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DAWN Editorials – 22th March 2016

Women’s cricket win

BY beating India in the crucial WorldT20 clash at New Delhi on Saturday, the national women’s cricket team has achieved new heights.

While their male counterparts have continued to struggle, inexplicably falling short of taming the Indian cricket teams in all ICC events since 1992, Sana Mir’s charges have quite commendably held their nerve to pull off a sensational victory over their rivals.

Their victory is made special when one takes into account the many odds stacked against them in the run-up to the high-voltage clash.

They include: curtailed training sessions, an injury to all-rounder Javeria Khan, defeat in the opening game against the West Indies, and the five-match winning streak of Mithali Raj’s team against Pakistan.

But, overcoming such obstacles, the Pakistani team, after winning the toss, surprised everyone by putting their formidable opponents in to bat, restricting them at 96. The rest, of course, is history.

A quick look at the recent graph of the team shows their pragmatic approach and faith in their own abilities to do well. They have grown in confidence and stature in international cricket.

The fact that the national women’s team today is ranked sixth in ICC rankings, with four of its players featuring among the top 20, amply reflects the great strides they have made.

The current Pakistan Cricket Board members, for once, must be praised for taking several initiatives to boost women’s cricket. Recently, in what could be termed as a landmark move, as many as 22 women players were offered central contracts by the PCB.

Having said that, the players still lack dedicated cricket grounds, nor do they have cricket clubs where their talents can be nurtured. Besides that, cultural and social values are a major hindrance among women taking up sports as a career in this country.

Pakistan’s women cricketers have a few more competitive games lined up at the World T20, and an impressive performance at the event will hopefully ensure a better future for all sportswomen in the country.

PPP’s reality

PPP CHAIRMAN Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has asked his party workers to prepare for the 2018 general election. He has personally kicked off this preparatory phase with an attack on the PML-N.

The PPP is unhappy about retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s shift abroad, joining the chorus that it is bent on reminding those at the helm of their vows to make the former military ruler face a fair trial.

There has been a sprinkling of PPP protests where Mr Musharraf’s departure from Pakistan was the topic but which were essentially rallies where Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was trying to gauge the mood of the people as well as get a sense of just how much strength there is in the party ranks at the moment.

This will surely be followed by other causes that the PPP would want to urgently pursue in order to rediscover that elusive route back to where it was one of the two major parties in the country.

The PPP chairman knows his party is not quite the formidable outfit it used to be: he talks more of a rescue attempt when he refers to the lost glory that has to be recaptured. It has been reduced to almost nothingness in major parts of the country outside Sindh.

Even in Sindh it has come under tremendous pressure. Not only has it been criticised severely for its performance in government in the province, it faces a greater burden on account of the issues it is forced to take up with regard to the Rangers’ operation in Karachi.

It is obvious how tough the task is, especially given that it is not as yet certain how much leeway Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be allowed by his father and other mentors, some of whom he could so happily do without.

Many still wish to see Benazir Bhutto’s son free himself and act as a sovereign. And if that is a complicated course to follow, consider that the first signs of change will come when speeches by the PPP leader mention the future more than the past, however glorious it may have been.

The meeting where he asked party workers to prepare for the 2018 polls was laced with the same recycled ideas; for instance, a ‘permanent’ committee was formed to oversee the death anniversary events of Ms Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. One thing the young heir to the two leaders needs to do is to focus on the future — permanently.

Waiting to go back home

IT is talked up as a core goal in Fata. The army chief is known to focus on the issue. The political government vows it will get it done. And the newly appointed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor has said that it is his foremost priority.

The return of IDPs to Fata is, of course, of vital importance to the stability of the tribal region. But there is a very human dimension to that need: the denizens of Fata have sacrificed so much more than the average citizen and to them the state owes a very special responsibility.

Indeed, embedded in the military’s preferred acronym for the displaced people of Fata — TDPs — is the promise that exile will be temporary. Yet, despite the military’s urgency and the political government’s vows of facilitation, the en masse return of IDPs to Fata does not appear to be occurring.

Perhaps it is time that the state revisited its strategy.

What, for example, are the reasons for the high return of IDPs to Khyber Agency (90pc) and the exceedingly low rate of return to South Waziristan Agency (15pc)? The military operation in South Waziristan began more than six years ago, while Khyber has seen two major operations in the last couple of years alone.

Part of the answer is surely South Waziristan sharing a border with North Waziristan — until the latter is fully cleared of militants, the security threat to the former remains. In addition, after years of living in cities and towns across the country, the IDPs of South Waziristan may have found jobs and started new lives, which has slowed the pace of return.

But Orakzai Agency and Kurram Agency also have exceedingly high numbers of displaced people — two-thirds of registered IDPs are yet to return to the two agencies. Is it only a question of resources — to rehabilitate the physical infrastructure and kick-start local economies — or is there something more that the IDPs are looking for?

Perhaps a survey should be conducted to understand the needs of IDPs rather than have state officials simply determine on their own what conditions are needed for their return.

Too often, state policy has little connection to the needs of the citizenry and that problem may well be magnified when it comes to Fata.

Given the experience of other agencies, it should not be assumed that IDPs from North Waziristan will return home from Afghanistan and various parts of Pakistan once major military operations are concluded.

Resettlement packages — a combination of financial incentives and physical infrastructure — may need to be complemented by immediate steps for the overhaul of the administrative and political systems of Fata.

Given that most IDPs are registered and the military and Fata administration have some contact with them, it should not be impossible to determine from the people themselves what they need to go back to their homes.

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