concentration of the nation’s wealth into few hands. Around 20% of the population owns the country’s 50% income. This gross inequality has not come into being overnight. The other reason for this is the well-entrenched feudal system in the country. The system became anachronistic in other parts of the world long ago, but it is gaining strength in Pakistan. This is reflected in their strong representation in the legislative bodies. The other reason for the increasing poverty in Pakistan is low female literacy rate. Improved female literacy rate results in better health both for women and other family members and the spread of overall education, hence better income. Bangladesh is now faring much better than Pakistan and India in this respect.

 

 

Judge’s killing

 

The murder of a judge and three members of his family on the M-1 Motorway has sent shockwaves through the region. Apart from the judge, his wife, daughter-in-law, and grandson were also killed. The attackers were able to flee after the attack. The brutal attack, which appears to have been a targetted one, took place despite the judge having a security detail. This raises questions over both the quality and quantity of security, especially since the judge was on the bench of the Swat anti-terrorism court (ATC).
Reports suggest that the attack was motivated by a ‘personal enmity’, a catch-all term often used by law enforcement when they have no leads. Although a first information report has been lodged against five named suspects, the fact is that as an ATC judge, Aftab Afridi had hundreds, if not thousands, of very dangerous ‘enemies’. It would not be surprising if the attackers were part of a much larger conspiracy.
The victims of this attack are not just those who were killed or injured. The victims are also millions of Pakistanis who will worry that other ATC judges may think twice about how to rule in the cases of dangerous terrorists or gangsters. Any ‘tough talk’ about not being influenced by threats or such incidents can be set aside. Judges are also human. Even the bravest judge — one willing to put his or her life on the line for justice — might think twice if their entire family was at risk. A functioning justice system requires security for all parts of the system.
It is also surprising that the authorities seem to have learned nothing since the horrific motorway rape incident in September last year. While no amount of security can completely prevent crime from happening, catching those responsible for crimes on the motorway should be easy business. Any car leaving any motorways has to cross through a toll plaza. If there were functioning cameras at all toll plazas, simply knowing a car’s make and model would be enough to identify and track down the perpetrators. All it would take is a little coordination. Sadly, even that appears to be an uphill task.

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