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Daily Times Editorial 14 July 2020

Kashmir Martyrs Day


Prime Minister Imran Khan rightly paid rich tribute to Kashmir’s great martyrs on Youm-e-Shuhada-e-Kashmir and praised the residents of the valley for their “valiant fight and defiance against a Hindutva supremacist regime”. There can really be no denying that the struggle of the Kashmiris, horrible as it has been since Partition, has become particularly horrendous since the Modi administration came to New Delhi. First a whole generation of Kashmiris was blinded and maimed by the unprecedented, barbaric use of pellet guns. Then the Occupied Valley was stripped of its special status last August and made to endure a torturous curfew. And now the Indian government is bent upon dramatically changing the religious, demographic and cultural status of the region.
To be fair, the Imran Khan administration has done more to raise awareness about the cause than many of its predecessors, no matter how sincere their own efforts were. And, given the circumstances, the best that could be hoped for was to create enough momentum about the issue on the international stage for the rest of the world to take serious notice. The prime minister’s now famous speech at the United Nations, which was received pretty well pretty much everywhere, was a big step in this direction. Unfortunately the world’s most advanced nations, which always pride themselves for upholding democratic and humanitarian values across the world, paid lip service at best. And it says a lot about the state of the moral compass of the world that the lure of India’s huge market was enough for the world to put the Kashmir issue on the backburner for a while longer.
Yet Pakistan must not lose sight of the goal. While even many Muslim countries have disappointed us on this count, some friends have come out like never before. They include Malaysia, Turkey and Iran. It would now be in Pakistan’s own interest to strengthen alliances with these countries and exert yet more pressure internationally. Sadly some of our existing foreign policy complications, which even the government struggles with sometimes, prevent a lasting partnership with some if not all of these countries. Therefore, coming up with a strategy that is likely to work is now going to test Islamabad. Kashmir Martyrs Day is once again a reminder that this issue remains among Pakistan’s top-most priorities.


Reduced testing?


Yet again there is a claim by the opposition that the government has reduced the number of coronavirus tests being conducted to make it look as if the curve is flattening. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari this time accused the PTI government of putting people’s lives in danger by reducing testing capacity “on purpose”. Indeed the press too reported of a number of instances, no matter how accidental, during the recent limited lockdown of testing teams being refused permission to enter certain areas because they were quarantined. And it is also true that a lot of people who show mild symptoms these days prefer to quarantine themselves at home rather than go for the test unless the situation is serious.
The government denies all this, of course, and instead pats itself on the back all the time for doing a very nice job of it. But that is exactly why it must launch an immediate investigation into the matter to put all rumours, if that is really all they are, to rest. It should require neither too much time nor too many resources. All that needs to be done is conduct the testing completely transparently and let the media observe what is really happening. This is not one of those things that government and opposition should play a blame game over. The situation demands that everybody, from both sides of the aisle, aid the national fight against the coronavirus. Therefore, if the opposition feels that the government might be letting people down by lowering the test count, it must be provided credible assurances.
If the government is right and the infection is falling, then there is the urgent need to build upon the progress. Let’s not forget that the limited lockdowns, which were implemented practically all over the world recently, led to a sharp spread in many countries. If we have indeed been able to contain that spread, then this is precisely the time that we must not take our eye off the ball. The coming Eid holidays will tell a lot, about whether or not Pakistanis have become more responsible about social safety protocols than the last days of Ramzan, which is why the prime minister has done the right thing by reminding everybody again and again just how important these few days are. Hopefully the count will continue to go down but in a way that can be verified. *
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