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Pakistan Today Editorial – 22nd May 2016

Egypt Air tragedy


Egypt’s aviation minister said it right that when you weigh all the options, “the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical (failure)”. A targetted hit is not very likely. As numerous international channels following the story have pointed out, the Paris-Cairo route, from the heart of Europe, across the Mediterranean, to the Arab-African world, is one of the world’s most significant and hence most monitored airways. Technical failure, so far, is considered the least likely option. This particular A320 was, according to reports, in tip-top condition; having been inducted in ’03.

If this was actually a terrorist attack, then the most likely method would be planting a bomb on board. That, of course, would not be the first incident of its kind. The Russian airliner, that exploded mid-air soon after taking off from an Egyptian tourist resort not too long ago, was the first to suffer such a fate. Back then IS was quick to claim responsibility. It has battled Sisi’s government in the Sinai for years now, and considers Egypt very much a part of its wars of the caliphate.

But if true it would imply that terrorists were, once again, able to bypass security at an extremely sensitive international airport. Paris has been shut water-tight since the Nov13 attack. If the enemy is able to regularly bypass state of the art security systems then the fight against terror still has a long way to go. Some analysts explain no claim of responsibility for EgyptAir so far – in the case this really was a terrorist attack – to protect ‘operational integrity’ which, in turn, would imply more attacks in the future. More will, of course, become apparent as the investigation progresses. But, considering the circumstances, the hand of terror can never really be ruled out.

Senate in transition

The right direction

The Senate was given the name of the House of Federation unanimously in May 2015. From representing the federal units to representing the entire federation, thus moving from the parts to the whole, marks it as a qualitative jump. What is more the Senate is showing greater concern for public issues.

More Private Members’ Bills, 18 to be specific, were tabled this year. Rules were amended to allow two Calling Attention Notices instead of one to be taken up daily during the session, the idea being to respond to issues of public interest. The House has also started taking suo moto notice of matters of larger public interest.

As the numerical strength of a party in the Senate plays little role in determining the fortunes of the government, party affiliations are relatively weak and the ruling party Senators can sometime take a stand critical of the government. Last year PML-N’s veteran Senator M. Hamza joined the opposition in taking to task his own government’s decision to allot more than one plot to the judges and demanded an immediate end to the practice. The Senate is also taking up issues with long term implications. Two such issues cropped up this week.

So far the smaller provinces have been pressing the government to call the meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) regularly. The government on the other hand continues to violate its constitutional obligation of convening the CCI meeting at least once in three months. On Thursday Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq, another PML-N warhorse, presented a resolution demanding holding the CCI meeting on a regular basis. The resolution further suggested that the CCI establish its permanent secretariat and ensure timely submission of its reports to Parliament. Another resolution passed unanimously was about the Census. It was demanded that the Census should be held before elections. Many question if the responsiveness to public issues of both urgent and long term importance shown by the Senate under its present chairman will last after him. It is difficult to make the prediction.

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