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Daily Time Editorials – 5th July 2015

Potent threat

A raid the other day in Kala Shah Kaku, a small industrial town on the outskirts of Lahore, resulted in the killing of four terrorists and destroying their hideout. Amongst these killed was the al Qaeda ringleader for this particular operation, aimed at targeting the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Headquarters on The Mall, Lahore. Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada identified him as Abdali of Muridke in a press conference, where the minister revealed that the mastermind leading al Qaeda terrorist operations in the subcontinent is a man called Asif Umer in India. Al Qaeda has responded to the increasing challenge from Islamic State making its presence felt in the region to launch al Qaeda in South Asia. The worrying part of this scenario is the mushrooming of these terrorist operatives in small towns and cities after they have been put on the back foot in their sanctuaries in the tribal areas. It may be recalled that in the past there have been attacks in Lahore on the ISI headquarters and the FIA headquarters, both leading to devastating loss of life and extreme trauma. It was considered almost inevitable that when the terrorists come under pressure in their redoubts in the tribal areas as a result of the military’s full-fledged operations, they would then seek to retaliate in the cities throughout the country. The incident in Kala Shah Kaku would seem to indicate that that day is upon us. It is no secret by now that the outlook of the terrorists is ruthlessly vicious. They are driven by fanatical beliefs to carry out these missions, irrespective of harm to themselves or innocent victims. Initially, one strain of opinion thought that poverty and the financial benefits offered by joining terrorist groups were the motivation. However, recent studies show that this may be too simplistic a view. It is religiously motivated conviction that produces such barbarism.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb has uncovered mounds of weapons and explosives from the terrorists’ hideouts in the tribal areas, which were for decades left ‘free’ to host Afghan, local and foreign terrorists. The army has killed 2,700 militants during Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan since June last year, following the deadly attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, and managed to destroy more than 800 terrorist hideouts. As a result of these positive successes, can the future generations hope for a terror-free Pakistan that can then embark on a progressive path on the journey to a modern country in sync with the 21st century?

Ill-timed decision

It seems that the massive death toll in Sindh was not enough to persuade the federal government of the people’s suffering. That is why it has allowed the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) to inflict more burdens on the citizens of Karachi. This is tantamount to rubbing salt in their wounds. In a surprise and shocking move, NEPRA has jacked up the electricity rate in the range of Rs 2-4.8 per unit for domestic consumers of K-Electric. According to the decision, the power regulator has increased the power rates by Rs 2.09 per unit for domestic users consuming 201-300 units per month, Rs 3.67 per unit increase for those using 300-700 units per month and Rs 2.09 per unit for domestic consumers using over 700 units per month. In addition to this, the power regulator has accorded approval to increasing the power rate by Rs four per unit during peak hours and Rs 4.28 per unit in off peak hours for consumers using Time of Use electricity meters. Commercial and industrial consumers have been spared this increase. The decision was taken in the wake of the lifting of a stay order that was issued by the Sindh High Court at the request of K-Electric against the determination of a higher tariff by NEPRA in 2013. After withdrawal of the subsidy implied in the earlier tariff, K-Electric rates have now been brought at par with the national tariff being charged by other power distribution companies in the rest of the country.

The timing of this decision is very awkward and the government’s policies in this regard can only be lamented. At a time when hundreds of citizens are dying due to a blistering heatwave and facing the scourge of power outages, this decision seems unjustified as well as a cruel one. The government should have waited till the normalisation of the situation after the heatwave calamity. The working of NEPRA is questionable too since it failed to regulate the affairs of K-Electric, which is responsible for the misery of Karachi’s citizens. Since the privatisation of this utility, its management has failed to bring all its affairs in order. It has failed on all fronts in managing and serving its clientele in Karachi. Instead of resorting to burdening citizens with an increased power tariff, K-Electric should focus on running its plants at full capacity instead of relying on the national grid’s 650 MW, decreasing line losses and introducing a mechanism that forces all consumers to pay their bills. The present ill-timed decision seems the result of a lack of coordination among all concerned authorities. They should have spared a thought for the poor, who will be the ultimate sufferers of this decision. *

It seems that the massive death toll in Sindh was not enough to persuade the federal government of the people’s suffering. That is why it has allowed the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) to inflict more burdens on the citizens of Karachi. This is tantamount to rubbing salt in their wounds. In a surprise and shocking move, NEPRA has jacked up the electricity rate in the range of Rs 2-4.8 per unit for domestic consumers of K-Electric. According to the decision, the power regulator has increased the power rates by Rs 2.09 per unit for domestic users consuming 201-300 units per month, Rs 3.67 per unit increase for those using 300-700 units per month and Rs 2.09 per unit for domestic consumers using over 700 units per month. In addition to this, the power regulator has accorded approval to increasing the power rate by Rs four per unit during peak hours and Rs 4.28 per unit in off peak hours for consumers using Time of Use electricity meters. Commercial and industrial consumers have been spared this increase. The decision was taken in the wake of the lifting of a stay order that was issued by the Sindh High Court at the request of K-Electric against the determination of a higher tariff by NEPRA in 2013. After withdrawal of the subsidy implied in the earlier tariff, K-Electric rates have now been brought at par with the national tariff being charged by other power distribution companies in the rest of the country.

