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Daily Times Editorials – 18th May 2016

Upgrading Pakistan’s defence

The test of India’s Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile on Sunday raised security concerns in Pakistan, as the balance of power between the two states is being adversely affected by the build-up of India’s military technology. The technology will allow the Indian military to intercept incoming missiles, and this coupled with nuclear-capable K-4 Submarine will mean that India could have an effective second strike capability. In light of these concerns, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz stated that Pakistan would consider upgrading its defence capability. For two states that have historically adopted hostile postures towards each other, locking horns over securitisation, and that too over nuclear weapons, should be cause for grave concern.
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There are different concerns that continue to shape the security policies of Pakistan and India. Nuclear technology for Pakistan is considered imperative for its security because it allows it to offset the Indian advantage in conventional military force. What Pakistan cannot match in numbers, it could gain through the threat of mass destruction of nuclear weapons, the keyword being ‘threat’. The mere idea of that becoming a reality is not even worth mentioning, and simply unthinkable. However, following the attack on Indian parliament in 2001 by non-state actors, the Indian military devised the ‘cold-start’ doctrine according to which a small intensity quick response by India, in case of an attack by terrorists believed by India to be supported by Pakistan such as the Mumbai carnage of 2008, would be initiated so that India could seize enough Pakistani territory to gain diplomatic leverage before the international community is able to respond. The ingenuity of the cold-start doctrine lay in the fact that the intensity of the attack would be small enough to deprive Pakistan of the justification to use full-scale nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s response to the cold-start doctrine was ‘full-spectrum’ deterrence, which involves the use of small-scale tactical nuclear weapons so that India is deterred from its cold-start doctrine.
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India accuses Pakistan of using non-state actors in perpetrating cross border terrorism. Some commentators claim that the reason Pakistan is allegedly able to do so is because of lack of consequences. Indian policy makers are of the view that the deterrence resulting from Pakistan’s nuclear technology emboldens the Pakistani state in its alleged role in using non-state actosr as part of its security policy. It is in this context that the cold-start doctrine was devised and, more recently, the launch of India’s AAD interceptor missile took place. It seems that Indian security policy makers believe that by sending the message to Pakistan that India has the capability of defending itself against a nuclear strike by Pakistan, it can offset the balance of power created by nuclear deterrence.
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Embroiled in this complicated debate of national security is the very real threat of a nuclear showdown. It is a terrifying reality that both Pakistan and India have their nuclear weapons pointing at each other, and given the acrimony between the two, it is not a far-fetched possibility that relations could regress to such a level that a nuclear war becomes a reality. It is indeed hard to believe that the public of both the states is oblivious to the mass destruction of nuclear weapons, as their sentiments, clothed in jingoistic nationalism, swell with pride over the possession of nuclear weapons by their states. It may be naïve to suggest that Pakistan and India should adopt nuclear disarmament as such a move would go against their security policy. However, for the sake of eliminating the existential threat that nuclear weapons hold for both Pakistan and India, the two states need to move forward on their issues and try to resolve them so that nuclear weapons are no longer required to deter each other. It is indeed true that peace between the two states is the best guarantee of security of both Pakistan and India.

