Appeasing the winds

Pakistan has long gained notoriety for sweeping its shortcomings under the rug of cover-ups. However, Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa defied this state obsession with obfuscation in his December report on the massacre of lawyers in Quetta last August. Stingingly elaborating upon criminal wrongdoings, sheer incompetence and policy misguidedness that had given rise to such a monumental tragedy, the one-man judicial commission called into question all institutions, which had failed to enforce an effective defence against terrorism. The widely hailed blatant nature of this acknowledgement, which had extensively brought a litany of state errors out in the open, was, however, not received that warmly by the country’s interior ministry. A rather strong dismay has been expressed by its counsel, which believes the remarks to be “unnecessary, uncalled for and violative of natural justice” and laments their “adverse effect on the morale of the persons involved.”
While the Supreme Court has already hinted its willingness to tone down certain findings in the report, such insistence upon the discourse on the language rather than content clearly validates what has actually gone wrong with the system. Yes, the commission should also have made an active effort in markedly distinguishing between Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and the ministry as it proceeded to question the authority and impacts of all policies being applied to cure the country of its insurgency woes. Nevertheless, recognition of how and where the National Action Plan has failed to adequately deliver in lieu of detailing upon the decline in terrorism across the country would have granted more credibility to the ministry as well as the minister. There remains no doubt about the majestic excellence and utmost dedication of our armed forces as they incessantly strike upon militants after militants in order to clear their strongholds. Justice Isa does not appear to undermine their services in any manner whatsoever. However, calling the deep-rooted enemy of militancy by its name is an immediate responsibility that should be shouldered by all concerned ministries with the same vigour and courage shown by his act.
The ongoing military campaigns of FATA, army-led paramilitary operations in Balochistan and the apparently never-ending crusade against terrorism in Karachi and Peshawar all narrate the dismal tale of our forces being pitted against an ever-growing giant. Having fed upon our own deliberate mistakes — the Afghan jihad in the 1980s as well as Pakistan’s collusion with militant elements in Indian-held Kashmir in the 1990s — this giant has previously spread roots in our full knowledge. It is thus high time that the state acknowledges the errors of its ways and carves out an efficient line of action that can help restore order and multifaith harmony in the country. It is not to say that the interior minister should not make use of this opportunity to clear his name of all controversies. As has been done in the case of the meeting held between Khan and Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, who heads three banned organisations — Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Millat-i-Islamia and Ahle Sunnat WalJamaat (ASWJ) — his counsel should clarify his commitment towards his ministerial duties, wherever possible. However, the scathing expression of Isa’s report should not undermine the effectiveness of specific recommendations he has talked at length. If implemented in true letter and spirit, such suggestions could significantly strengthen our guards against the menaces of intolerance and terrorism currently plaguing the land. It is hoped that the current administration would now put an end to the denial of previous mistakes so that the legal and administrative authorities can collectively think of new approaches to deal with the constantly evolving forms of terror. We can no longer afford to sustain our romance with some militants while calling for punitive action against other. Pakistan needs an absolute commitment against all its enemies. Only then can national tragedies like Quetta be prevented from savagely spilling the blood of our countrymen.

Winter’s blow

At least 14 people were killed in an avalanche in Chitral; 20-year snowfall record smashed in Chitral; Avalanche causes destruction in Chitral; Floods warning for Chitral, are some of the headlines that newspapers have carried in past two days. The situation is looking grim as 14 people have already died due an avalanche in Chitral’s SerShal area and some flash floods have run havoc in some places as well. The forecast from the MET Department does not give a hopeful picture, as more snow and flash floods are expected in coming days.
Chitral Scouts Commandant Col Nizamuddin Shah has told media that the bodies of 14 killed by avalanche had been recovered from the debris, including six women, six children and two men. Nine people injured in the natural disaster have been shifted to Civil Hospital Garam Chashma. A Frontier Constabulary soldier died, and six others were wounded when a Chitral scout post was affected by a second avalanche in Chitral’sPishotan area near the Pak-Afghan border. At least 25 houses have been buried, and five houses have been destroyed. As heavy snowfall was blocking the main roads, the injured were transported to smaller medical centres in the area as they could not be taken to District Headquarters Hospital for treatment. Chitral has already received four feet deep snowfall, and a prediction of further rain and snow have rung the alarm bells for thousands of citizens of the area. The weather has also delayed the evacuation operations.
A rescue operation has been launched by the army in coordination with the FC and PDMA, but it’s unclear how many people have been affected by the avalanche as yet. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has activated the National Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate rescue and relief efforts in the avalanche-hit area. The NDMA is coordinating the provision of a helicopter for the operations and has also asked the National Highways Authority to fully mobilise its machinery on all critical sections for road clearance. Although an avalanche is a natural disaster, yet precautionary measure could have been taken to minimise the damage. According to the releases, although some people had been shifted to safe locations, some had been left behind who were eventually struck by the calamity. Although it is difficult for people to leave everything behind and move to makeshift camps, the authorities should educate the people towards such tragedies and work to minimise the damages. Moreover, the reality of climate change needs to be embraced to its fullest and Pakistan should do all it can to reduce the problem. The country has seen wayward weather patterns in past few months, and the authorities cannot continue to ignore these warnings.


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