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The Express Tribune Editorial 2 March 2020

Too early to celebrate


The United States and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or the Taliban as they are more commonly known, signed a peace deal last week. Under the new deal which comes after months of back and forth, the US will eventually reduce its troops in Afghanistan and the Taliban, in return promised to reduce widespread bloodshed across the country.
The agreement tells us a lot about both sides. By signing the deal, both sides officially acknowledged that they were equally exhausted and frustrated with the unending conflict that has not yielded any results other than the mounting casualties. It also tells us that all along Pakistan made a very valid case for a dialogue to resolve the conflict. Perhaps now is the time for the US to pay more attention to the advice offered by reliable allies like Pakistan. It would have not only saved the trillions wasted on war but also prevented the loss of innocent lives who will forever be known as casualties of an unnecessary war. But who can tell the Americans that they were wrong? The only superpower used brute force against an army of street militants only to sign a peace deal with them after blowing all the state-of-the-art ammunition in the battlefield for two decades.
If only they learned lessons. American military misadventures would have ended after Vietnam. As far as the peace deal is concerned, it only appears to be the first step toward ultimate peace in the war-torn country. There is reason to celebrate the American surrender but it is too early to say this peace deal will allow Afghanistan to function as a peaceful nation.
Signs of disruption are already surfacing. The Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul has already presented the first spoiler and there are many more to come over the next 14 months. The complex situation in Afghanistan needs a domestic solution that is owned by domestic stakeholders. Ghani and his planted coterie outsiders, who have no real legitimacy will eventually have to step aside. But before they do, they will create every possible hurdle to cling on to whatever limited power they have.


A modicum of relief


The latest slash in petrol prices was widely expected. The government
announced the Rs5 per litre relief for petroleum consumers for the month of March on Saturday after the international crude oil prices witnessed a downward trend due to slump in demand. The Brent also fell by $0.86 per barrel and was trading at $50.50 per barrel after coronavirus deaths and cases increased across the globe. The new prices in Pakistan took effect on Sunday, March 1.
Although quite modest, the rate cut will certainly provide a modicum of relief to consumers, harried as they are by rising inflation and dismal livelihood prospects. A notification issued by the finance ministry stated that the prices of petrol and high speed diesel (HSD) were reduced by Rs5 per litre, while kerosene oil and light diesel oil (LDO) have been cut down by Rs7 per litre.
Petrol will now be sold at RsRs111.60 per litre against Rs116.60, while HSD will be available at Rs122.26 against the earlier price of Rs127.26 per litre. The rate of kerosene oil has been reduced to Rs92.45 from Rs99.45 per litre registering a reduction of Rs7 per litre, while the light diesel oil (LDO) witnessed a decline of Rs7 per litre from Rs84.51 to Rs77.51 per litre.
As reported in this paper, Prime Minister Imran Khan did not adhere to the advice of the finance ministry and issued the orders for lowering the prices of petroleum products. It is reported that the finance ministry and IMF wanted the government to raise the prices of petrol, gas and electricity. Premier Imran, however, said he would take whatever steps were required for lowering the prices of commodities and would end inflation in the country. If that is the resolve, it needs all-round applause.


Teaching road safety


A major, decades-old problem in the country is the issue of road safety and the alarming number of traffic accidents and casualties witnessed year after year. In what sets an undesirable Asian record, nearly 6,000 people were killed in road accidents across the country last year. Another 14,000 were injured too. Faring just as badly, Karachi, with 221 people killed and 243 injured in 2019, ranked fourth in the world in the number of road accident fatalities. In an effort to ensure law-abiding citizens of the future after repeated unsuccessful attempts to have citizens abide by traffic laws, Karachi traffic police have launched a campaign to familiarise schoolchildren with traffic rules and regulations. Although they must be commended for the effort, much more needs to be done to ensure the safe use of roads.
Firstly, it is essential that we strictly enforce our traffic laws. Virtually all infringements committed by drivers – such as violations of traffic signals, speeding, driving in the wrong direction on major roads, underage and unlicensed driving, the use of mobile phones and not wearing helmets or seat belts while driving, etc – could be substantially deterred by ensuring certainty of punishment for the violators via strict penalties. This necessarily involves ending police corruption at all levels. If drivers are certain they will not be able to evade punishment, they will be strongly discouraged from violating the law, thus leading to a safer environment for all. Secondly, it is essential that the government improve the designing of roads and also ensure good road quality. Road designing is an area where we are well behind the developed world and it is a critical aspect of road safety. Thirdly, there is a need for a concerted awareness campaign through the media as well as periodic instruction in schools on the need to abide by traffic rules.
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