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Daily Times Editorials – 14th March 2016

Rabbani’s call

In his address to the Third International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) Workshop on Human Trafficking’, held in Islamabad, on Saturday, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani stressed on the need of all Asian politicians to unite so that the democratic values in the uprising region can be preserved. He lashed out against the western powers, who in his words, were busy “trying to destabilise governments in Asia”. Parallels were drawn between the Western vehement reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris and the expedient silence, of the same forces, to the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian women and children. Such double standards, according to him, were clearly exposed to people in Asian countries, who should now start to realise the glory and strength of their own continent by joining hands with each other.

It was not the first time that Rabbani has expressed his desire for the emergence of unity within the Asian States. He also highlighted its significance at the Eighth Plenary Session of Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), Cambodia, where he discussed the challenges that many democratic Asian countries were facing, as a consequence of intervention by foreign state and non-state actors. On Saturday, Rabbani discussed at length the panic among the western powers on seeing the economic rise of the eastern world, which has now led to the formulation of the respective conspiracies off-setting the flourishing democracy in the region: hence, emphasising the need to revive the Asian dream.

No matter how far-etched this dream may seem to many, initiatives the likes of APA and ICAPP are the only plausible tools to help in its achievement. Nevertheless, this desire to see the resurgence of Asian miracle across the continent does raise some questions. First and foremost, would these projects transcend from being discussion platforms to economic junctions in the region? If yes, then will the integration follow the model of European Union; boasting of a set of common policies pertaining to trade, defence and regional development? However, such an endeavour can be seriously stalled by the nature of the inter-member relations in the Asian Parliament. Countries like Pakistan and India, DPR Korea and the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, which are at constant loggerheads do not help significantly in the establishment of the cause. Nonetheless, hosting this conference in Islamabad has, indeed, fared some good news, on the domestic grounds. This ICAPP conference was jointly organised by the four leading political groups in the country- Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). Such joint efforts should be welcomed as pleasant advances in our setup where these factions are often seen to be indulged in a power struggle, and do help exemplify Rabbani’s emphasis on the unity in diversity.

Sindh Police shakeup

The Inspector General (IG) of Sindh Police, Ghulam Haider Jamali, has been removed from his office by the federal government on orders of the Supreme Court (SC) as he is facing charges of corruption. In his stead, the government has appointed Allah Dino Khawaja as the new chief of Sindh Police. Before this current appointment, Khawaja had been serving as the Additional Inspector General in the Special Branch (SB), and was also a member of a three-man committee, along with Additional Inspector General of the Counterterrorism Department Dr Sanaullah Abbasi and Additional Inspector General Naeem Shaikh, investigating the matter of illegal appointments in the provincial police department. In addition to the corruption in the recruitment procedure of Sindh Reserve Police (SRP), Jamali is being investigated for unjust disbursement of funds allocated for the police investigation wing, and the committee investigating this aspect is headed by Allah Dino Khawaja as well. The committee submitted its findings to the SC in a lengthy report that concluded that “the allocation of funds lacked transparency, rationality and justification. The amounts were neither transparently issued nor were properly utilised”. As such on Friday, the SC ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) “to efficiently and expeditiously pursue an inquiry into corruption of Sindh police officers, including IG Ghulam Haider Jamali,” and to submit the report of its findings within one month. These directives came after five-day long suo motu hearings on the aforementioned separate charges and three committees, including the one in which Khawaja was a member, were set up to investigate. The three-member committee had in fact been investigating Jamali for these illegal appointments and had written to the SC, urging it to restrain Jamali from influencing inquiries against him. In response to this request and allegations that Jamali was victimising members of the police investigating these matters, the SC Judges observed that “the IG’s actions appear to be tainted with malice and designed to punish police officers who complied with court orders”. Thus the bench stayed further action against the officers, either members of the committee constituted for the inquiry or associated with it in anyway. On Thursday, Jamali admitted in front of the court that thousands of illegal appointments had in fact been made in the provincial police department between 2012 and 2016. Thus the SC asked the provincial government, i.e. the competent authority, to consider the desirability of having such officers hold their offices while investigations against them were ongoing. In response, the Sindh government submitted names of three officers for the post of the provincial police chief to the federal government and it picked Khawaja for this office. In response to these revelations, Chief Minister (CM) Qaim Ali Shah also ordered the the chief secretary to probe the matter and punish those involved.

The shakeup of the Sindh Police comes on the heels of a demand, thankfully rejected by the SC, of the Rangers to set up their own ‘police stations’ in the province as a rivalling force to the police department. The federal paramilitary force argued that the political interference, corruption and inept recruitment in the provincial police department hampered its operations and as such criminal investigations were thwarted by incompetence. And the idea behind the deployment of Rangers in Karachi (ever since the 1980s) was precisely so that they could control the violence and militancy as the police was not empowered enough to go at it alone; while the Rangers were carrying out their operations, the provincial force was meant to be reformed and reorganised. Unfortunately that reality has not come to pass. The police leadership all over Pakistan is closely tied to the executive of the province, in a setup inherited from colonial times, and as such its motivations lie not in serving the people but in being politically savvy. This inhibits the police’s performance, as officers are too afraid to rock the boat and risk their job safety. But given the present circumstances, the SC’s intervention can be interpreted by those in the PPP as part of the overall federal government’s infringement of the province’s domain. However it needn’t be; this should be taken as an opportunity to start the much needed reform in the provincial police force so that it can be strengthened as an institution enough that the necessity of Rangers and other federal forces is reduced. Contrary to their self-perception, the Rangers cannot be the police as they are a paramilitary force which cannot sustain its operations forever. A strong civilian set-up is needed that could maintain law and order on its own.

World cup hopes

After receiving solid assurances from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Pakistan cricket team landed in Kolkata on Saturday evening to take part in the ICC World Twenty20. The match was shifted to Kolkata from Dharamsala due to concerns over security of the Pakistan team. Earlier, a cloud of uncertainty and diplomatic slugfest had made the participation of Pakistan in the mega event doubtful. It is a shame that politics dictates sports in Pakistan and India. It is the responsibility of the cricketing authorities from both states that they should keep intact friendly relations. Both teams must play for the sake of cricket. After reaching India, the Pakistan skipper has said that he has found friendly atmosphere in India. While taking security concerns lightly, he stressed that sports and politics should be kept apart. The biggest extravaganza, the World Cup 2016, is presently in progress in India with much fanfare as minnows are competing to qualify for the tournament. All eyes are set on the final showdown between archrivals India and Pakistan. The Pakistani squad comprises a mix of senior and young talented players, who have so far failed to prove their critics wrong due to their poor performance in the Asia Cup.

The tag of unpredictability looms large despite the presence of a number of match winning players in the team. A good bowling attack is the hallmark of Pakistan while the issues of inconsistency in batting and poor fielding still haunt the team. However, the players should focus on their plus points and concentrate on teamwork for winning the coveted World Cup. If they want to win the tournament, they will have to show a fighting spirit and well planned strategy for each game. At this juncture, the controversy-mongers and critics must stop issuing dissenting notes; rather they should encourage the team. Team Pakistan should also display a strong fighting spirit till the last ball. They are required to play as a single unit to win every match. Pakistan has already been facing isolation in cricket as no big team picked up courage to visit it after the deadly terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009. Under these circumstances, it is the hope of cricket lovers in Pakistan that their team brings home laurels from this tournament. Winning the World Cup is the dream of every Pakistani and we must hope that this dream comes true.

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