IT is a shame that it took at least 50 deaths, the destruction of scores of homes and the devastation of the city’s already creaky water and sanitation system for the authorities to wake up to the fact that Karachi lacks even a rudimentary municipal infrastructure to sustain itself as the country’s economic hub. Karachi’s citizens may not have had to endure the effects of the recent rains had the authorities acted earlier to stem the rot. True, the unprecedented rains may well have shaken the administrations of even the most developed cities. But they would have been able to limit the damage. In Karachi’s case, decades of neglect have compounded the tragedy. More than a week has passed since the torrential rainfall, yet several areas of the city — including upscale neighbourhoods — remain submerged in a mixture of rainwater and sewage, and without electricity.
This was the backdrop to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrival in Karachi on Saturday. Armed with a Rs1.1tr package containing the contributions of both the centre and Sindh, his intent was to transform the city through providing water via the K-IV water project, rehabilitating those displaced in the ongoing anti-encroachment drive, and mending the city’s drainage, waste disposal and public transport systems. This transformation plan will be executed through a provincial coordination implementation committee that has representation of the city’s stakeholders and is headed by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
The collapse of Karachi’s infrastructure during the record-breaking monsoon spell has exposed the neglect at all levels of government — federal, provincial and local. For the better part of the past two years, the federal and provincial governments have been at daggers drawn over who gets to control the city. Promises have been made by both, but no meaningful work is visible. Development packages were also introduced by previous governments, but they were largely ineffective due to shoddy implementation and toothless municipal bodies. In fact, this sprawling megapolis has been without a functioning local government system since the tenure of the last set-up expired on Aug 31. Has a watershed moment really been reached? The recent cloudburst acted as an equaliser of sorts; the rich and powerful — whose numbers include federal and provincial ministers — and the poor and voiceless were all affected. If even this calamity does not bring about a common resolve in those who govern to work together, despite their varying political opinions, Karachi would be a lost cause. For any consensus to last, the members of the federal and provincial cabinets will have to stop talking against each other in public and start talking to each other about ways to rebuild the country’s economic backbone and give the residents of the city the civic services and peace that they have been craving for several decades now.
Kashmir at UN
THOUGH the world continues to recognise Kashmir as a disputed issue, India is using underhanded methods to get the question of the held valley struck off the UN Security Council’s agenda. As reported in this paper on Saturday, India has asked the UN to remove the Kashmir issue so that it is not discussed during the upcoming General Assembly session, claiming it is an “outdated agenda item” and needs to be removed “permanently”.
Furthermore, New Delhi claims its illegal annexation of the disputed territory last year has ‘resolved’ the dispute, something millions of Kashmiris patently disagree with. As Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN pointed out, a member state cannot change the agenda unilaterally; this can only be done through consensus.
As New Delhi has failed to counter the Kashmiri freedom struggle through brute force and repression, it is now applying subterfuge at the international level to obfuscate the Kashmir issue. The fact is that even after illegally subsuming the held valley within the Indian union last year, the world community continues to see Kashmir as a dispute between Pakistan and India. No amount of legal trickery internally or internationally by India will change this reality.
The government has done well to raise the Kashmir issue at all forums, and such efforts need to continue to counter India’s efforts to remove this critical problem from the global agenda. Pakistan should continue to forge a consensus amongst Muslim states so that there is a unified voice on Kashmir. It would send a strong message if a high-level OIC meeting is held soon to discuss the issue and highlight the sufferings of the Kashmiri people, particularly after India’s illegitimate annexation.
Other key states must also be taken on board so that efforts to remove Kashmir from the global discussion are frustrated. India feels that it can crush the Kashmiri desire for dignity and freedom. However, today many around the world — including independent human rights groups — are saying what Pakistan has been highlighting for decades: that India violates the fundamental rights of Kashmiri civilians with impunity.
The global debate on Kashmir must continue till there is a just solution — acceptable to the people of the held valley — to this over seven-decade-old problem. Pakistan must continue its moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris, while countering malicious attempts to have the Kashmir question removed from the international agenda.
Murder by another name
RARELY does a day go by without reading horrific reports of murders committed in the name of ‘honour’. On Friday, while hearing a jail petition, Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa pointed out that the use of the word ‘honour’ should be dropped when referring to such cold-blooded killings. Justice Isa is correct. In conservative societies such as ours, attaching the notion of ‘honour’ to a crime is a way of justifying brutality, typically committed by the victim’s own family members. Instead, an ‘honour’ killing should be called what it is: murder. Unfortunately, Pakistan has one of the highest incidences of ‘honour’ killings, and conviction rates remain low. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 murders take place across the country each year in the name of ‘honour’. In Sindh alone, a police study found that 769 people were killed on the pretext of ‘honour’ between 2014 and 2019. The primary target is women and girls who are perceived to have strayed from social or tribal customs, and brought ‘shame’ upon their family, or at least this is the justification given in the courts.
Despite the passage of a landmark bill — which made life imprisonment mandatory for those who kill in the name of ‘honour’ — such blatant acts of violence continue. In August, a man shot his 19-year-old sister in Karachi. A few days after that, another man stabbed and killed his 16-year-old daughter and her friend in Sialkot. Earlier, in May, two young women were killed in North Waziristan after a private mobile phone video was leaked. While it is predominately women who are burdened with carrying notions of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ in their bodies, a number of men and boys have also been killed. In July, a woman and a man were killed in Mansehra under the same pretext. But, as noted by Justice Isa in his judgement, there is no ‘honour’ in murder.