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Daily Times Editorials – 14th December 2015

SIUT’s 40 years

As the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation(SIUT) celebrated its 40 years of successful service to over 10 million patients and completely free service to over one million, the entire civil society, including social activists, educationalists, prominent writers and government officials came together to hail not only the provision of excellent health services including organ transplants and cancer treatments, but also their commendable philosophy which states that ‘no person should die only because they are unable to afford medical expenses’. The Institute, apart from medical services, also provides training for doctors and staff and provides a platform for medical research. This vision and initiative was pioneered and taken forward by Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi, an exceptional urologist himself, and currently the head of SIUT and president of Transplant Society of Pakistan who created his team and managed to take SIUT from the eight-bed ward it started out as to the state of the art and Pakistan’s leading transplantation institute. He was also lauded for his tremendous efforts in providing healthcare in times of crisis in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the floods in Thatta.
The struggle of Dr Rizvi and his team is not limited to the gargantuan task of establishing the institution but the provision of a monumental social service to the country which goes far beyond. There were several challenges that were faced by SIUT, including the lack of awareness of the dire need for treatment and misconceptions about organ donation in the country, which the institution has tirelessly worked to overcome by helping raise awareness. More crucially, in the volatile climate of Karachi, Dr Rizvi persisted tenaciously in his efforts even in the face of threats to his life.
In the often unscrupulous system present in Pakistan, SIUT stands as a model institution, autonomous and with transparency and accountability, which has managed to maintain excellent standards and provided services to the public irrespective of their economic capacity. It stands in the ranks of the world’s best and while similar institutions such as Shaukat Khanum are often highlighted, SIUT continues in its remarkable efforts, all the while being severely underrated and under-publicised. The appreciation of such an organisation is not simply a matter of recognition in words but the consciousness of how desperately this service is needed in the country where the government has consistently failed the masses in providing them with even the most rudimentary health facilities, and therefore how vital it is that efforts are made to aid SIUT in expanding its network. Considering the infinitely valuable resource that the country has in the form of doctors, activists, and others like Dr Rizvi who are equipped to and passionate to work tirelessly towards the cause of helping those in need, the government needs to urgently redirect its attention towards the critical matter of health and bring these people together and provide a fitting platform, possibly resembling the model of SIUT, so that they can take the cause forward.

Imran in India

Over the past two days, the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and former captain of the national cricket team, Imran Khan found himself in the unfamiliar position of a diplomatic statesman when, while visiting India to attend a conference, he received an invitation to have a meeting with India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. The unexpected meeting between India’s PM and one of Pakistan’s main opposition leaders continues a thoroughly welcome recent trend of political engagement between the two countries. During the brief meeting, the two political leaders lauded the recent developments in bilateral ties and hoped for a continual improvement in ties. Imran Khan also used the opportunity to rely on his pedigree as a bona fide former cricketing superstar to push for a resumption of cricketing ties between the two countries while rightly observing that sports should not become victim to politics but rather should be employed as an effective means to improve bilateral tries. However, according to Imran’s account, the Indian PM only smiled ambiguously in response to his appeal. The meeting concluded with the PTI leader inviting Modi to visit Pakistan.
As far as Imran Khan the politician goes, this meeting showed a different, more restrained and reasonable side of the man to the public. Days after bristling about the ‘secret’ meeting between Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif and accusing both of lacking in courage to meet openly, his acceptance of Modi’s invitation and his subsequent support for the Pakistan government’s desire to re-establish better ties with India are welcome developments and showcase the firebrand politician’s capacity for maturity. However, the main beneficiary of this meeting was Narendra Modi himself. To have a formal discussion with an opposition figure of another country is unlikely to ever result in a policy agreement, but such meetings are always designed to get an understanding about the mindset and workings of a potential government-in-waiting. By inviting Imran, Modi has shown good diplomacy. He has paid respect to Pakistan’s parliamentary democracy by engaging with a key opposition figure and has reached out to the sizeable constituency of PTI supporters within Pakistan, rather than simply having an engagement with the sitting government. In addition to bilateral considerations, he has bolstered the credentials of his government internationally. India wants to be a major player on the global stage, and given the size of India’s market and its rising economic status in the world, most western powers are eager to form a mutually beneficial partnership with the country. However, apprehensions about the human rights record of the Modi regime and the debilitating tensions in South Asia have proved to be an inconvenience in the realisation of those desires. So for Modi to actively seek to reinvent himself as a man open to negotiations and diplomatic relations with Pakistan must assuage the rarely expressed reservations of India’s partners-in-waiting.

