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Dawn Editorial 10 September 2020

Organs & China link

ONLY sustained vigilance can counter a resurgence of the extreme form of exploitation that is the organ trade. The racket is predicated on poverty so extreme that individuals will sell their body parts in return for some monetary compensation, a ‘choice’ scarcely based on true free will. Consider that most vended organs are procured from bonded labourers, aptly described as ‘modern slaves’. At the other end is the boundless greed of some medical professionals and affiliated individuals who keep the market for vended organs going, preying on the desperation of potential ‘donors’ as well as of patients yearning for health. Recent events illustrate how the criminals involved in the lucrative business find ways to elude detection through cross-border networks. On Monday, an FIA team carried out a raid at the passport office in Lahore on receiving information about an international gang of organ traffickers operating in the city. Seven people, including donors and agents, were arrested — the latter on suspicion of luring destitute people to sell their organs, with the transplants being carried out in China. According to FIA sources quoted in this paper, preliminary investigations reveal that the agents paid some 30 donors Rs400,000 each, facilitated their transfer to China, and through their contacts in that country, arranged for transplant procedures to be performed there on patients travelling from Pakistan.
The latest development is part of a pattern that can be observed since 2017 after the FIA busted several organ trafficking rings in Punjab, the province where most of the racket was once based. Pakistan was at the time seeing a spike in ‘transplant tourism’, meaning that people were visiting this country especially to get transplants done with organs purchased on the black market. Several hospitals in Lahore and one in Rawalpindi were notorious for the practice; procedures were sometimes even carried out in residential buildings. Following the FIA’s crackdown, things went quiet, until law-enforcement agencies realised that the racketeers had altered their modus operandi. While donors were still being procured from Punjab, doctors — often practising in the same province — were now travelling to KP and AJK to carry out the transplants. After those gangs were apprehended, it seems the ‘theatre of operations’ has shifted further afield to China; earlier only some patients from Pakistan would go to that country, and to India, for transplant procedures.
This year marks a decade since Pakistan’s ethical organ transplantation law was enacted in March 2010. Prior to that, the country was infamous as a market for vended organs. Although illegal transplants declined steeply after the law was passed, every time there has been lax implementation the practice has seen a comeback. In an inequitable society, the exploitation of the poor knows no limits. Those guilty of trafficking in organs must be proceeded against to the fullest extent of the law.



Police changes

THE PTI government in Punjab has been on a never-ending crusade to find the best man to head the provincial police. It has only succeeded in confusing the public on who is responsible for their security and for how long. Counting the latest one appointed on Sept 8, the province has seen six inspectors general of police in two years — an average stint of less than five months per IGP. The larger picture also paints a bleak picture of frequent reshuffles in the bureaucracy. Earning the government uncharitable titles such as ‘unsure’ and ‘fickle’, these constant shake-ups cast serious doubt over the extent of control those in the driving seat can exercise. The outgoing IGP’s fall was quick and spectacular. Only a few months ago, he was hailed by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself as a saviour who would eliminate the criminals. This was a relief since many police chiefs had come and gone in quick succession and the impression was gaining ground that Lahore was not responding to the PTI’s security prescriptions.
Apparently, an intra-departmental tussle between him and Umar Sheikh, recently put in charge of the Lahore police, made it impossible for Shoaib Dastagir to continue as IGP. In what should be an ignominious reflection on any government, he “stopped working”, paving the way for Inam Ghani to be sent down by the bosses in Islamabad as the latest policing answer to Punjab’s growing security concerns. The new IGP begins on an inauspicious note, just as Mr Sheikh has caused concern by using the media to fight his war against departmental ‘discrimination’. Not too many are prepared to take this latest rearrangement at the top of Punjab Police lying down. The list of protesters includes PML-N politicians who have raised fresh fears of persecution under the new Lahore police chief. More importantly, an additional inspector general has refused to work under the new police chief in the province and many serving and former members of the force have expressed their disapproval of the move to appoint a new IGP to defuse the crisis after Mr Dastagir decided not to continue as head of Punjab Police. The clamour of protest in police ranks may die down in time and the anger may subside — in the long run all this fury is inconsequential. After all, replacements, lobbying and fighting to land a coveted post are a regular feature of public service.



New province demand

THE demand for new provinces to be carved out of the present federating units of the country is not a new one, and in the recent past there has been growing talk of creating a separate province in urban Sindh, with Karachi at its heart. The chief proponent of this idea has been the MQM-P which has — in one shape or another — raised this demand at various times during its existence. The latest iteration of this call came on Tuesday, when MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui told a press conference in Karachi that the PPP had created “two Sindhs” while already dividing the province on “ethnic and linguistic grounds”. The MQM has been piqued by the selection of administrators — terming them “non-locals” — in urban Sindh, particularly Karachi, after the local bodies’ tenure ended.
While there indeed exists a constitutional provision for creating new administrative units, the situation in Sindh — particularly the history of ethno-linguistic conflict in the province — means the idea of dividing Sindh is not a sound one. The PPP has opposed the idea tooth and nail, while Sindhi nationalist parties also will not stand for it. Moreover, the federal government’s recent intervention to address Karachi’s civic woes has strengthened the impression in some quarters that the centre is trying to wrest the metropolis away from Sindh. Instead of raising divisive demands for political gain, it would be better for the MQM and others who advocate for an ‘urban Sindh province’ to devote their energies to empowering the third tier through legislation. This should, in theory, give Sindh’s districts enough autonomy within the provincial structure to do away with complaints of over-centralisation and neglect that many in Karachi protest against. Over the past few decades, Karachi has seen far too much bloodshed on ethnic, sectarian and political lines, which is why any rhetoric that inflames such passions should be avoided. Instead, a democratic solution that embraces all of Sindh’s communities should be adopted to resolve the province’s governance issues.


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