The Express Tribune Editorial 9 October 2019

Surrender for justice


Kashmore is where the number of proclaimed offenders in the highest in the whole of Sindh. The district is hit with militancy and infested with crime. Tribal rivalries also run rampant there. Data compiled by Sindh police in 2017 suggest that out of the 100,000 absconders in the whole province, more than 46,000 belong to the police’s Larkana range under which Kashmore district falls. However, a different kind of policing in Kashmore is now resulting in more and more suspected outlaws giving in to the police. The new approach has been introduced by SSP Kashmore Asad Raza under the programme ‘Surrender For Justice’. The programme promises legal support and financial assistance to those running from the law in case they surrender. Saying yes to the police’s initiative, about a thousand wanted individuals have surrendered over the last six months, and the number is rising with each passing day, if SSP Raza is to be believed. Those having laid down arms also included members of banned outfits – something being regarded as the most significant achievement of the programme – besides those involved in robberies, murders and other crimes.
While the move is result-oriented – and thus commendable – it does raise a valid question on why instead of taking criminals and anti-state elements head-on, the police are offering them assistance. SSP Raza, the police officer behind the programme, has an equally valid justification though. He says that in a district rife with rivalries, it’s common for feuding parties to implicate each other in presumably false cases. Since those booked never come to the police fearing for life and also because they are extremely poor and can’t afford to hire legal services, they do deserve support to fight the cases against them and get a chance to join the national mainstream. That 200 of those submitting to the judicial process have been acquitted by the courts speaks in favour of the unusual approach to tackle crimes.


Solid waste disposal


Recent reports suggest that the World Bank has agreed to work with the Sindh government to make the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) more effective. The news that Sindh has a garbage collection body comes as a surprise for many Pakistanis. Most people, who have had the pleasure of passing by the Korangi River, would dismiss the report as fake news, but it is true. The SSWMB is indeed a real organisation with real staff. It is just difficult to prove whether or not it actually does any work. The board has had more than enough time to become effective, yet it has been unable to expand beyond Karachi. Little surprise that even the courts have been unimpressed by its performance.
The agreement with the World Bank would increase SSWMB’s capacity in a phased expansion across Sindh. The first phase would see work start in divisional headquarters and then in district headquarters. It is highly unfortunate that even this had not been initiated by the incumbent provincial government, which has ruled the province for over a decade. The World Bank’s country chief has said that solid waste management experts will help the Sindh government prepare a detailed plan to improve the body in terms of management and efficiency in solid waste disposal, while also making it self-sufficient. This will be challenging, as media reports suggest the board has outsourced much of its work in Karachi to Chinese companies at several times the rates charged by local operators.
The performance of the foreign companies also comes into question as the garbage problems that have plagued the city for years are still very much there. As for shifting garbage to dumps, half of the city’s garbage transfer stations are not even operational, according to a media report last month. Also, the previous SSWMB head had claimed that the board had been given less than half of its allocated budgets in the past two years, which would imply that cleanliness is not next to godliness in the eyes of the government.


14 years after the quake


It was a winter of despair after a severe earthquake nearly obliterated Balakot city and hit other areas in K-P and AJK on October 8, 2005. Despite the passage of 14 long years, the spring of hope is yet to return to some of the worst-hit areas. More than 100 school buildings destroyed in the earthquake in Battagram district have not yet been reconstructed forcing students to attend classes in the open even in biting cold. Because of this, many students absent themselves from school in inclement weather. The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) says lack of funds has delayed reconstruction.
The 2005 earthquake had destroyed 529 schools in the district. The headmaster of one such school says the previous government had sanctioned Rs1.4 million for toilet construction, water supply and installation of solar panels but the lack of the school building led to transfer of the funds to other schools. He claimed that a proposal to use the fund for reconstruction of the school building was shot down. Area residents complain that the inordinate delay in reconstruction of the school buildings is harming the cause of education. An Erra official complained of the lack of funds for reconstruction of school buildings and said the Authority got Rs150 million for the purpose in the current fiscal. He said of the 529 earthquake-hit schools in the district, 419 had been handed over to the education authorities after reconstruction, while another 22 would be rebuilt in the current financial year.
The Erra chairman has said the New Balakot City housing project is being turned into a tourism-friendly zone of international standard with investment opportunities for foreign and local companies. Another official quoted the Erra chairman as saying that the New Balakot City project would be completed in the next two years through public-private partnership. There are, however, reports that billions of rupees meant for reconstruction and rehabilitation in the earthquake-hit areas had been diverted to other programmes by previous governments. As a result, many people in affected areas are still living in tents.

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