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The Express Tribune Editorial 22 April 2020

Foiling terror

At a time when most of the world is preoccupied with fighting the coronavirus pandemic, enemies of Pakistan have not stopped their activities both at the borders and within the country through their spies and terror operatives. Our ever-vigilant security forces, security agencies and law enforcers have been successfully foiling all sinister designs of the enemies. Within the span of the past two days four suspected terrorists of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), and a serving cop, who worked as an agent of the Indian spy agency, RAW, have been arrested in Karachi through the joint efforts of security agencies and the police.
The alleged RAW agent, an ASI, who worked for a team of the MQM, was arrested on Monday. A day earlier the gang of AQIS was busted. Four members of the gang were arrested in Gulistan-e-Jauhar locality of the city. Detonators, remote-control devices, improvised explosive device receivers, hand-grenades, Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons were recovered from their hideout. Law-enforcement agencies say the terrorists had recently arrived in the city after receiving training in Afghanistan. They had carried out reconnaissance of the City Courts, the police training centre, offices of intelligence agencies and the Pakistan Stock Exchange. The arrested gang members have disclosed that their two leaders are staying in Afghanistan, and some of their accomplices are hiding in Karachi and they facilitated them with money, shelter and conveyance.
The fact that the alleged terrorists arrested in Karachi had carried out reconnaissance of important establishments and the kind of arms and devices they possessed show that they planned to perpetrate destructions on a large scale in Karachi and other places in the country. The presence of terrorists in the biggest city of the country indicates that terrorists are not lying low. Security agencies are, however, successfully neutralising them.

 
 

Unprecedented oil fall

Oil futures cratered in the United States on Monday, going into negative territory for the first time in history. The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures expiring in May plunged more than 300% and was trading as low as minus $42 a barrel midday before ‘recovering’ and rising to around minus $17 in after-hours trading. That was still the lowest level ever recorded. The collapse was so astounding that Brent crude losses — which affect Pakistan more — were muted by comparison. Prices for Brent fell as much as 9.5%, to $25.41, midday before settling around $26.
The cause of the crash was excess supply. Storage capacity for oil has peaked in the US and many other countries, and demand has plummeted since the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdowns froze activity worldwide. Prices fell and will continue to fall even though OPEC and its allies agreed to the biggest-ever production cut just last week. This is because, despite the cut, oversupply will remain until restrictions under the coronavirus lockdown are lifted and demand rises. It could also have substantial knock-on effects because many US oil companies cannot make a profit if WTI stays around $20.
Analysts see more than 500 such companies going bankrupt if prices remain at that level until next year, and the signs are worrying. Contracts for later in the year are hovering between $20 and $33, but if the storage capacity issue is not resolved, prices will continue falling in the coming months, and companies will keep going bankrupt, causing another hit to the global economy. Analysts predict US storage capacity will max out by the summer, even if lockdowns are eased, because demand is expected to stay at lower than normal levels.
The International Energy Agency sees a drop of 9.3 million barrels a day for the rest of the year. If that were to happen, poor oil importers such as Pakistan might actually have a field day. Cheaper oil means fall in energy prices — and thus lower cost of production and lower inflation. But too much of a good thing could also hurt, lest we forget that without petrodollars, remittances and aid from the Middle East will dry up quick.

 
 

Canada shooting

Canada had its deadliest-ever shooting incident — between the late hours of Saturday and the evening of Sunday. The incident happened in Nova Scotia province on the Atlantic coast of Canada, and featured a 51-year-old man, named Gabriel Wortman, shooting dead at least 19 people and setting ablaze five buildings before being killed by the police after a 12-hour-long car chase. The number of killings surpassed the 14 deaths — mainly of female students — during a shooting at an engineering institute in Montreal in 1989.
What provoked Wortman, a denturist by profession, to go on a shooting spree? His addiction to alcoholism? His shattered dreams to be a part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police? Or the coronavirus pandemic that forced all non-essential dental services to cease and impacted his otherwise profitable business? The authorities are, however, not considering the incident as an act of terrorism.
Gun culture is being blamed for the Nova Scotia killings, like in the Montreal shooting more than three decades ago.
The Montreal incident had led to more stringent gun control laws in Canada. And the Nova Scotia one too will obviously result in the authorities taking similar actions. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already declared that his government will strengthen gun control law as soon as the coronavirus pandemic allows parliamentarians to get back to the business of legislation.
The Nova Scotia incident may not have been an incident of terrorism in line with the definition that the West follows; it may not either have anything to do with what White Supremacists have been involved in for quite some time; and it may only have been a matter of some insane person getting hold of an assault-style weapon. But we have seen lax gun control laws triggering massacres, ending so many innocent lives all at a time. The Christchurch mosque shooting is the one to recall. Time for a meaningful action.
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