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Dawn Editorial 9 March 2020

LNG supply chain

AS the power sector’s demand for LNG has dropped, the supply chain running from the terminal to the gas distribution companies is facing a near-crisis situation. The plan under which LNG imports were activated and two new terminals made operational relied largely on demand from power generation to keep the supplies of imported gas flowing. But these days, power generation has reduced and many plants are running below their capacity, meaning demand for gas from the power sector has dropped, which has sent a cascading series of consequences up the LNG supply chain. The gas distribution company — SNGPL — responsible for supplies to the power sector in the north, where the two large LNG plants are located, now finds itself holding surplus supplies of gas with no customers to offload it onto, since imported gas is far more expensive than that obtained from domestic fields. With surplus supplies in its system, SNGPL has reduced offtake from its supplier PSO, which has led the latter to slow down the rate at which the vessels berthed at the port discharge their cargo of LNG. And with the decelerating offtake come costs such as demurrage charges, as well as risks, such as suppliers potentially activating their ‘take or pay’ clauses.
The latter is probably not likely to happen anytime soon. LNG suppliers in the global market are lucky if they can find a good buyer these days and are not likely to try strong-arm tactics on a customer like Pakistan. But demurrage charges and others incurred at the port are real, and present a clear case of concern. What is of greater worry, however, are the mounting bills that come with this. Close to Rs100bn are now owed to LNG suppliers, and Rs450bn are receivable, as per reported figures, by the two gas distribution companies; the latter amount includes but is not limited to LNG-related payments. Clearly, the gas sector is drifting in the same direction as the power sector, with a growing mismatch between supply and demand, pricing issues and cascading debts running the length of the supply chain.
Two separate actions are necessary immediately to arrest this trend. First is a more robust leadership for the gas sector, which understands clearly how the sector is put together and how an action taken at one end of the chain can send cascading consequences to the other. It would be a mistake to try and tackle the problems that riddle the sector one at a time with no awareness of how they are interlinked. Reducing offtake of LNG from the power sector is one example of such an amateur mistake. The other necessary action is reform, particularly of the sort that allows a greater role to market forces in pricing and sales. Without these two elements, the gas sector could make its way to a crisis situation.

 
 

Women in sports

CRICKET seems to have taken the lead in women’s sports in the region thanks to the overall mass appeal of the game. It is refreshing to see the Pakistan women’s cricket team featuring in mega events such as the World Cup, the Asia Cup and the Commonwealth. More importantly, our women cricketers have managed to earn the unequivocal support of the Pakistan Cricket Board, even though this took a long time coming. The PCB has awarded improved central contracts to women cricketers to narrow the monetary and other gaps that exist between them and their male counterparts. The media too now focuses on them with a regularity that was missing in previous days when sportswomen in the country found it difficult to earn recognition and obtain sponsorship. In a bid to take women’s cricket to every corner of the country, the PCB has expanded the network of girl’s academies across the country while organising domestic tournaments regularly to assess the talent pool in the country.
Having said that, women in other sports, despite their many international and local achievements, have yet to be granted a status similar to the one that women cricketers have now begun to enjoy. It is unfair that talented women athletes such as swimmer Kiran Khan, tennis sensation Ushna Sohail, martial artist Kulsoom Hazara, badminton duo Palwasha Bashir and Mahoor Shehzad, football captain Hajra Khan, race driver Tushna Patel, weightlifter Rabia Shehzad, etc are not yet household names like cricketers Sana Mir, Bismah Maroof and Nida Dar. Most of these sportswomen have earned laurels in international competitions and need support from the government as well as the private sector to order to perform even better. Sadly, this support has not been forthcoming. The challenges that women athletes must contend with are extensive and complex. They can range from struggling with identity in a society built on gendered stereotypes to protecting themselves from harassment at the hands of male coaches. Meanwhile, the lack of opportunities available to them to showcase their talent is frustrating. It is up to the government to nurture them by providing them with training opportunities and sports infrastructure. The number of women athletes in Pakistan who have turned in excellent performances at home and abroad over the past decade has been heart-warming. Now they need their endeavours to be acknowledged and the state to promote them as role models in pursuit of gender equality in sports.

 
 

Corporal punishment

IN September 2019, a 10th-grade private school student died after being beaten viciously by his teacher in Lahore. In January 2018, a nine-year-old madressah student was bludgeoned to death with a blunt object by his instructor in Karachi. In June 2017, an 11-year-old girl died from an infection in her bones after being struck repeatedly with an iron rod by a government school teacher in Gilgit. These are just a few horrific examples of corporal punishment in education institutes in recent years; the practice is far more widespread and justified as a way of instilling discipline and obedience in children. This is despite the fact that corporal punishment is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees dignity for all citizens. Additionally, there is little evidence to suggest such cruelty from a young age leads to the desired behavioural changes, while many studies have noted the long-term harm of corporal punishment, including higher rates of aggression and greater chances of victims justifying and resorting to abusing others in the future. Furthermore, children who are physically abused as punishment can internalise feelings of guilt and shame, and develop mental health problems that stay with them as they grow older.
Sindh is the only province to have passed legislation (in 2017) against corporal punishment, even though the law has its own share of loopholes when it comes to penalising offenders. Most recently, the federal human rights ministry has been pushing for a bill to ban corporal punishment to be presented for passage by the National Assembly — and yet hurdle after hurdle is being placed in its way. Unfortunately, as a society, we are quick to punish, and far too hesitant to use our reasoning skills to resolve conflict. Parents, teachers and caregivers seem to forget that their primary role is to protect and care for children, not to punish them — ‘for their own good,’ as they say.

 

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