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The Express Tribune Editorial 20 March 2020

Kudos to police

It has boosted public confidence in law enforcers and should keep criminal elements away from their ugly activities. The police, Citizen-Police Liaison Committee and intelligence agencies through their collective efforts have arrested two suspects allegedly involved in last year’s two prominent cases of kidnapping for ransom. Two girls — Bisma and Dua Mangi– were kidnapped in Karachi’s upscale Defence Housing Authority within the span of a few months. Two such incidents within a short interval shocked not only residents of Defence locality but of the whole Karachi. The kidnappers were travelling in cars.
Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon informed journalists on Wednesday that the police had arrested two of the kidnappers named Muzaffar alias Moozi and Zohaib Qureshi and recovered arms from them. Their three accomplices identified as Agha Mansoor, Shakeel, and Kamran are still on the run. The arrested suspects have confessed to their involvement in the two girls’ kidnappings, and said the absconding suspect Agha Mansoor had planned the abductions. The five members of the gang had past criminal record as they had been involved in hijacking of vehicles in Karachi. According to the police official, Agha Mansoor was formerly in the police serving as an officer and had been dismissed from service for his criminal activities. He is a hardened criminal and has also been involved in other kidnapping-for-ransom incidents in the provincial capital. The gang had rented an apartment in Clifton block-2 a year ago where they kept both the girls hostage before setting them free after receiving the ransom money.
In the past, several cases of cops having been involved in criminal activities had been reported, but it is perhaps the first instance of a police officer’s involvement in criminal activities. The government in order to secure the police force against intrusion of anti-social elements should put in place a fool-proof screening mechanism. There is also the need to weed out the black sheep from law-enforcing agencies.
Bisma was kidnapped outside her home by armed men travelling in a car on May 12, 219. Dua was abducted by men carrying firearms on Nov 30, 2019. It’s reassuring that the police have promised to provide security to both the girls.


Can we afford lockdown?

The Covid-19 coronavirus continues to spread in the country. Infection cases have now been confirmed in all four provinces as well Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The toll is rising with each passing day. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government on Wednesday confirmed Pakistan’s first two Covid-19 deaths in Mardan and Peshawar. The deceased were a 50-year-old man from Manga village, who had returned from Saudi Arabia, and a 36-year-old man from Hangu, who had come home from Turkey via Dubai. Apart from the two cases of death, most of those down with the deadly virus have a travel history. To be precise, there have just been a dozen and half cases of local transmission among the couple of hundreds reported to be infected in total.
While we, as a nation, tend to take things lightly – even in genuinely serious situations – certain corona-specific measures ordered in Sindh have rather started playing on the psyche of the public that is evident from deserted streets, empty public buses, and abandoned restaurants – a near lockdown – in Karachi and other cities and towns of the province. There has been frantic buying too at the very many big and small consumer outlets and supermarkets, in an indication of a kind of fear creeping into the minds slowly and gradually. True that it’s better safe than sorry, but preventive measures should not shrink tolerance capacity, and prevention orders should only stress caution and not strike fear or trigger panic.
No offence to the good intentions of the Sindh government which – having already gone for a kind of curfew in the province, initially for a period of 15 days – is insisting on a complete lockdown in the entire country as part of efforts to contain the mushrooming infection. The leadership in Sindh has been calling upon their counterparts in other provinces, as well as the Centre, to agree on an all-closed in the country as early as possible, completely neglecting that people like daily-wage earners would be an instant casualty of such harsh measures. All but Sindh helmsmen, however, believe in taking any such extreme steps only in the nick of time, citing the low number of locally-transmitted cases in the country. The counter view insists on the need to exercise and preach calm rather than cause panic.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s televised address to the nation on Wednesday – his first formal words on the coronavirus pandemic – also expressed concern over the ‘state of panic’ taking hold of the country. The Prime Minister ruled out following “some other countries in locking down its cities”, basing his firm position on quite a plausible argument. He said, “Pakistan’s [economic] situation is not the same as that of the United States or Europe. There is poverty in our country, with 25 per cent of the people living in extreme paucity” and, therefore, locking down cities “could result in people dying from hunger” rather than the virus itself whose fatality rate is as low as 3 per cent. The Prime Minister, in a rather frank and honest assessment of the situation, made it clear that a country recovering from a ‘very difficult time’ is in no position to withstand a situation where there would be only mouths to feed and no hands to work.
This divergence of views between Sindh and others, meanwhile, continues to provide fodder to the television talk shows in what only goes on to add to the differences within the leadership even in the times of an unprecedented crisis.
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