HAVING further tightened its anti-terror financing laws, Pakistan appears to be much better placed for its next assessment by the Financial Action Task Force. In February, the global watchdog on money laundering and terror financing had informed Pakistan that it had accomplished only 14 items of the 27-point action plan it had committed itself to in order to be taken off FATF’s ‘grey list’ on which it was placed in June 2018. On Thursday, both houses of parliament passed two time-bound FATF bills, the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020, and the United Nations (Security Council) Amendment Bill 2020. Coming off the grey list would considerably enhance Pakistan’s standing in the world and defuse the threat that has hung like a sword over its economy were it unsuccessful in its endeavours.
However, the manner in which the laws were passed is a matter of concern. The bills and amendments to them suggested by a Senate panel were discussed in a behind-the-scenes meeting by the government, the PML-N and the PPP. The National Assembly then promptly rubber-stamped what was placed before it — its usual response to FATF-related bills. Such quiescence is jarring. The legislation pertains to national security, and the people’s representatives would be expected to have robust opinions on it. It is also alarming, and highly unethical, for the government to have attempted to sneak in a draconian ‘economic terrorism’ bill under the umbrella of the FATF-related legislation. The proposed law would have allowed any citizen to be detained for up to 180 days, on instructions by committees manned by intelligence agency personnel. Fortunately, the opposition shot it down.
While FATF can be said to have forced Pakistan’s hand and compelled it to crack down on the violent extremist groups that had long insinuated themselves into the warp and weft of society, this is the only viable path ahead for this country. The notion that such outfits can be ‘managed’ is flawed and myopic; ultimately, all of them devour their ‘host’ nation by corrupting its youth and destroying their future. Moreover, they do not operate in silos. At some level, even those that do not carry out attacks within Pakistan enable each other, if indirectly; all of them thus pose a security risk for the country. Since FATF first flagged the “strategic deficiencies” in Pakistan’s financial system, the country has taken several measures to squeeze the space in which ultra right-wing groups can operate. In March last year, for instance, provincial administrations took control of hundreds of madressahs, schools, mosques, etc run by the Jamaatud Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammed. On July 17, 2019, the JuD chief, Hafiz Saeed — on whom the US has a $10m bounty — was arrested on charges of terror financing. In February this year, he was sentenced for five years for the crime. There is a long road ahead, but Pakistan is on the right path.
THE spectre of the coronavirus continues to haunt Pakistan as the nation celebrates Eidul Azha, the feast of sacrifice. A question that deserves repetition is the same that confronted us in April as Ramazan neared: will the faithful observe the government’s SOPs to help check the spread of the pandemic that has by now taken almost 6,000 lives in Pakistan?
Recall the consequences of the eleventh hour surrender by the government to the clerics, who at the time made little effort to ensure that the SOPs for prayer congregations were followed. This was in sharp contrast to the situation in many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, where people followed the government’s and ulema’s plea to offer prayers at home.
In Pakistan, however, by ignoring these elementary precautions observed worldwide, the people and those they followed in matters of faith violated the SOPs and thus unconsciously added to a sudden post-Eid surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
We owe our front-line workers a huge debt of gratitude for getting the nation through this most trying time, for it came at a heavy cost. Now, even accounting for discrepancies in official data, there has been a welcome decline in infection and mortality rates. But, particularly in the absence of a scientific explanation for this reduction of cases, the nation can brook no complacency.
Besides preventing a resurgence of widespread infection, there is another health and safety challenge that Pakistan struggles with perennially while observing Eidul Azha.
Sidewalks serve as virtual abattoirs, and blood-spattered footpaths and lanes littered with animal waste are a recurring phenomenon. Annually issued public service messages to not dispose of carcasses in residential areas near airports go unheeded, attracting carrion birds and increasing the risk of aviation accidents caused by bird strike.
Special care is required on the part of the people and city governments to ensure that the slaughter of sacrificial animals and disposal of waste is not only done properly and hygienically but also with a view to prevent large gatherings. How carelessness in the latter could be catastrophic is evident from an outbreak of Covid-19 among workers in a chicken slaughterhouse in Germany.
So far in 2020, Pakistanis have had to endure many hardships since the pandemic struck. This Eidul Azha, the spirit of sacrifice should move us to do whatever it takes to ensure the health and well-being of our fellow citizens.
Living in cages
ONCE again, Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo is in the news for all the wrong reasons. A few days ago, a nine-year-old lioness died upon her arrival to a sanctuary in Lahore. Now, there are reports that another lion who fell sick on the journey has died after battling for his life at a vet’s clinic. Similarly, a female deer hog that was injured after being wounded by a male deer hog died during her relocation process. According to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, the heat and stress from the journey likely caused the death of the animals. To state the obvious, the authorities must take better care to ensure all precautions are taken before shifting the animals from a caged existence to open spaces. Otherwise, even in the process of trying to ‘save’ them, we will keep losing these majestic creatures to incompetency, neglect and ill-planning.
While Marghazar Zoo may have achieved notoriety over the years because of the number of animals that have died there — and particularly due to the international attention given to its sole elephant, Kaavan, who displayed signs of extreme distress in his small enclosure — the issue spans more than one zoo. Earlier, in May, a three-year-old giraffe from South Africa was found dead at the Peshawar Zoo. Other giraffes imported to Karachi and Lahore zoos have also met sudden and untimely deaths. And in 2018, an Asian lion trained for the circus died of tuberculosis at the Karachi Zoological Gardens. In 2014, a Bengal tiger died due to an unknown illness at the Karachi Zoo. In 2011, three lion cubs died at the same zoo, while a fourth ‘disappeared’, and was later said to have been eaten by his mother. There needs to be a larger discussion on cruelty to animals, the use of animals for entertainment, killing animals for their body parts, the logic of having commercial zoos and circuses in this day and age, and our extractive and exploitative relationship with the natural environment that includes all sentient beings.