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Daily Times Editorials – 20th March 2016

Pakistan needs to introspect

As per the norm after the December 2014 Peshawar massacre, another meeting of civilian and military leadership was convened in Islamabad, where the topic under discussion was the internal security of Pakistan, focusing on the issues of terrorism, militancy and extremism. There is a heightened emphasis on law and order in the enlarged context of different issues delineating the fight to eradicate occurrence of violence in varying degrees of effect, therefore outlining the significance of manifesting a collective will to persevere despite all odds. Convened under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the meeting was attended by the top echelon of civilian and military hierarchy: COAS Raheel Sharif, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Tariq Fatimi, and ISI Director General Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar. While condemning the latest terror attack in Peshawar, in which 16 people were killed and several others injured, the participants agreed upon the need to persevere in the sustained and relentless action to ensure elimination of terror. In solidarity to stand united against the debilitating phenomenon of terrorism that has taken more than 60,000 lives in Pakistan, developments in the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the Karachi cleanup mission, and eradication of terror networks all over Pakistan were discussed and deemed satisfactory. “Elimination of terrorists is national resolve. We will wipe out terrorists from every corner of the country. War against terrorism will be taken to its logical end at every cost,” Prime Minister Sharif stated in reiteration of government’s resolve to cleanse Pakistan of all elements that focus on creating havoc through killing of innocent people, attacking the very foundation of social, moral and infrastructural framework of Pakistan.

Pakistan stands united in its resolve to rid itself of all its destructive forces, and much seems to have taken place already — all of which is praiseworthy in full acknowledgment of the enormous work and sprit exercised by the law-enforcement institutions, armed forces, and intelligence agencies. There is no denying the sacrifices of countless police, army and security agencies personnel, and Pakistan stands in salutation, in gratitude. However, not much would be attained if the bigger picture is not taken into consideration.

Bombing camps and headquarters of militants and terrorists would merely be a cosmetic endeavour if it is not backed by a sustained movement to eliminate the mindset that trains, enables and perpetuate terrorism under one pretext or the other. Hanging of convicted criminals may provide temporary solace to grieving families and an enraged nation, but the idea of capital punishment serving as a deterrent is losing its effectiveness globally. Execution of a few hundred criminals would not eradicate militancy from Pakistan until the core issue of radicalisation is targeted with precision and long-term sagacity. Glorification of faith-induced violence disempowers the judiciary to dispense justice on a code of legal conduct that is recognised in all countries, following any system of governance. While Pakistan remains, unfortunately, in the grip of false binaries of faith that distort teachings of Islam for designs of hegemony and polarisation to keep Pakistanis into boxes of sects, fed on agendas of intolerance, lack of acceptance, bigotry, hatred and violence for all opposing or conflicting ideologies and schools of thought. Notwithstanding the success of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Pakistan would not be rid of terrorism unless there is a categorical, absolute denunciation of all kinds of militancy. There would be no real peace within Pakistan if there is turmoil on its eastern and western borders, with its militants enabling or inflicting terror on Afghanistan and India. There would no real sense of justice for victims of any terror incident — be it the Peshawar massacre or suicide attacks in Quetta — if all acts of terrorism are not dispensed justice in an even, transparent manner. Pakistan would not be able to have long-lasting peace if its main religion, Islam, is exploited by religious organisations to impose any dispensation that is in violation of the true essence of Islam. Compassion and brotherhood are the main proponents of Islam, as they are of most other religions, and that is the principle that is needed to be practised on all levels in Pakistan to create an environment that is focused on providing a sense of security to everyone irrespective of their faith, or the lack thereof. Pakistan needs humanity not guns to attain peace. And Pakistan needs to accept that there is no shortcut to attainment of peace. The fight starts within.

Media hype

Cricket frenzy has shot up ahead of a crucial encounter between India and Pakistan in the 2016 T20 World Cup being held in India. Media hype has made it a do-or-die situation for both teams. Cricket-lovers are praying and offering mannats for green shirts to triumph in this high-voltage game. Pakistan players, who are already struggling against odds have to face multiple pressures. The batting woes are still there though Pakistan has performed exceptionally well against Bangladesh by posting 201 runs’ target, showing the batting spark has not diminished altogether. On the other hand, India with a strong batting line-up has an edge as it had consecutively defeated Pakistan in all previous World Cup games. A charged atmosphere is created even days before the actual game between the two ‘arch-rivals’. It is a game of nerves that needs to be played with a free mind by players without any extra burden. All Pakistani fans are anxiously waiting for the crucial win against India, and they are not ready to accept Pakistan’s defeat. Along with prayers for victory, cricket fans must remember that players are also human beings. Accepting that is a matter of national pride but it must not be converted into jingoism. In this regard, Pakistan media is not playing a positive role. Rather, it is creating more trouble for the team building extra pressure for players. Media is fanning the traditional hyper-nationalism, which is unhealthy not only for the game of cricket but also for the relations between the two countries.

