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The Express Tribune Editorial 20 February 2020

The PSL gala


A star-studded PSL-5 is all set to burst into action today in Pakistan, with Karachi’s National Stadium hosting the opening match of the premier league between the defending champions Quetta Gladiators and two-time former champions Islamabad United. What differentiates this fifth edition of Pakistan Super League from the previous four is that the whole event this time is scheduled on the Pakistani soil. This indeed is big shift, and a welcome one too, for a variety of reasons.
First and the foremost: the full hosting of the PSL-5 at home and the arrival of quality foreign players — like Darren Sammy, the darling of Pakistan fans, as well as Kieron Pollard, Alex Hales, Luke Ronchi, Colin Ingram and Imran Tahir — does carry a powerful message to the whole world that Pakistan is safe for foreign travel. It will promote a soft image of Pakistan, and of Pakistanis being a sports-loving nation. With a million US dollars at stake in prize money, the PSL promises keen contests among the six competing teams — something that will greatly help lift the standard of the game in the country.
The hosting of the PSL at home is also vital from financial perspective. It will help set off economic activities in the country, which have otherwise slowed down due to the policy of fiscal tightening currently being pursued by the government. In a bigger gain, the broadcast of the matches to more than a dozen countries of the world — including Australia, England, Ireland, Americas, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and others — will earn Pakistan the much-needed foreign exchange against the sale of broadcasting rights. And then the PSL is also helpful in the context of tourism promotion in the country. Last but not the least: the PSL has a showcase potential to lure foreign investors.


India diplomacy


India has been on a diplomatic blitz, but it isn’t going to win any friends doing so. First the Ministry of External Affairs rejected an offer from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his good offices to resolve the Kashmir dispute by saying there is “no role or scope for third party mediation”. Then the ministry called in the Turkish ambassador to protest against the Turkish president’s remarks on the situation in India-Occupied Kashmir. President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, during his tour of Pakistan last week, had said the situation in IOK was worsening because of the sweeping changes New Delhi introduced in the region, and also that Turkey stood in solidarity with the people of Kashmir. India told the Turkish envoy that Erdogan’s comments could affect bilateral relations and that they lacked any understanding of the history of the Kashmir dispute. An ironic observation, given that leaders from India’s ruling BJP regularly butcher history in comical fashion.
India previously put curbs on palm oil imports from Malaysia in retaliation for Kuala Lumpur having the gall to speak in favour of the oppressed people of Kashmir, and has threatened trade reduction with Turkey as well. As for the UN chief’s comments, the same External Affairs spokesman also claimed that India hopes Guterres will “emphasise on the imperative for Pakistan to take credible, sustained and irreversible action to put an end to cross-border terrorism against India”. Another rich statement given that Guterres had praised Pakistan for allowing UN observers on this side of the Line of Control to do their work, while India is still blocking most foreign diplomats from coming anywhere near Kashmir. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi noted the flaw in the Indian argument and said New Delhi was just doing whatever it could to avoid the issue. He also reiterated that Kashmir is an international issue and India cannot enforce its illegal unilateral decisions there.
Unfortunately, that is not quite true. Clearly unable to win a war of words with the people of Kashmir, India has very much begun enforcing its illegal decisions by going to war with Kashmiri Muslims.


Food smuggling


In view of the frequent shortages of basic food items, Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered a countrywide crackdown on smuggling out of foodstuffs. With general inflation running at 13.07% and food inflation at over 22%, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the common people to make ends meet. The PM has full realisation of the difficulties being faced by the people as is evident from the measures that his government is taking to ease the inflationary pressure and to make basic commodities available at affordable prices. Recently, the government announced a subsidy of Rs15 billion for utility stores, and this step has resulted in providing the common people the much-needed relief. Through their purchase of grocery items from utility stores, people made a saving of Rs1,000 per month on an average.
With regard to the crackdown on food smuggling the PM has asked intelligence agencies to submit regular monitoring reports. This shows the seriousness on the part of the government to eliminate the menace of smuggling. Presiding over a special meeting on Tuesday, the PM said smuggling of food items out of the country triggered an increase in their prices, and as a result the common man suffered. He told government officials that there was no room for complacency on the issue of providing relief to the masses. On the same day, the PM presided over another meeting on reduction in petroleum and gas prices. This measure too is aimed at bringing down the general price level. If steps against food smuggling and at controlling energy prices are taken in tandem, their combined effect will surely give the desired results.
Hoarders and smugglers take advantage of laxity on the part of government officials and make windfall gains especially in difficult times. Since shortages are regularly occurring after the PTI-led government assumed office, there is a strong possibility of the shortages having been engineered. Maintaining food prices at a reasonable level is of utmost importance. The hungry has to be kept quiet.
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