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The Express Tribune Editorial 14 January 2020

In Rehman Malik’s garb


The political temperature is hardly known to stay normal in our country for too many days. Just when an apparent quid pro quo over a key legislation resulted in a tamed opposition and things appeared to have smoothened for the PTI to continue at the helm, the politics is back on the boil. And this time it is the government’s own allies that are up in arms. The MQM-Pakistan chief, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, has announced quitting his cabinet position. To make matters worse for the PTI, Akhtar Mengal, the head of the BNP, has also reportedly summoned a party meeting later this month to review progress on a six-point plan that formed the basis of their alliance with the government at the Centre.
Right now though, it’s the politics of Karachi that the PTI has focused all its attention on. And it’s the senior party leader and federal minister, Asad Umar, who has had to assume the conciliatory role that Rehman Malik used to play during the PPP rule — much to the criticism from none other than the now-PM, Imran Khan. Umar rushed to the MQM-P’s temporary headquarter in Karachi’s Bahadurabad neighbourhood yesterday along with other senior party leaders in a bid to woo Khalid Maqbool back into the cabinet fold. What transpired behind the closed doors is yet to be out officially with the two sides only downplaying the sudden political boil, saying that yesterday’s meeting was pre-planned.
Having six seats in the National Assembly, the MQM-P knows full well it’s time for them to press the government for the acceptance of their demands. While apparently, it is the public welfare projects that the MQM-P is emphasising on, the list of demands is also likely to carry some non-monetary items like reopening of the party’s offices, cases of alleged missing persons and some pending court cases. Well, not a small order for the PTI!

Shortage of medicines

As the cold wave grips the country, it is a given that viral diseases and other medical complications, that are normally quite prevalent due to the dilapidated condition of the country, will take a turn for the worse. In such a situation medicine and medical aid become extremely essential. Sadly, more than 60 ‘essential medicines’ seem to be in short supply or unavailable in the Pakistani market due to the incoherency between pharmaceutical companies and the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap).
While Drap pushes companies to manufacture medicines at a low price, many restrictions and delays in receiving government permits, contract manufacturing and narcotic quota have led to a halt in production. The new prices have not been approved for 11 months. There are other multiple factors that contribute to the storage of medicine, and pharmaceutical companies claim that the situation is not that simple. Over the years, the pharmaceuticals have had to decrease their profits owing to the overall situation. Therefore, they find it more viable to stop production of specific medicines altogether. The rift between the two shows that Drap pushes to enforce control on the rich pharmaceuticals while the owners of these companies are treating it as professional businesses much like the hospital industry that sells these medicines at its own price.
Due to the bleak economic situation, inflation and increasing poverty, the divide between the price of producing medicine and the affordability price of the average consumer is increasing. Even those medicines that are present in the market are not affordable to all. The intense cold will continue over the next few weeks. It is of paramount importance that pharmaceutical companies and the regulatory authority come together and solve the issue — not only of restarting production but also working towards making medicine more affordable to the majority of the masses. They need to take into account social responsibility.


Incendiary threats


There was a time when Indian army chiefs would avoid politicising their posts and would stick to their jobs. Despite heading an opposing army, it created a high degree of respect for those occupying the position. But no longer. Previous army chief, General Bipin Rawat, set the tone with regular incendiary comments meant to support the ruling BJP’s talking points. Still, at least he took a few months to start with his grandiloquence. His successor, Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, has decided to hit the ground running with balderdash. Barely two weeks on the job, he has already threatened Pakistan with “preemptive strikes” and now with invading Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
But Gen Naravane appears to have let the media attention get to his head. While recklessly threatening Pakistan is routine for Indian leaders, they are usually more cautious when China comes up. But the new chief appeared even to be threatening China, which is more than ironic considering last week also marked the anniversary of Sino-India diplomatic ties. Within hours though, Pakistan’s chief military spokesperson responded, accusing India of attempting to stage a false-flag operation. He referred to Indian reports of a decorated Indian police officer being arrested for helping “Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists” in Srinagar.
All this begs the question: why is India upping the rhetoric? Pakistan has not directed any threats at India in recent times, and India has not brought up any genuine concerns regarding cross border-terrorism threats being higher. But what India has seen in recent days is a series of strikes against the decision-making of the central government. The strikes have only grown as the government used the police and goons from the RSS to attack protesters. Recent reports on India’s economy have also been gloomy, which is terrible for the self-proclaimed economic mastermind that occupies 7, Lok Kalyan Marg.
Could this simply be an attempt to change the news cycle? If so, it is a dangerous game being played. In recent days, we have seen President Donald Trump try to deflect from domestic failures by starting a war with Iran. Look where that got us.
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