Media frenzy around the game of cricket has changed the meaning of sports diplomacy altogether in the Pakistan-India context. Every match between the two sporting rivals is portrayed as a war minus the shooting. Media from both sides is playing a not-so-positive role. Instead of supporting the spirit of the game, media bigwigs focus on the ratings of their channels by creating unnecessary hype. Cricket should remain a sport rather than becoming a source of escalation of the already hostile relations between the two countries. Even petty politics has entered the game of cricket. The penetration of commercialisation has badly affected the spirit of the game. Despite all this negativity, our team should not lose heart. Their main focus should be on winning the World Cup rather than just beating India. Pakistan has the talent to bounce back if they work on their positive points and overcome their problems. Pakistan needs to focus on other upcoming matches to win this important tournament, because cricket is still a game of chance and Pakistan is the most unpredictable of the major teams.

Not just another crash

In less than one week, the modern aviation authority mourns again the loss of 62 lives after a Fly Dubai passenger plane crashed into ground, during an attempted landing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, early Saturday, according to Russian officials. The Dubai Media Office has confirmed the casualties, further establishing that 44 of the passengers were Russian, eight were Ukrainian, two were Indian, and one hailed from Uzbekistan. It is still not clear what caused the crash, but the authorities are now considering both pilot error in connection with poor visibility as well as a technical error as important factors. Moscow has swiftly reacted to this calamity, immediately sending 700 rescue workers to the site of the crash to extinguish fire, and then investigate what went wrong in the air.

Last week, a military plane crashed in the Amazon region, Ecuador, killing all 22 men aboard. The unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airline Flight 370 alongside its 239 passengers is an enigma, which still haunts many. Writing of incidentscloser to home, over 120 people narrowly escaped death last year when an allegedly drunk pilot skidded the Shaheen Airlines NL-142 off the runway of the Allama Iqbal International airport, Lahore. Such aviation accidents are deemed implausible in the wake of the everyday advancements in the aeronautical industry, claiming to have made air travel the safest mode of transportation. The alleged episode of drunk pilot tampering the cockpit makes the American argument of a computerized pilot, even more stronger. Agencies like UN are pressing for a highly detailed investigation of aircraft crashes, with an extensive tracking of all flights. Nevertheless, the risks associated with both- elimination of human pilots altogether as well as an additional thorough check on all aviation operations- in terms of miscommunication between various institutions, are a menace, greatly outweighing their benefits. Hence, there is no noticeable need to revolutionise the existing public aviation policy.

Nonetheless, the novel technology reframing the industry can be momentous in preventing human losses. Advancements are being made to introduce robot co-pilots in US. Japanese companies have made great strides on their work on gears that may assist pilots from time to time. However, even these initiatives are not absolute risk-free, and can be threatened by events like technical miscalculations or the vulnerability to be hacked by unwanted forces. On human frontiers, public policy, especially in settings like Pakistan, can be steered towards producing a fleet of crew members, who prove themselves to be reliable in times of distress. A close watch on the on-duty activities and health conditions of the pilots can help in a comprehensive evaluation of their performance. Another risk the airborne flights are exposed to can be traced back to terrorist activities, growing in prevalence worldwide. In January 2015, A passenger jet of the same FlyDubai was shot at on approaching Baghdad, Iraq, Causing injuries to two travellers. In a more drastic incident, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was gunned down in July, 2014, near Donetsk, Ukraine, causing nearly 300 casualties. Such catastrophes can only be avoided if diplomatic enclaves around the world unite themselves in a show-down against these extremist elements. Airplanes today have come a long way, in terms of both security and comfort, from their forerunners designed by the Wright Brothers. These developments have only arisen as a result of decades of research and regulation. However, the risk accompanying these flights can never be fully nullified by the authorities, who can do little other than strive towards the execution of the existing sustainability policies.

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