The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for polio has stated in its latest report that Pakistan has ‘broken a promise made to its children’. It says four out of five children suffering from polio right now are from Pakistan. Pakistan’s fight against polio is lagging far behind other countries, the report emphatically states. It has termed the Prime Minister’s Polio Cell a “shadow boxing entity” and recommended establishment of a body to eradicate the crippling disease from the country on the patterns of efforts to cope with a natural disaster.
The IMB, which meets twice a year and consists of nine members who are international experts, reports that the situation in Pakistan is ‘dire’. It holds Pakistan responsible for significantly slowing down the global march towards eradicating polio. “Pakistan’s polio virus has spread to Syria, causing a major outbreak amidst the country’s civil war. Pakistan’s polio virus has also spread to Israel, West Bank and Gaza and Iraq,” the report states, saying “each outbreak overstretched the global program’s resources and credibility”.
The picture depicted by IMB is indeed alarming. All efforts made by successive governments, and all the resources, both national and international, invested for decades to eradicate polio in Pakistan seem to have been rendered ineffective due to a lack of effective implementation of the polio eradication program in the country. Pakistan’s failure to completely eradicate the menacing disease has now acquired global dimensions. Lately, the World Health Organization (WHO) slapped international travel restrictions on Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria over the countries’ failure to control the spread of the deadly virus.
According to WHO rules, it will be mandatory for all residents and long-term visitors (over 4 weeks) from Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria to receive a dose of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) or Inactivated Polio-virus Vaccine (IPV) between 4 weeks and 12 months prior to international travel. Recommendations for the travel restrictions were put forward by a 21-member International Health Regulations Emergency Committee which was formed on the directive of WHO board members in Geneva.
The Government of Pakistan will have to get its act together to quickly and effectively address this issue of vital national and international concern.
M Fazal Elahi,
It won’t fly
Yet another major terrorist attack in Pakistan, this time at Karachi Airport, should expose glaring irregularities and compromises which have made our key installations susceptible to danger. Terrorism and corruption within the top echelons of our ruling elite are two cancers responsible for mayhem, murders and chaos that afflicts Pakistan, threatening its very existence as a sovereign responsible state.
Drive into any airport in Pakistan and an ASF staff will walk around carrying a device with an antenna to check for explosives, although it has been established that this is defective fake equipment procured by corrupt elements within the powerful establishment, and the manufacturing company based in Europe is under probe and its offices sealed. Such devices was only being used in Nigeria and a few other countries in Africa, apart from Pakistan. How can such criminal malpractices be stopped, if those responsible are shielded instead of being hanged?
A year has elapsed and the CAA officials responsible for pocketing Landing and Parking fee from foreign and local nonscheduled airlines at Karachi Airport have not been prosecuted and punished. In this scam there was no official record of cargo, nor of aircraft landings, or names of these airlines. What can you expect from CAA which issues an Airline Operating Certificate to a cargo charter company owned by Indian nationals who had an airline banned by UAE for operating flights to Damascus carrying weapons from Moscow.
Who is responsible for allowing housing to be constructed right outside the fencing of civil airports? CAA allowed numerous Ground Handling and Cargo agencies to set up their offices and storage facilities at airports without ensuring that internationally accepted rules for storage of dangerous goods are complied with, nor having sufficient equipment to meet any emergency. These storage facilities should have had sufficient fire-fighting equipment installed for initial response.
Similarly numerous private and charter airlines have been allowed to build terminals with access to Airport Apron, without sufficient security personnel, or immigration and custom staff deputed to prevent abuse and misuse, nor the required infrastructure, although they make a considerable revenue.
Battle for Pakistan – I
The whole nation must stand united in support of the government and our armed forces to fight a war against terrorists, who have inflicted more damage in terms of precious human lives, massive economic deficit, and loss of international credibility than any declared war against known external enemies.
This should be the battle for Pakistan, to eliminate all private armed militias, who threaten writ of state, collecting extortion money, harming our defense installations, and violating basic human rights guaranteed to all citizens of this country.
We should never allow any group to arm itself and enforce their writ through intimidation and use of force, denying citizens the right to practice their faith and forcing them to lead their lives in accordance with their distorted version of Islam.
It is time that Pakistan decides to follow the path and vision of the Father of the Nation, and becomes a truly democratic welfare state, whose government is answerable to people and where all institutions work within the ambit of the 1973 Constitution.
Battle for Pakistan – II
Karachi – the country’s ‘economic hub’, also popularly known as the ‘city of lights’, once again became the victim of ruthless terrorist attack on Sunday, June 8, 2014.
No one can deny it was a major security lapse. It also clearly indicates how perilously susceptible our strategic installations are to terrorist attacks. The blame game has started, as usual. Will this yield any positive results? Will this bring an end to the miseries of all those who lost their near and dear ones in the coldblooded attack? Will this bring solace to the women who lost their husbands in the attack and become widows, and the innocent children who lost their fathers and become orphans? No, it certainly won’t. Then what should be done?