Centre-Sindh rift

Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has whaled into the Sindh government for procrastinating over extending the Rangers’ mandate to continue the Karachi operation. The Sindh government has refrained from extending the mandate that expired on December 4 through an executive decision and has instead referred the matter for broad consultation to the Sindh Assembly. Since the matter has yet to be discussed in the Assembly, a gap of 10 days and counting has opened up in the Rangers’ campaign. Chaudhry Nisar warns the Sindh government against playing politics with the Rangers issue. He says other legal and constitutional options would be considered and presented to the prime minister if the Rangers’ mandate is not extended. Some would interpret this as a thinly veiled threat. Chaudhry Nisar interprets the ‘foot dragging’ on the issue by the Sindh government as an effort to make the Karachi operation controversial just to save one person. No doubt the reference is to Dr Asim Hussain, currently in detention and being investigated on a raft of terrorism and corruption charges. Chaudhry Nisar reminds us that the Karachi operation was launched against criminals and terrorists by taking all political parties and stakeholders on board. He also reminds us that Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) himself called for the operation on August 13, 2013. Chaudhry Nisar mounted a stout defence of the Rangers as a well trained, professional force and said any criticism of the force would not be tolerated (he neglects to inform us what he plans to do if such criticism continues). He then went on to assert that only terrorists and criminals would benefit if the Rangers’ powers were made controversial. The Rangers were making sacrifices to purge Karachi of these evils, he said, and the people and business community of the city were satisfied with the operation and wanted it to continue to its logical conclusion (as though on cue, the Karachi Association of Trade and Industry issued a statement of support for the operation on the same day). Last but not least, what seemed to be worrying Chaudhry Nisar was that the delay by the Sindh government would demoralise the Rangers and embolden the criminals and terrorists operating in the city. On the Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP’s) part, two responses appeared. One was by Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister on Information Maula Bux Chandio, who expressed the hope that the provincial government would grant an extension to the Rangers’ policing powers in Karachi on Monday (today). He argued though that a constitutional requirement needed to be met, that is why the issue had been referred to the Sindh Assembly. Probably what Mr Chandio was alluding to were the reservations in the Sindh government regarding a federal force, the Rangers, invited to assist the provincial administration in tackling Karachi’s situation, overwhelming the province’s purview in law and order issues. The second, more considered response from the PPP came in a press conference by the party’s leaders, in which the PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar set out the party’s response to Chaudhry Nisar’s statements. Senator Farhatullah Babar focused attention on the Karachi operation having been launched on the recommendation of and with the support of the Sindh government. It was decided, he added, that the Rangers’ mandate would be decided by the Sindh government (in line with the constitutional position). Referring to the statement of the chief minister Sindh a day earlier, he pinned down the mandate to curbing four distinct crimes: terrorism, targeted killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. In several ways, he conceded, the Rangers had performed this assigned role in a commendable manner. However, he took issue with Chaudhry Nisar’s seeking to equate the criticism of a federal force overstepping its mandate with undermining the operation. He categorically rejected the notion that the PPP’s reservations were because of one or more individuals and said the real issue was of the Rangers going beyond their remit to include actions against alleged corruption, a problem that should be tackled by the institutions whose task this is.
The Rangers have been deployed in Karachi for more than 15 years. During this considerable period and through the tenure of successive governments, the wisdom finally dawned (spurred on by egging from the military) that the police had been rendered ineffective over time because of political interference and therefore the paramilitary force should tackle crime and terrorism. Discomfort followed when the MQM and PPP began to be targeted, the firmer on terrorism suspicions, the latter on an ill-defined alleged nexus between crime and terrorism (with some spice added by allegations of corruption). Chaudhry Nisar’s aggressive approach may prove the wrong tack. The federal and provincial governments need to put their heads together, define the Rangers’ mandate afresh and winkle out any creases regarding where their remit ends. Karachi needs the Centre and Sindh to work together, not at loggerheads.
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