Pakistan’s anti-polio drive

A three-day anti-polio drive is underway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, (FATA), Gilgit-Baltistan and 640 union councils of Balochistan. Thousands of teams are taking part in the drive to administer polio drops to millions of children up to five years of age. Moreover, an anti-polio drive has simultaneously been launched in Afghanistan from where polio virus is transmitted because a large number of people daily cross the border. Due to previous immunisation campaigns and better security cover for polio workers and health visitors, Pakistan has registered a steady decline in the cases of polio. According to media reports, only 54 polio cases were reported in 2015 while this year only 11 cases of polio were detected from across the country. WHO Representative for Pakistan, Dr Michel Thieren has termed it the lowest toll of cases in history, and it is expected that within months polio will be eliminated in Pakistan.
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With this development, the country has recorded a major victory in the fight against the disease. Now, only two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, remain on the polio-endemic list. There is no denying the fact that the road to a polio-free Pakistan is very long and tortuous. The year 2014 was a difficult year for the health authorities since Pakistan recorded 305 cases of polio as the campaign met resistance from militants who attacked immunisation teams, and polio workers were stopped from administering drops in some areas. Conservative views, flat refusal to have children immunised on reasons that are illogical and out of place in the 21st century, and migration of families were some of the factors that contributed to the failure of complete eradication of the disease. In Pakistan, the polio immunisation programme was opposed on account of an extremist propaganda that it is a design by western countries to render Muslims infertile. It resulted in the suspension of immunisation efforts in many areas. The resistance led to physical attacks on health workers and volunteers in communities opposed to the eradication campaign. Such trenchant opposition was responsible for the prolonged hiatus in combating the disease, particularly in the KPK and Balochistan.
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With the help of UNICEF, WHO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other groups, the effort is now paying off comparatively fast. However, the disease is still a challenge and a lot more needs to be done to purge the country of the polio virus. While the state’s commitment to fighting polio is encouraging, it is not enough to just initiate vaccination drives. There has to be a campaign to spread awareness about polio. What the country needs to do to achieve zero polio case status is to strengthen its surveillance system, improve routine immunisation and maintain high quality campaigns. Government on provincial and federal levels must not be complacent and remain alert to the threat of this crippling disease by ensuring improved vaccine coverage and supplementary immunisation of children in their respective localities. In addition to efforts of government people from all walks of life must do their part in the war against polio to protect children from a preventable disease that in the absence of precautionary immunisation causes an incurable disability.

PM Sharif, parliament and Panama Papers

On Monday, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif addressed the parliament on the insistence of opposition parties for clarifying his position on the data leaked in the Panama Papers. The opposition parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), attended the parliament’s session with the intention of questioning the PM on his family’s offshore assets mentioned in Mossack Fonseca’s data. However, the PM’s 30-minute speech revealed new information regarding the acquisition of his family’s London apartments. This information was not only surprising but interesting too for the PM had never mentioned it previously.
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The PM claimed that the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto-led PPP government in the early 1970s was responsible for the nationalisation of the Sharif-owned Ittefaq Group, which forced the Sharif family to open a factory in Dubai during the year 1973. This factory was known as the Gulf Steel, and the then president of the United Arab Emirates, (UAE) Sheikh Nahyan attended the opening ceremony. The notable thing was that the PM mentioned that the London apartments were bought after a profitable sale of the Dubai factory in 1980, and the Jeddah factory in 2005, for 33 million dirhams and 17 million dollars respectively.
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However, this seems to be a concocted story, as the offshore companies owned by the PM’s children actually bought and mortgaged the London apartments in 1990s as per the data available in the Panama Papers. The loan acquired for these apartments was seven million sterling pounds and was sanctioned by the Germany based Duetsche Bank. Furthermore, if the Dubai steel mill was sold in 1980 then how was it used to acquire the London properties in the 1990s? Not only this, it is also to be questioned how the Sharifs managed to acquire funds from Pakistan for establishing the mill when nationalisation was at its peak? Furthermore, the steel mill in Jeddah steel was established in the early 2000s, and was sold in 2005, so it is a tad confusing to accept the story regarding the London properties presented by PM Sharif in his address to the parliament. He also proposed the formation a joint parliamentary committee for devising acceptable Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the yet-to-be-formed judicial commission. Unsurprisingly, The idea did not meet with a great deal of enthusiasm.
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Nevertheless, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah was justified in his concern that the PM’s address raised more questions than they answered. He further said that the seven questions of the opposition were now extended to 70 questions given the surprising new revelations of the PM regarding his overseas assets and taxes. Notwithstanding the reservations of the opposition regarding the PM’s speech, it is regrettable to note that members of the opposition staging a walkout, missing a suitable occasion to question the PM regarding his confusing revelations. The opposition benches should have stayed in parliament to raise some serious points for the treasury benches rather than criticising the PM in rhetorical bombast to media outside the session that is of little significance in solving the issue of ownership of offshore companies.
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Parliament is the supreme legislation making body, and all matters related to the state and its political machinery must be debated within its chambers. There is no point in giving media talks when the opposition is not willing to debate on serious issues such as those related to the Panama Papers in a parliamentary session. PM Sharif has a a great deal to answer for his confusing parliamentary address, while the opposition parliamentary leaders such as Khurshid Shah, Aitzaz Ahsan and Imran Khan must remain focused on the issue of transparent accountability rather than indulging in gratuitous games of point-scoring and blame-shifting.
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