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Daily Times Editorials – 4 July 2015

Taliban Threat

The Afghan Taliban are threatening major cities this year. Recently, again they sent in a suicide bomber hitting a Nato convoy enroute to the airport near the US Embassy, wounding two soldiers from the Resolute Support group that are stationed there to train the local forces to ensure security. A second car bomb went off at the police headquarters in Lashkar Gah. These two attacks have left three people dead and 60 severely injured. A third small bomb was attached to a military vehicle in western Kabul. Last week parliament was assaulted. It is time to realise that the Taliban movement is purely about gaining political power. Religion has little to do with it, except as a legitimising umbrella and recruitment tool.

President Ghani in a recent statement depicted disappointment that Pakistan, far from fulfilling its commitment to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table, is waging an undeclared war against Afghanistan. Yet he also realises the need of the hour is cooperation withIslamabad. Can President Ghani rely on Pakistan’s assistance? In fact, the recent skirmish on the border that resulted in open firing is an indicator of rising tension and the sentiment of hatred taking root across the two borders. Ghani’s sincere effort to rebuild relations with Pakistan has failed miserably and his critics had been warning him against such an outcome. A clash on the border over a structure being built as a gate could have been settled amicably but took on an ugly turn because of the rising tension between Islamabad and Kabul. People on both sides of the border are irked by its closure. It has resulted in traffic being blocked and disgruntled citizens being victimized as the innocent bystanders in the aftermath of the cross-firing. Afghanistan has lodged a complaint and summoned Pakistan’s Ambassador in Kabul.

In the light of recent worldwide events, Pakistan cannot afford to be soft on terrorism under any circumstances. It is against the norms of peace and stability the country is yearning for. The demand of the 21st century is peace without having to sacrifice the lives of innocent people.

Losing Credibility

Once again the impulsive nature of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has created an embarrassing situation for the party. The PTI has split into two groups and its central leadership is busy clearing up the mess created by their outspoken chief who has now said that the allegations of 35 punctures was merely political talk. A debate was triggered when PTI leader Dr Arif Alivi through his twitter account underscored the need for tendering an apology over making false allegations against then caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi for his alleged involvement in fixing 35 punctures while other top leaders of the PTI including Nadeemul Haq and Jehangir Tareen termed it Alvi’s personal view and added that instead of 35, 71 punctures were fixed. The controversy regarding 35 punctures first started throughsocial media in 2014, when a PTI leader tweeted on the matter. The tweet alleged that Najam Sethi called Nawaz Sharif on the night of May 13, 2013, and told him that he had fixed 35 punctures. That meant he had allegedly rigged elections in 35 Punjab constituencies. It prompted Imran Khan to launch an onslaught of allegations and character assassination against Mr Sethi without confirming the authenticity of the story that was based on hearsay.

If the allegation of 35 punctures was merely political talk, then what is the credibility of other claims made by Imran Khan regarding alleged rigging in the 2013 elections? The sudden u-turn of Imran Khan has bewildered his supporters, who are uncertain what to do now. How can a politician like Imran Khan lead a nation when he banks on false accusations for achieving political motives? Where are the ethics and moral values of the PTI? Who will trust the PTI after such irresponsible statements? The contradictory nature of Imran Khan’s policies and his impulsive nature have made his credibility doubtful and the result is that his party has been facing a gradual downslide as well as isolation from the public at large.

The PTI in its initial years had posed itself as the saviour of the nation but due to consistently changing stances over different issues, including the current one by its founder, has evoked for Imran the label ‘U-turn Khan’. The masses are really getting disappointed with the politics of the PTI. Imran and his PTI colleagus need to learn: Your tongue can either be your friend or enemy to the expressions of your feelings, so keep a tight rein over it. Dr Alvi has taken an honest stance and the party leadership should stand by it instead of telling more lies to the nation.

Sabotage or Accident?

A train carrying hundreds of military personnel and their families was headed to Kharian on the Chanawan Bridge on July 2, when the bridge collapsed and several of the train’s carriages fell into a canal. There have been 17 casualties so far but the death toll may be higher because several people are still missing. It is as yet unclear whether this accident occurred because the bridge had not been well maintained or whether it was an act of sabotage. Because of the decrepit and outdated railway system in Pakistan and the precariousness of security in the country, both possibilities are quite plausible. The Railways Minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique, has said, “This bridge was inspected in December and January and it had no issues… it could be due to a blast or deliberate loosening of the fishplates.” By implying that it was most likely an act of sabotage, the Railways Minister is also implying that he and his ministry are not responsible for the collapsing of the bridge. Train travel is the safest mode of transportation in the world, but that might not be the case in Pakistan because some of the railway tracks and other infrastructure are incredibly old and decrepit. While the government is busy setting up green and orange line commuter trains, no attention is being paid to upgrading the existing railway infrastructure. Whatever the causes for the mishap, the Railways Ministry must be held accountable for the accident and Minister Rafique’s deflection of responsibility is a denial of democratic accountability. The recent heatwave in Karachi, which quickly turned into a humanitarian crisis and national tragedy, is another example of how the state and concerned authorities deftly bounce the blame to each other and to third parties (such as K-Electric) to shirk all responsibility when there is a crisis. Even if K-Electric was to blame for the excessive load shedding in Karachi during the heatwave, the Water and Power Ministry are still responsible for not monitoring K-Electric and for not being able to boost the production of electricity.

The army, however, seems to support the minister’s statement. An army official has reportedly said, “The planks on the rail were tampered with.” The Railways Minister has set up a committee to investigate the matter within 72 hours. Yet the track record of investigations in Pakistan suggests that the true cause of the accident might never come to light. If the investigation is conclusive and the train accident turns out to be a deliberate attack by a militant organisation, it will be yet another attack in an urban or suburban area that reflects the failure of the National Action Plan (NAP). After the Army Public School (APS) attack in Peshawar, the government and military seemed determined to eradicate terrorism from the country. Due to the military operations in the mountainous north and west of Pakistan, the terrorists are leaving their safe havens to either flee across the border or moving to the central parts of the country. In response to these operations, they are targeting the army now more than ever. APS and this train are just the soft targets that the terrorists need to send their message of resistance to the military. If this accident was a terrorist attack, then it reflects the failure of the state in implementing NAP and not being able to gather sufficient intelligence on the militant organisations to be able to pre-emptively stop such attacks from happening. If the bridge collapsed due to a mechanical fault, it was the failure of the Railways Ministry and the federal government in the upkeep of the railway infrastructure. Either way, this incident shows how government institutions in Pakistan are unable to prevent crises and do not seem to learn from their mistakes.

Daily Times Editorials – 4 July 2015

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