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The Express Tribune Editorial 22 June 2020

Some closure at last


Defence contracts tend to be murky business. One would naively hope that no country in the world would spare any expense when it comes to national security, but one would be wrong. The fact is that there are myriad factors that drive a government’s security calculus, and that is especially true when it comes to defence procurements. Open a book on military deals in the past and you will find a litany of kickbacks, commissions and bribes, besides other scandals.
The Karachi Affair — as it is being referred to as — is among the most notorious military procurement scandals anywhere in the world. As the story goes, during Benazir Bhutto’s regime in the 1990s, massive commissions and kickbacks were exchanged between Pakistani and French officials over negotiations to acquire Agosta 90B class submarines from a French company.
Investigative reports exposed the scandal to the public, tarnishing the image of many senior Pakistani and French figures who were allegedly involved in the illegal affair. Even so, the case has dragged on for more than a quarter of a century. Only recently, has there been some closure after a French court awarded three former senior French officials prison terms — the first in the case. A former French prime minister, Edouard Balladur, continues to face a separate trial over allegations that he used some of the kickbacks to help fund his presidential bid.
It is heartening to see that there has been some measure of justice in a case that most of the world had long forgotten. One hopes the French court would not stop there and pursue the matter further. Back home, perhaps it is time we too review our culpability in the case. For all the fuss we make over national security, perhaps we should introspect on how far our words match our actions.


Don’t lose sight of Kashmir


Perhaps the only worthy pursuit in life is to fight for freedom and strive for emancipation. As the coronavirus pandemic ravages on, we need to make sure such pursuits that are being made by our Kashmiri brothers are not undermined. As all eyes have turned towards the Covid-19 virus, many are either unaware of or have chosen to ignore the recent spike in killings in IOK. As many as 102 freedom fighters have been martyred in the valley so far this year. During the last 19 days, 32 have embraced martyrdom, 22 of whom were killed in just the past two weeks; and on Friday 8 fighters lost their lives in two separate operations.
The trajectory of killings gives us an insight into India’s devious scheme — increase pressure as the issue around the world starts to normalise, till the Kashmiris finally succumb. Indian fascists have also used the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to exploit human rights by not only expediting their “settler-colonial ambitions” but also by restricting the flow of essential resources in the disputed region. With “one ventilator for every 71,000 people, and one doctor for every 3,900 people”, the Kashmiris remain ill-prepared to face the deadly virus as cases surge past 5,500.
We must stop these crimes from persisting at all costs. Pakistan’s international plea, however, has not gone unnoticed. Recently, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has spoken up against the atrocities by expressing his disquietude over the use of pellet guns against Kashmiri children. It is evident that Modi does not care much for the UN call for banning the torture and persecution of Kashmiri minors as 68 incidents relating to the detention of children between the ages 9-17 have been reported till date.
It is of paramount importance that international leaders follow in the UN’s footsteps and speak up not only against India’s malfeasance, but against all forms of oppression. The accumulated voices of people around the world in support of Kashmir, and others, will help in globally acknowledging India’s unscrupulous despotism whereby a collective and formal action can take place to ebb the suffering in the valley, and prevent such an incident from happening in the future.


Attacks on Rangers


The days of horror are long past when terror struck as a matter of routine in Pakistani cities. People at long last heaved a sigh of relief when years of insurgency was finally crushed by our resolute armed forces, rendering in the process great sacrifices of life and limb. The valiant troops successfully vanquished the rebel hordes, bringing to an end the most violent era in the country. But the remnants of that insurrection keep rearing their ugly heads off and on. The near-simultaneous attacks on Rangers officials in Sindh’s three different cities on Friday are one more feeble attempt to shatter the morale of law enforcement personnel.
According to media reports, two Rangers officials were martyred and one was injured in three separate attacks in Ghotki, Karachi and Larkana each. A blast near a meat shop in Ghotki resulted in two Rangers officials and one civilian losing their lives. The explosion took place near a Rangers van parked in a market. At least three people also suffered injuries. The martyred officials were identified as Zahoor Ahmed and Fayyaz Ahmed while the civilian was identified as Ghulam Mustafa. According to the police, Zahoor and Fayyaz regularly bought meat from the shop.
Separately, a man lost his life while a Rangers personnel Munawar was injured in a hand-grenade attack near a centre of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme in Karachi’s Liaquatabad area, police said. Seven others have also been injured, in what was earlier described as a cracker explosion. Shortly after these two incidents, a cracker explosion also took place in Larkana outside a public school, where a Rangers van was parked. There were no casualties, police said.
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