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The Express Tribune Editorial 15 January 2020

Global cooling and Pakistan


Now questioning the reality of climate change is like asking: do donkeys exist? People can only differ on causes and the extent of freak weather events. Pakistan is one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to global warming and global cooling.
For the past several years, the country has been experiencing unusual heat in summer, excessive rainfall or scanty rains and prolonged spells of cold wave in winter. The current winter started unusually in November even in Karachi where the weather remains moderate in November and December. But this season the city has so far experienced two spells of intense cold wave. For the past one week, the entire country has been in the grip of an intense cold wave.
Over the past three days, snow-and rain-related incidents have left 75 people dead and 64 injured across the country, according the National Disaster Management Authority. As rains and snowfall are continuing in many parts of the country, the death and injury toll is expected to increase. The worst affected are Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Balochistan. In AJK, at least 55 people have died and 12 injured; and in Balochistan, 15 people have lost their lives and 11 injured in rain-related incidents. On Jan 14 in AJK’s Neelum Valley, 19 people died in an avalanche and 10 others are reported missing. In snowfall-related incidents in Balochistan, 20 people have died. On Jan 13, avalanches, landslides and rain-related incidents left 21 people dead and scores of others injured in different parts of the country, as most parts of the country remained in the grip of a strong westerly weather system that entered Balochistan in the early hours of Jan 11.
In Punjab, 14 deaths occurred in rain-related incidents on Jan 12. Government officials say rains and heavy snowfall have blocked several arteries in high-altitude areas. On Jan 13, the lowest temperature in Quetta was minus 6 degrees Celsius. On Jan 14, the daytime temperature in Skardu was recorded at minus 2 degrees Celsius.
The ‘Great Derangement’ has taken place. It is all because of reckless consumption unmindful of the consequences. The chickens are coming home to roost.


Defamation laws


Can there be any doubt that defamation laws in Pakistan are as useless as ashes, and as harmless as a dead scorpion? Strong they may be on paper, but the laws on libel, slander and tort are practically as weak as a newborn.
A sheer lack of implementation has left these laws void of a deterrent effect. Allegations are, therefore, made with scant forethought; foul language is freely used against opponents; news reports are fabricated and published without adequate checks; and social media gossips against celebrities are churned for fun.
One wonders whether there is a single conviction in a defamation case in our judicial history: a single instance where a defamation suit has resulted in payment of damages to a complainant or, for that matter, a penalty for levelling fake allegations.
One, therefore, cannot disagree with federal minister Fawad Chaudhry when he says that “defamation laws should be reformed and implemented in letter and spirit”. The call from the science and technology minister — who has been embroiled in a physical assault against two renowned anchorpersons in separate incidents — came at a recent panel discussion in Lahore. Last April too, the minister had come up with the same suggestion.
Through a letter, the minister had drawn the attention of the then Chief Justice of Pakistan towards “a lack of implementation of laws related to defamation in the country” and requested him to raise the matter at the National Judicial Policy Making Committee. Chaudhry, a lawyer by profession, had also suggested ‘dedicated judges’ to deal with the “matter of great public importance”.
There is a serious need to take our cue from the West where defamation laws ensure protection to the rights and reputation of the people, and defamation cases are genuinely treated as a matter of great public importance. While the appointment of special judges is indeed a good suggestion, there should also be some time limit, not exceeding a few months, for the settlement of such cases.


Tomorrow’s policy today


Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi ended his whirlwind tour of Saudi Arabia and Iran with calls for both to show “maximum restraint” and to take immediate steps for de-escalating multiple crises in the Middle East. Qureshi went on the trip after increased tensions in the aftermath of the US airstrike that killed Gen Soleimani of Iran.
Qureshi conveyed to the Iranian leadership that “Pakistan appreciated Iran’s preference for de-escalation of tensions”, according to the Foreign Office. He also gave an assurance that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used against Iran. In Riyadh, Qureshi had an “in-depth exchange of views on recent developments” with his Saudi counterpart.
Unfortunately, apart from broad details of the discussions as provided by the FO, no media reports could clarify how Qureshi had suggested achieving deescalation and build trust. Many column inches were, however, dedicated to who greeted and saw off Qureshi in both countries.
Indeed, the most substantial recent titbit regarding Pakistan’s recent foreign policy moves did not come from abroad, or even Islamabad. It came from Lahore, where PM’s Special Assistant on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Moeed Yusuf was speaking at Think Fest 2020.
He surprisingly admitted to the bad optics of Pakistan’s eleventh-hour withdrawal from the Kuala Lumpur Summit. He also accepted that “Saudi Arabia was apprehensive about a parallel organisation being formed to replace the OIC.” Despite the bad optics, he claimed it wasn’t a foreign policy failure. Similarly, he claimed that the absence of all-out open resistance to India’s actions in Kashmir is not a failure.
He closed by noting that the government wanted to reverse the trend of Pakistan functioning under short-term strategies, saying his job is not to tell what will happen tomorrow, but what will happen the day after tomorrow. Unfortunately, no one has addressed what will happen if we waste today worrying about tomorrow, or the day after.
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