Time has actually come for the pillars of the state responsible for dealing with the profoundly critical issue of terrorism to quickly act and do all that is required to bring an end to this menace. If this is not done on war footings, the situation will get worse and cause irreversible damage to the lives of innocent people and the already shattered economy of the country. The massive military operation “Zarb-e-Azab” launched by Pakistan Army against the terrorists in North Waziristan (NW) on Sunday, June 15, 2014 reflects the resolve of the incumbent government to deal with the critical issue of terrorism on priority basis and settle it, once and for all, in the larger interest of this nation. The entire nation must stand like a rock by the government and the country’s armed forces in this hour of need.
Tourism and terrorism
Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world. It is an important source of income generation, job creation, poverty reduction, foreign exchange earnings and promotion of cross-cultural understanding.
Without any doubt, Pakistan is one of the most naturally beautiful and amazing regions in the world, with attractions like the Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Taxila, Himalayan hills and mountains, Chitral and Hunza valleys, impressive domes of mosques in Lahore and Multan, beautiful lakes and so much more. Pakistan has a lot to offer to the curious eyes of a tourist. After the economic and security crises, tourism decreased greatly as visitors reported the land to be unsafe.
The greatest obstacle to the growth of tourism is the law and order problem. Pakistan has been subject to religious violence in which a number of foreigners have been targeted. There are also many cases where tourists have been physically attacked, robbed and sexually harassed.
The security of foreign tourists should be a major concern for the government. They come here with foreign currency and help Pakistan’s economy. Once they are issued visas, there should not be any extra hurdles in their way to visit places they have come to see. We need to facilitate them and provide them invisible security so that they could enjoy their holidays without any fear and worry. On the other hand, we must also pay serious attention to facilitate our own domestic tourists.
Pakistan has one of the most attractive physical environments in the world but its social environment is not tourism friendly. Foreigners look for an environment in which they can enjoy themselves to the full. This is possible only if all the ingredients of enjoyment are present with the least damage of privacy. This does not mean that we should completely forget our cultural values. We can provide a balance between our values and the demand of the international travelers.
Pakistan does not have a good international image. Image building is a matter of both perception and reality. The reality in Pakistan is not as bad as the perception of it. Therefore, besides improving the tourism environment, we have to erase the negative perception about the country.
Bad roads, flight cancellation and delays, lack of connectivity to various locations, and communication facilities are among the factors that discourage tourists.
What we need here is a good tourism policy and full government support. One of the priorities of new government should be tourism as a leading sector of Pakistan’s economy and help it to bring the tourism industry back on its feet. We can easily defeat terrorism with tourism by creating income and employment opportunities for the people. If the tourism industry grows, other businesses such as hotels, restaurants, transport, handicrafts, shopping centers, and other related businesses will benefit at the same time.
The 2014 Men’s Hockey World Cup was held at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Netherlands. It was sad to see that Pakistan, which has won the most Hockey World Cups, has not qualified for the event this time.
The Hockey World Cup was first conceived by Pakistan’s Air Marshal Nur Khan. He proposed his idea to the International Hockey Federation.
But now it looks that those who are working in Pakistan Hockey Federation are not interested in developing the game in Pakistan, or at least maintaining the level that the Pakistan hockey team maintained for so many years.
It will be great for Pakistan hockey if the government, the media and multinational companies join hands to do something for the national sport.
How to end terrorism
For the modern state to govern effectively with complete jurisdiction over its territory, it was established through the process of political evolution that the state alone shall organize, finance and arm a disciplined army in service of the state, appointed in accordance with rules and trained to function strictly in accordance with the rules of discipline and in line with the constitution and the law of land.
After the bitter US Civil War, where private militias raised by warring states clashed and fought a bloody conflict, the country adopted a constitution banning all private militias. This same principle has been adopted by every country, whether functioning as parliamentary democracy or with a presidential system of governance, irrespective of which ideology or faith they follow. The wheel has been invented, and any country that allows private militias to be raised and funded by religious or political parties or groups, with an agenda to fight a war, or as vigilante groups, has always ended up seeing these militias turning against their mentors whenever there has been a conflict of interest.
Pakistan today faces biggest threat from within, by militias allowed to be formed and housed within its territory by the Zia junta, who allowed individual mercenaries to brainwash and recruit young men, training them to wage a war in neighboring country, finance by a superpower eager to avenge its defeat in Vietnam. After the US had achieved its objective, these young men trained only to use weapons, were left stranded, without any financial security or plans for relocation, becoming easy recruits to fight any agenda funded by enemies of Pakistan and few fundamentalist outfits, for whom peace was unacceptable since their funding and nuisance depended on continued state of warfare.
Zia promoted the growth of sectarian, ethnic and regional nationalist groups in order to prevent a unified federal political opposition to challenge his illegitimate rule. The lure of billions of rupees in criminal earnings of some of these private militias in Karachi attracted the Taliban to claim a share in this huge tax-free pie in the financial hub of Pakistan.
Unless and until the Pakistan state, with all its fire power and resources, cracks down on all private militias, terrorism can not be eliminated.