The timing of this decision is very awkward and the government’s policies in this regard can only be lamented. At a time when hundreds of citizens are dying due to a blistering heatwave and facing the scourge of power outages, this decision seems unjustified as well as a cruel one. The government should have waited till the normalisation of the situation after the heatwave calamity. The working of NEPRA is questionable too since it failed to regulate the affairs of K-Electric, which is responsible for the misery of Karachi’s citizens. Since the privatisation of this utility, its management has failed to bring all its affairs in order. It has failed on all fronts in managing and serving its clientele in Karachi. Instead of resorting to burdening citizens with an increased power tariff, K-Electric should focus on running its plants at full capacity instead of relying on the national grid’s 650 MW, decreasing line losses and introducing a mechanism that forces all consumers to pay their bills. The present ill-timed decision seems the result of a lack of coordination among all concerned authorities. They should have spared a thought for the poor, who will be the ultimate sufferers of this decision.

Where is NAP?

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing the case on Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) has taken the government to task for its failure to seriously implement the National Action Plan (NAP). The honourable judges characterised the NAP as a big joke devised to deceive the masses. The SC asked for a report from the federation and provinces by July 22 on the total number of registered NGOs (which we hope includes madrassas), details of their foreign and domestic funding, audit of their accounts and action taken against them. In the context of the NAP, the court ordered filing of the details of the budget allocated to the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and other institutions for the war on terror. Further, the court wanted to know how many NGOs have so far been banned, the accounts of how many have been frozen and cases registered against them. These questions go to the heart of the widespread concern at the seeming maze into which the NAP has become entwined. It may be recalled that the NAP was supposed to, amongst other things, make NACTA the overall coordinating agency for all anti-terrorist campaigns; set up a Joint Intelligence Committee comprising civil and military agencies; ban all terror groups and prevent their reinvention under a different name (as has been happening since Musharraf’s time); stop religious extremism in all its manifestations; protect the minorities; reform and regularise the madrassas; block foreign financing of extremist groups, and carry out reforms in the criminal justice system. The mere listing of these tasks reads as an indictment of the government for its failure to even start taking steps towards, let alone completing these tasks mandated by the political parties meeting in an All Parties Conference (APC) early this year after the Army Public School, Peshawar attack in which our schoolchildren were horrifically massacred. The political consensus of the APC had the backing of the military, already engaged in Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas.

The seeming paralysis of the government in carrying out the tasks outlined in the 20 points of the NAP may be explained by reference to the possibility that its heart is not in the job. Let us not forget that soon after it came to power in 2013, the government sought to negotiate with the terrorists of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It was the TTP that brought those negotiations to an inglorious end by its attack on Karachi airport, which became the trigger for Operation Zarb-e-Azb. To the possible factor of sympathy for the terrorists may be added fear and, last but not least, incompetence. Where the will is lacking on the civil side, the military can rightfully claim success in its operations in the tribal areas. Operations Khyber-I and Khyber-II have concluded successfully with the redoubtable Tirah Valley all but controlled, while Operation Zarb-e-Azb has seen the army occupy the heights in the Shawal Valley, a position that gives it the ability to carry out aerial and ground operations to clean up the remnants of the terrorists in the area. COAS General Raheel Sharif’s visit to the area was meant to congratulate the troops, raise their morale further and see that the temporary displaced persons’ return and rehabilitation programme launched in North Waziristan is taken to its logical conclusion. General Raheel made no bones while addressing the troops that the military’s operations will continue until Pakistan is made terror-free. He was very clear that this campaign must be conducted without discrimination to arrest the terrorists and their facilitators, abettors and financiers, irrespective of the cost. The COAS was also very appreciative of the special integrated teams carrying out intelligence-based operations across the urban areas of the country, which had severed the links between the terrorist sanctuaries in remote areas and their sleeper cells in the cities. While there is little room for complacency in this regard and there is still some distance to be travelled to the final goal, the military has come through with flying colours, in sharp contrast to the slow, ineffective efforts of the government. What this does is provide ammunition to the critics of democratically elected governments and the democratic system per se to argue that the country should simply be handed over to the military. Pakistan has enough experience of the downside of such ‘solutions’ to remain wary of such suggestions. Nor does the military leadership pay heed to such foolish prattle. However, this does not absolve the government of its duty and responsibility to first explain what is holding it back from implementing the NAP and then actually carry out the task in practice.

Daily Time Editorials – 5th July 2015

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