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The Express Tribune Editorial 21 May 2020

Governor’s rule talk


The ruling parties in Sindh and at the Centre have been at loggerheads with each other on one issue or the other almost since Imran Khan rose to power in August 2018. The PTI has barely masked its aspirations for change of government in the province, blaming the PPP for bad governance, poor service delivery and rampant corruption.
The first time the PTI leaders found justification to raise this wish was in January 2019 when a damning JIT report accused the party’s top leadership, including Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, of massive money laundering under a nexus with businessmen and bankers, besides portraying Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto in a bad light. Fawad Chaudhry, federal information minister then, was all set to fly to Karachi to exploit this window of opportunity to topple the PPP government through a forward bloc, but the top PTI leadership finally decided against the ‘undemocratic’ move.
And now, an “alarming coronavirus situation” in Sindh has reignited the PTI’s desire to take the helm of the provincial government and better serve the people affected by the pandemic as well as the ensuing lockdowns. The Sindh chapter of the party, led by opposition leader in Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi, has called upon the Centre to impose a governor’s rule in the province and fix the “rapidly deteriorating” health sector as well as the economy.
While Naqvi does not find “anything wrong” in what is “thoroughly constitutional under Article 234”, it’s simply not the time to indulge in politicking. While already overwhelmed, the party ruling the Centre is required to have its full focus on how best to medically deal with the rampaging coronavirus and mitigate its financial impact on the people as well as trade and business. And given the unprecedented times, the need for political harmony and national cohesion was never so desirable.


Combating locusts

Fifty-three districts of the country are under locust attack: 28 in Balochistan, 11 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 12 in Punjab and two in Sindh, according to the National Disaster Management Agency. Locust control measures are in full swing in all the affected districts. Surveys are being undertaken and agricultural fields being sprayed with pesticides. Aerial spray is also being done wherever required. So far thousands of acres have been surveyed and treated in the four provinces. The situation is well under control giving a lie to claims that the situation arising out of the locust attack has been deteriorating because of a willful delay on the part of the federal government. The NDMA says timely action is being taken against locusts especially in view of the fact that in the rainy season these hoppers had the tendency to multiply.
Locust attack in Pakistan was first reported in November last year. Politicians talked about it without mentioning the steps being taken against the locusts, leaving people to conjecture as to the real situation. Now the NDMA, though somewhat belatedly, has made the whole situation clear as to the offending creatures. It says the government had sought assistance from the World Food and Agriculture Organisation and they are providing pesticides, equipment and other help in the fight against the locust swarms.
Swarms of locusts made their way into Pakistan after harming crops in East Africa and Iran. An appeal from the FAO in January netted $130 million from the international community. The FAO, with the financial assistance from the international community and its own technical capabilities, helped the affected countries successfully combat locust swarms. More than 720,000 tonnes of food, enough to feed five million people, were saved. Locust swarms, like the coronavirus, know no boundaries. They travel very fast. In 1988, swarms of locusts flew 31,000 miles from West Africa to the Caribbean in just 10 days.


Border attacks


Terrorists martyred six Frontier Corps (FC) men with an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a vehicle in Mach, Balochistan, on Tuesday. Separately, another soldier was martyred during a gunfight with militants in Kech, also in Balochistan. The attacks come less than two weeks after six FC personnel, including an officer, were martyred when their vehicle was targeted with an IED near the border with Iran. The attack was claimed by the Baloch Libera¬tion Army terrorist group.
Perhaps more significantly, it comes just a week after Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to his opposite number in Iran, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, about the earlier attack. Although Pakistani authorities were initially tight-lipped about the conversation, Iranian state media reported that border security was among the topics of discussion. Specifically, the reports quoted Gen Bajwa as urging exchanges of expert delegations to maintain border security and prevent terrorist movement across the border. Gen Bagheri apparently said Iran was ready to cooperate in combatting militants active on either side of the border.
But this is a tricky situation, compounded by the fact that both sides have recently shown weaknesses in their border management. Pakistan keeps getting attacked by miscreants slipping in from Iran, and vice versa. It is also not surprising that the groups are not known to attack the countries they are accused of hiding out in. Both sides also claim that the militants are foreign-funded by their respective rivals. Those rivals — Saudi Arabia for Iran and India for Pakistan — happen to be key allies for the other.
Unfortunately, diplomacy is not supposed to be easy. For the sake of the security of both nations, we need to find a way to secure our border. Better fencing is a start, but better direction is even more important. Just as Zarb-e-Azb required a follow-up, it might be time for a follow-up to Radd-ul-Fasad so that the gains are not lost. Alternatively, we would need to reexamine why the groups active in Iran survived, since most of them trace their origins to Jundullah, one of the targets of Zarb-e-Azb.
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