The Express Tribune Editorial 8 June 2021

Burkina Faso massacre

 

The death toll from the terrorist attack on a village in Burkina Faso has gone past 160. Local officials say the bodies were found in three mass graves. The scale of the incident is such that there is still concern that the death toll could still significantly rise. The attack is the worst-ever terrorist incident in the West African nation and one of the worst in the world in recent years. Much of Solhan village, including homes and the local market, was also set on fire. Although no group has taken responsibility, the country has been fighting Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists for several years now. In fact, the last two months have also seen two other significant attacks, with 14 killed in one attack and 30 in the other.
Unlike some other countries with serious security problems, Burkina Faso is in the unusual situation of being surrounded by countries that are themselves facing severe issues with militant groups. Problems in the Sahel region of North Africa began in 2012 when militants began taking control of a large swathe of Mali. Since then, the militancy has spread into almost every country in the region, which spans across the continent between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanian savanna. Fast-forward to 2021, kidnappings, raids and violence in many other forms are being reported every day. Over one million people have been displaced from their homes in Burkina Faso since fighting increased two years ago. A massive anti-militant operation launched by the Burkinabe government last month appears to have failed to push back the terrorists.
France is the main foreign party in the fighting, supporting government forces in Mali, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger, along with Burkina Faso. All of these countries are also former French colonies. However, the French recently halted aid to Mali over a military coup in the country. Some analysts feel the French decision, right or wrong, may have emboldened terrorists, another reminder of the fraught balance between ‘exporting’ democratic values and ‘exporting’ peace.

 

 

In the name of public service

 

Continuing to quarrel over water share, the Sindh government and the Centre are now also fighting over the allocation of public sector development funds. The Sindh Chief Minister, Murad Ali Shah, complains of “neglect”, “injustice” and “bias” on the part of the federal government over the allocation of funds for development in the coming budget. Anticipating a smaller allocation, the Sindh CM first wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan drawing his attention towards the “discrimination”. And then during a meeting of the National Economic Council, presided over by the PM yesterday to approve the budget proposals, the CM raised a protest over what he called lesser development allocation than in the previous fiscal year.
In response to the CM’s letter to the PM a day before the NEC meeting, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar listed a host of development projects being carried out in Karachi and other parts of Sindh province by the Centre. These include the Green Line bus service and the K-IV water project in Karachi as well as funds set aside for Hyderabad and Sukkur electric power companies, Sindh’s universities, and small dams and water projects. But himself giving weight to the Sindh CM’s claim, Umar also insisted that public funds are meant for the Sindh public and not the government, making it clear that the projects in the province will be executed by the Centre itself rather than the “corrupt” Sindh government.
By the way, executing the projects in a province itself will also give the Centre an added advantage: the projects will carry the PTI label and help the party bolster its vote bank in the province. And this is, in fact, the bone of contention between the Sindh province and the Centre. The two parties will have to rise above their political interests and complement each other’s efforts if they really mean to serve the people of Sindh.

 

 

Accident after accident

 

The increasing frequency of railway accidents in the country in recent years indicates that some things are seriously wrong with the Pakistan Railways. Around 3:30am on Monday, Peshawar-bound Millat Express, which was on its way from Karachi, collided with Sargodha-bound Sir Syed Express, which was en route to Karachi, leaving at least 40 passengers of the two trains dead and 100 others injured. The death toll is likely to rise as many are feared trapped in the mangled bogies of the ill-fated trains.
The horrific mishap occurred near Rohri in Ghotki district. Several coaches of Millat Express derailed and collided with the other train coming from the opposite direction. The impact of the collision was so strong that 13 to 14 coaches of the two trains derailed and overturned. Of these, 6 to 8 bogies were completely destroyed. The accident happened at an unearthly hour when most of the passengers were asleep. Rescue work was underway at the time these lines were being written and it is difficult to say when rescuers would be able to reach those still trapped inside the damaged bogies.
The regularity of railway accidents raises several questions about safety measures being taken by the authorities, and competence and efficiency of the railway administration. There is also the factor of negligence. These suspicions are strengthened by the official inquiry reports into railway accidents that have also pointed to these deficiencies. In this accident, the possibility of sabotage too cannot be ruled out.
However, former railways minister Saad Rafique, a senior leader of the PML-N, believes that lack of maintenance of the tracks and related components is chiefly responsible for the accident. “Which machine can keep on working without the upkeep it requires!” exclaims Rafique in his reaction to the Ghotki accident, one of the most horrendous in a series of such accidents over the last couple of years.
All these aspects need to be thoroughly probed in order to eliminate the chances of accidents in the future. It is about time the authorities took corrective measures to inspire the trust of the people.

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