The Express Tribune Editorial 7 September 2019

Defence Day and Kashmir

Pakistan marked Kashmir Solidarity Day alongside its 54th Defence and Martyrs Day on Friday, the 6th of September. The day began with special prayers and a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salutes in the provincial capitals. The main ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1965 war was held at the GHQ in Rawalpindi to pay tribute to the heroic sacrifices of our soldiers in the defence of our motherland.
The whole nation stood united in remembrance of the sacrifices and gallantry of the soldiers as well as for assuring the Kashmiri brethren of its unwavering support in their struggle for freedom from the yoke of Indian subjugation. The civilian and military leadership, in their messages, referred to the Day as a symbol of enduring display of unity, indomitable courage and unparalleled sacrifices by our gallant soldiers, alongside reminding the world that Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of the completion of Pakistan, and would remain so until the outstanding dispute is resolved in line with the UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
The Defence and Martyrs Day — also observed as Kashmir Solidarity Day — holds a much greater significance than just their respective events. While the day rekindles the light that is dimmed by time and rejuvenates forgotten sacrifices, it also reminds us of ethical principles of human rights that we must stand for as well as certain moral responsibilities that we as humans, living communally, must uphold — the values of bravery, courage, sacrifice, unity, etc.
There could be no better day than the 6th of September to remind the international community that we as a nation stand for the people of Kashmir and condemn the atrocities happening in the occupied region. It is also important for the world to understand the ground realities in the context of the prevailing tensions between Pakistan and India, like Kashmir being a nuclear flashpoint. The world must realise that a nuclear war must be prevented at all costs, else it would engulf the whole of the region and beyond.



Justice at last


Justice finally prevails in the Kohistan video scandal, but not after many innocent lives had been lost. The tribal young man — who dared blow the whistle on the so-called honour killing of three girls –consequently saw his three brothers killed in revenge and lost his own life too in the bloody aftermath of the infamous scandal. It took the cumbersome legal system seven scary years to send three callous criminals behind bars, for life — in what may have been a moment of fulfillment for someone who is still, fortunately, alive to see the day.
The Kohistan video scandal grabbed the headlines in 2012. The mobile phone video — which showed several girls singing and clapping as a boy danced at what was apparently a wedding party in the remote Palas Valley of Kohistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province — went viral on social media. Afzal, the brother of the boy in the video, alleged in an interaction with the media in January 2013 that the girls had been killed in May 2012 by members of their own tribe in line with the decree of a jirga which thought that the youngsters had violated tribal customs and brought dishonour upon the tribe. In further punishment, three of Afzal’s brothers were killed inside their home reportedly by men belonging to the girls’ tribe while Afzal’s home was burned down. Afzal, whose repeated pleas for state protection had fallen on deaf ears, was also shot dead this year in March.
Afzal’s long fight for justice ended in his death. But his daunting struggle did serve to highlight the crime in the name of honour to the extent that it was taken note of by the Supreme Court. The inhuman criminals failed to escape the clutches of the law in what sets a precedent in the judicial history of a country where, according to human rights campaigners, about a thousand ‘honour-killings’ of women by relatives are recorded each year. The case must serve to arouse the state to step out against the deep-seated tribal mindset under a comprehensive strategy.



Attracting tourists


Despite being endowed with a landscape that varies from high snow-capped mountains with lush green valleys and vast and fertile plains with undulating verdant and gold agricultural fields and renowned for the hospitality of its people, Pakistan has not been able to attract tourists in large numbers. It is the least competitive country in South Asia in terms of travel and tourism, according to the Travel and Tourism Competitive Report released by the World Economic Forum on September 5. The report has placed Pakistan at the bottom of the Asia-Pacific Travel and Tourism competitive Index 2019 rankings. Pakistan has ranked 121 this year out of 140 countries against 124 in 2017.
The report stresses that Pakistan needs substantial improvement in competitiveness to move up in rank and out of the bottom quartile. The reasons for this are obvious. Businessmen and investors from the Middle East and other parts of the world like to visit India more than Pakistan. When asked about the reason for their preference for India, they say they visit foreign countries not only for business but also to enjoy their travel.
The report praises Pakistan for being the most improved country in terms of human resources and labour market in the Asia-Pacific region. The unsatisfactory ranking for Pakistan should spur the government into doing the needful. The country is full of spots of natural beauty and places of historical importance. It has Moen Jo Daro in Sindh and Harappa in Punjab where a highly developed civilisation thrived more than five and a half centuries ago. It is dotted with historical sites from the periods of Muslim, Sikh and British rule. It has many sites associated with Gautam Buddha, Ashok and the Kushan period. Pakistan connects South Asia with Central Asia, the Middle East and farther to Europe and Africa. Considering all this, there is no reason why the country should not be a big tourist attraction and bring in the precious foreign exchange.
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