Daily Times Editorial 30 June 2020
The PSX attack
Full marks to Pakistan’s brave security agencies for foiling the attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange compound in Karachi yesterday in a matter of only eight minutes, which shows that they stand ready to face all sorts of circumstances at all times. But our foremost thoughts, prayers and gratitude must go to the three security guards and one sub-inspector who laid their lives so others could live and the nation be spared of yet another black mark on its conscience. It is now the responsibility of the state of Pakistan to make sure that their families never face any hardships as they learn to live without not just their bread winners but also their family heads. The four attackers seemed to have planned a long attack, most probably by storming into the main compound and taking hostages, since they carried arms as well as food rations.
All accusations about a security lapse in this particular instance are simply wrong. Quite to the contrary, actually, the manner of the response proved that the security system is always on its toes, always prepared to respond rapidly whenever there is a terrorist threat. Even with much reduced attendance – because a large number of people are working from home due to coronavirus compulsions – there were still in excess of 6,000 people in the building. Rangers and policy personnel must therefore be credited for saving many lives by their prompt action. Also, as explained by law enforcement agencies, this attack was on the same pattern as the 2018 attempted attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi. Both hits are attributed to the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), and since there is a very well-known link between them and our not-so-friendly neighbour India, security officials have a pretty good idea where the funding and support would have come from.
That Vietnam’s aviation authority has grounded all Pakistani pilots working in the country’s local airlines, out of concern that they might be using dubious licenses, is a matter of great embarrassment for Pakistan. Yet it’s not as if nobody could see this, and probably a whole lot more, coming when Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told the National Assembly that a good third of the country’s pilots might have fake licenses. The international aviation body IATA (International Air Transport Association) was quick in its condemnation and expressed serious concern about a “lapse in licensing and safety oversight by the (Pakistani) aviation regulator.” Now there is a building fear that more countries might do what Vietnam has just done and push Pakistani pilots out of the international market.
Yet this is not the only matter of concern. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has announced that it would not receive any passengers from Pakistan till a special Covid-19 laboratory is set up to test them. This follows the incident where approximately 30 Pakistani travelers, heading for Hong Kong and transiting in Dubai, tested positive for the coronavirus at the end of their journey. This episode, too, has got Pakistani authorities a little scared about the likelihood of other countries doing the same. In that case not just Pakistani pilots but also passengers would be isolated internationally. The government’s response to all this has not, unfortunately, been satisfactory. All it has done so far is simply deny that passengers out of here can be infected. But that will not sell with the international community since there was a reason that so many of them, who began their journey in Pakistan, were found infected.
At home the PTI government has got used to blaming all sorts of problem on others. Sometimes previous governments are responsible, at other times the opposition must shoulder the blame, and lately people too have been on the receiving end of its accusations. Yet such politically charged statements do not get things done internationally. And since it will take a lot of work not just to restore the image of Pakistani pilots, but also to ensure infected patients are not on any flight out of here, it is clear that the ruling party will have to shift strategy and tactics. Simply burying its head in the sand and pointing its finger at others will not get these things done. *