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The Express Tribune Editorial 22 February 2020

AGP’s resignation


Anwar Mansoor Khan has resigned as Attorney General for Pakistan after his severely miscalculated line of argument in the Supreme Court in a case relating to the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. Khan was left with few options after being criticised by honourable judges of the top court as well as the Pakistan Bar Council. Even the government he was representing had quickly distanced itself from his remarks, which the Supreme Court expunged from the record and barred the media from reporting. That in itself says a lot for how far across the line the now-former AGP went. There is also some irony in the situation because Khan is also the chairman of the PBC. The PBC was highly critical of Khan. Law Minister Farogh Naseem too said the AGP’s “unbecoming conduct” merited resignation and unconditional apology.
The order from Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday did, however, offer a hint at what the AGP had said. The judge referred to a “statement made by the AGP about the bench” and said the judges “would appreciate” if the material the statement was based on is placed on record before the bench. Khan’s apology also shed some light on what was said, as it included references to the composition of the bench and alleged efforts to force the recusals of some judges, which he claimed to have “personal knowledge” of. It also drafted a contempt of court petition, though it had not been filed when Khan submitted his resignation.
The statement through which the government distanced itself from Khan was also worrying. The law secretary claims that the “oral statement” made by Khan was “unauthorised, without instructions and knowledge of the federal government and the answering respondents, and totally uncalled for”. The government’s claim that it did not know what its top lawyer was about to say in a case with potentially huge repercussions is not something that inspires confidence in its legal or political teams. As for the presidential reference itself, the judges’ comments on the government’s investigation and assumptions may well reflect the weakness of the case.


Not out of the woods yet


For the first time in over a month, the number of new cases of the novel coronavirus being reported out of Hubei province of China – the epicentre of the epidemic – has seen a fall. This is encouraging news given the fear and panic relating to the virus over the past month. About 75,000 people have been infected in China and 25 other countries while as many as 2,100 people have died from the virus so far – the latest cases coming from Japan where two elderly people succumbed recently.
The WHO has, however, cautioned that this may be too early to say that the worst may be over. While the threat may remain and a cogent vaccine or outright cure is still some way off, the fact remains that China has acted quickly to curtail the spread of the virus within its borders. It has even earned rare plaudits from US President Donald Trump. This is a welcome statement in light of the global threat posed by such a virus. Such crises cannot and should not become the responsibility of a single country or organisation. Rather, countries and organisations across the world must pool resources to find an effective antidote to the virus quickly for mutual benefit.
Pakistan has adopted measures at airports to screen incoming passengers. A crackdown on profiteering on critical medical supplies relating to the virus has also been launched. But Islamabad remains reluctant to bring back the hundreds of students who are stranded in Wuhan and other cities of China. Parents of such students have cried hoarse in urging the government to bring their beloveds back but to little avail. The PTI-led government, upon election, had promised to treat overseas Pakistanis better than its predecessors. It is time it fulfilled that promise by starting a process to bring those students back who have been discharged from Chinese hospitals and those who have not displayed any symptoms after a quarantine period.


New discoveries at Bhambore


Sindh is an ancient land where civilisation has been thriving, at least, for the past seven thousand years. The discovery of the ancient Indus Valley civilsation in 1922 changed the basic fact about the start of recorded history of the Indian subcontinent; because before 1922 Indian history was reckoned to begin with the Aryan invasion of the subcontinent. New excavations carried out at Bhambore have revealed that it was the biggest producer of ivory in the ancient world. This shows that once thick forests existed in the Bhambore region because ivory grows on the mouth of elephants and their natural habitat is in jungles. The present excavations were carried out by an Italian archaeologist, Simon Mantelin, together with Pakistani experts in the field. They were assisted by students of Pakistani universities. In the excavations, a vast number of historical artefacts has been unearthed, including articles made of ivory, coins, copper, bronze, glass, iron, wood, shells, fired bricks and mud bricks. At a presentation at the National Museum Karachi on Thursday, Mantelin said a total of 6,675 ivory pieces had been discovered at Bhambore. He said though a large number of ivory pieces was unearthed in Iraq too, the present discovery at Bhambore was the biggest. The latest discovery of artefacts at an ancient site will likely open up new job opportunities for archaeologists both at historical sites and museums. Excavations are also being carried out in Sakrand, Sindh.
Bhamobore dates back to the first century BC. The port city is supposed to be the capital of Raja Dahir’s. Such discoveries would kindle the young generation’s interest in history. Here it is relevant to mention Indian PM Modi’s ‘knowledge’ of history. At a public meeting during the election campaign in 2019, he had described the ancient city of Taxila as being located on the banks of the Ganges in north India.
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