The Express Tribune Editorial 6 May 2021

PCB shows the way


The Pakistan Cricket Board has introduced a stimulating set of reforms on parental support for both male and female cricketers. The cricket board has even gone beyond what is incumbent under the existing law in the country, as it unveils its Parental Support Policy. Under the new policy, female cricketers will be entitled to year-long paid maternity leave; they can also opt for a non-playing role as they get closer to their maternity leave; when leaving for maternity leave, they will be guaranteed a contract for the following year; and on their return, the cricket board will provide them support to recover after the delivery. Male cricketers are also entitled to a month-long paid paternity leave.
The Maternity and Paternity Leave Bill, 2018, passed by the Senate in January 2020, makes it incumbent upon both public and private sector organisations to grant a six-month maternal leave and one-month parental leave thrice during service. While there is no word on when the bill will be tabled in the National Assembly, a law already in place allows 90-day maternity leave to female employees, and 48 leaves in a year only for male government employees. The PCB has rather enhanced the concessions in case of female cricketers. The cricket board’s new parental policy is meant to motivate professional athletes along their journey to parenthood and on their return to the field post-childbirth when they are required to keep a balance between their professional and parental responsibilities.
The PCB has taken the lead over many cricket boards in the developed world, as only the Australian and New Zealand cricket boards are known to have such a motiving set of parental leave policies. The PCB’s Parental Support Policy is worth emulating — not just for the various sports federations and boards in the country but also for the industry as well as public and private organisations.



Prolonged holidays


The government’s decision of extended Eid holidays-cum-lockdown from May 8 to 16 appears to have been driven more by the scare caused by the third wave of Covid-19 than practical considerations. It does not seem to have taken into calculation how the closure of workplaces for nine straight days would affect daily wagers and businesses. Both workers and traders have opposed the decision. The prolonged closure will affect workers more than traders, however. Many of those engaged in the construction industry have already been out of work for the past several days, and they face the depressing prospect of finding no work for another nine days. Work at construction sites remains suspended as masons and other skilled workers have left for their ancestral places anticipating lack of work in cities. This has resulted in severe difficulties for daily wagers.
The government and the people are once again facing the issue of striking a balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods. During last year’s first wave of the dreadful pandemic, the government had imposed a prolonged lockdown to protect lives. Then the government and welfare organisations had extended a helping hand to the needy by providing them with assistance in cash and kind. Now the government has not announced any scheme to help those who would be without work during the planned nine holidays.
Traders have urged the government not to close businesses for nine days as this will harm them badly. They say business is slack even on the occasion of Eid. The closure of markets and shopping malls at 6pm is not only hurting them but it is also aiding in the spread of the deadly virus. People throng markets in large numbers due to the time restriction, and so they are unable to adhere to social distancing and other precautions. Prime Minister Imran Khan too has regularly been ruling out a complete lockdown. While taking decisions relating to the pandemic the government should take into account the fact: pleasure and action make hours shorter.



Truce violation


Reports emerging from the Foreign Office about India violating the recent ceasefire along the Working Boundary are both disappointing and unsurprising. The incident in Charwa Sector on Monday ended over two months of relative calm along the border that had followed the February 25 ceasefire. This time, however, the Foreign Office downplayed the incident, signalling the government’s hopes of keeping the broader ceasefire intact and not threatening the ongoing backchannel talks. It obviously helped that Monday’s violation did not cause any casualties.
The backchannel talks are being seen as the best chance in recent years to reach mutual agreements on several bilateral and multilateral issues, primarily related to security. Given the economic problems and Covid-19 outbreaks in both countries, the talks are also necessary to restore some sense of normalcy in the lives of Indians and Pakistanis.
Unfortunately, if past practice is to be used as a reference point, India may well have committed the violation in an attempt to shift the news cycle away from a domestic issue — in this case, its Covid crisis, which is now the worst in the world. There are also some reports that Kashmir is being de-emphasised in the talks in favour of reaching deals on other issues where both sides are more likely to find common group. This is a good thing. Despite the significance of the Kashmir issue, compartmentalising it allows for agreements to be reached on several fronts, which may eventually lead to de-escalations of tensions that allow for it to be discussed with more willingness to negotiate from either side.
But at the same time, we must consider the recent warnings by a group of retired diplomats. Speaking at a seminar, they said normalisation while “compromising our fundamental position on Kashmir” will not last or be acceptable to citizens, and that resuming ‘front channel’ talks without India reversing its decisions of August 5, 2019, would be seen as granting legitimacy to the illegal moves taken on that black day. This will indeed be a problem down the line. Even if agreements are reached on important issues in backchannel talks, they would have to be formalised in official meetings. How that gearshift will be managed is still up in the air.

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