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The Express Tribune Editorial 12 May 2020

Baseless Jadhav claims

India continues to attempt to repaint the ICJ judgement in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case as something very different from what the court wrote. The Foreign Office has, for the umpteenth time, rejected “baseless and inaccurate” claims by India, in this instance by Harish Salve, a former solicitor general of India who also served as the country’s legal counsel in the Jadhav case before the ICJ. Last week, Salve made a series of claims during an online lecture, including that India has been trying to use back-channel diplomacy to convince Pakistan to release Jadhav. The more controversial claim, however, was that Pakistan had refused to respond to how it would follow through on the ICJ judgement. Salve claimed India had written four letters to Pakistan seeking information on the progress in implementing the judgement, and Pakistan was refusing to answer them. He also claimed Pakistan had delayed the grant of consular access, and India might go back to the ICJ to get the judgement enforced, specifically the review of Jadhav’s case.
The Foreign Office countered over the weekend by noting that Pakistan “fully complied” with the judgement. The FO clarified that Pakistan granted India consular access and is “processing measures for effective review and reconsideration as per the guidelines provided by ICJ in its judgment”. Salve’s statements were “regrettable and a misrepresentation of facts”, according to the FO. But why would the otherwise well-reputed Salve lie? An answer may be in his audience. The lecture was organised by Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad, the lawyers’ wing of the RSS. Obviously, admitting Pakistan was following the law would have probably gotten him in trouble. After all, this is the lawyers’ wing of a body that did not even accept the Constitution of India for decades and has been involved in domestic terrorism. But why Salve would have even chosen to speak to them is still not clear. Just imagine if a top Pakistani lawyer had given a lecture to the Taliban.


Recycling of hospital waste


There is no such thing as away; things we throw away go somewhere and end up as some things useful or harmful. According to a report in this newspaper, around 100 tonnes of hospital waste in Punjab are illegally supplied daily to plastic recycling factories in the province. According to a provincial health department official, things have been made easy because of the unavailability of incinerators at government hospitals. The hazardous hospital waste is recycled into pots, toys, decoration pieces and other items. The unsterilised hazardous waste is supplied to home-based and other small recycling factories in Lahore and other parts of the province, though there are isolated designated spots in cities and towns where the dangerous hospital waste is to be dumped.
It is unclear whether the medical waste goes directly to traders from the hospital or they are lifted from the dumping sites. While there are no laws to regulate the disposal of the dangerous waste material but only some SOPs, these too are often ignored. Medical experts are of the view that the haphazard disposal of hazardous hospital waste and their recycling into pots and other items are contributing to the spread of hepatitis, cancer, HIV/AIDS and other dangerous diseases. The hospital waste resulting from the contagious coronavirus disease is adding to the problem.
The theft of hazardous hospital waste is rampant at hospitals in Lahore — something that is not possible without the involvement of hospital administrations. However, a Punjab health department spokesperson has refuted the claim. On the other hand, what factory owners say lends credence to the allegations of hospital waste theft. They say hospital waste is turned into granules in factories, and from the plastic granules are manufactured toys, pots and other household items. All such recycled items are exposing people to deadly diseases, including the newly-emerged Covid-19. Allowing recycling of hospital waste is a dangerous idea.


In the growth phase


With more than 31,000 cases of infection and 673 deaths as of Monday noon, Pakistan ranks at 19th in the world in terms of the spread of the novel coronavirus, well ahead of neighbouring Bangladesh which is placed at 34. The cases of the deadly infection are now doubling in every 10 to 11 days — from about 7,500 on April 18 to 15,000 on April 29 and 30,000 on May 10. While the country is already in the growth phase, the government orders to ease the countrywide lockdown have come into effect from yesterday — something that is feared to cause the virus to spread even faster.
Easing the lockdown across the country was not an easy decision for the leadership. It was taken after detailed deliberations involving the Centre and all provinces, besides all other stakeholders, and came out as a consensus decision. It is meant to give the commercial activity — paused since almost March 23 — a push and thereby help the falling economy as well as the financially weak and vulnerable segment of our society, in particular. There is, however, still a ban on public congregations. Besides, trains and air travel have also not been allowed, and so is the inter- and intra-city public transport.
The leadership, as well as the media, has been calling upon the public to adopt safe distancing practices and follow all other SOPs to keep themselves and others safe from the contagion. For the sake of all our frontline fighters — including doctors, policemen and military and paramilitary forces who are out to ensure our safety — we must do our bit by not going outdoors unnecessarily and following all precautions being taught to us. While the number of medics and policemen who have laid down their lives while serving the people has already gone into double figures, a Pakistani army major lost his life on Saturday after contracting the coronavirus in Peshawar. Major Muhammad Asghar was posted along the Torkham Border Crossing to screen people traveling in from Afghanistan, and turned out to be first Covid martyr from the armed forces, according to the ISPR.
The need to be safe and cautious has become all the more important now that the countrywide lockdown has been eased.
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