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Dawn Editorial 19 February 2020

Guterres on IHK

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, after his arrival in the country on Sunday, made some bold and principled comments regarding the situation in India-held Kashmir.

However, the UN chief’s words have elicited an expectedly rigid, arrogant reaction from the powers that be in Delhi, indicating that perhaps the dispensation that rules India is not interested in a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir question, and is intent on raising the geopolitical temperature in South Asia. Mr Guterres called upon India to ensure that the people of IHK are given their fundamental rights.

Unfortunately, since August of last year, occupied Kashmir has been turned into an open-air prison, not unlike Gaza, where a crippling communications blockade has made the lives of locals miserable.

The UN head added that he has “offered my good offices in relation to the situation” while noting that the relevant Security Council resolutions must be implemented. However, Mr Guterres was quick to add that good offices only work when accepted by both sides. Sure enough, the Indian external affairs ministry replied to the UN secretary general’s offer by saying that “there is no role or scope for third party mediation” where the Kashmir issue is concerned — essentially reading from its old script.

It is frankly appalling that Delhi has snubbed a respected multilateral office such as that of the UN secretary general. It shows that under the veneer of democracy and respect for international law, the Indian ruling clique plays by its own rules and throws international conventions to the wind.

It is an internationally recognised fact that Kashmir is a disputed issue, and no amount of legal and constitutional subterfuge by India can change that. It is also quite shocking that Indian officialdom has the gall to lecture the UN’s head on what is a bilateral issue, and what is not. Pakistan has long welcomed efforts by the international community to help resolve the thorny Kashmir issue, while India has consistently shot down such efforts by invoking the principle of bilateralism. If bilateralism had worked in this case, Pakistan and India would not have fought numerous wars over Kashmir, and the issue would have been long settled.

Antonio Guterres deserves kudos for having the courage to raise the Kashmir issue despite India’s bullying and intransigence. Unfortunately, many other world players prefer to keep silent or at most offer mute criticism of Delhi’s brutal treatment of Kashmiris. And anybody who dares to speak up for the besieged people of Kashmir is harangued by Delhi for ‘meddling’ in its ‘internal affairs.’ For example, Turkish President Recep Erdogan also raised the issue on his recent trip to Pakistan. In response, India lodged a protest with the Turkish ambassador in Delhi. However, despite India’s bullying, people of conscience must continue to raise the issue of Kashmir the world over, and press Delhi to end its campaign of brutality in IHK.


Toxic city

ON Sunday evening, residents living and working close to Karachi’s bustling port noticed a strange smell in Keamari and its adjoining areas.
Read: Mystery gas leak death toll doubles amid blame game
Then came the news of several deaths as hospitals’ emergency wards began flooding with people complaining of dizziness, stinging eyes, itchy throats, chest tightness and breathing problems.
Since then, schools and offices close to the site have shut down for an indefinite period of time.
Last evening, the total number of confirmed deaths rose to over a dozen, which may unfortunately rise in the coming days.
Heartbreaking videos of family members weeping over the loss of their loved ones were being circulated, as Keamari’s Jackson Market erupted in protests, with residents demanding answers from the authorities. And yet, two days on, the government still cannot trace the source of the noxious fumes.
In a press conference, the chairman of the Karachi Port Trust denied that the poisonous gas originated from the areas within its jurisdiction, but the city’s commissioner has speculated that a ship offloading soybean or a similar commodity could be behind the string of deaths — which was then strongly contested by the federal minister for maritime affairs.
While various authorities such as the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency and police have launched probes to ascertain the cause of the supposed leakage, the chief minister has issued evacuation orders from the affected areas, and private bodies have released safety precautions for residents over what they should do in such times. But explanations are still not forthcoming.
In the absence of information and clarity, multiple theories have arisen, with responsibility then being shifted from one authority to another, which seems to have now become the default mode each time tragedy strikes the metropolis.
Amidst all this confusion and panic, one thing is certain: Karachi is seriously unequipped and underprepared to deal with a crisis of this scale.
This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the authorities are not prepared to handle a disaster of a larger magnitude, let alone relatively simple tasks of having functional monitoring systems in place that would help mitigate future disasters.
Chemical or industrial leakages such as these are usually the result of human negligence caused by not following proper risk assessments or implementing safety standards. At the very least, the concerned authorities must ensure that emergency protocols are in place


Escape confirmed

WHAT was an open secret for weeks has finally been officially confirmed, and in the process reopened wounds that had never fully healed. Ehsanullah Ehsan, former spokesman of the banned TTP and later its splinter group, Jamaatul Ahrar, has indeed escaped from the security agencies’ custody. However, there was no formal statement by the government; instead, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah acknowledged the veracity of the reports about Ehsan’s flight from detention during the course of a chat with journalists. And the public was given the bare minimum: “The news is true, it is true,” he said. No details were offered as to how such a high-profile prisoner — one that most would agree is the very definition of a ‘jet black terrorist’ — manage to evade stringent security measures in a red zone.
On Feb 6, a short audio message purportedly by Ehsan emerged claiming he had escaped on Jan 11, lending credence to a report by an Indian publication a few weeks earlier that had first made the startling disclosure. The news was met with shock and outrage in Pakistan. For those closely touched by terrorist violence, grief has been compounded by injustice. An individual who, in his capacity as the mouthpiece for bloodthirsty terrorist outfits, had claimed responsibility for acts that have destroyed so many lives, now roams free. In fact, a group representing the families of the APS massacre victims has filed a petition in court seeking contempt of court proceedings against a number of government, security and intelligence officials for the development. Despite Ehsan’s whereabouts being discussed in parliament, in the media, and on the street for several weeks, there was a deafening silence from the government and the security agencies. Now, there is only the most casual of confirmations, which belies the seriousness of the issue. Worse, it trivialises the people’s anguish. They deserve better. They deserve to know how Ehsan escaped; whether he actually escaped at all, or was released as part of some opaque deal.


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