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The Express Tribune Editorial 27 February 2020

Drive against stray dogs


The population of stray dogs in the cities of Sindh is increasing by the day. In few localities of Karachi, there are more stray dogs than people. But the authorities seem to be unaware of the dangers that stray dogs pose to human life. So far they have taken only half-hearted actions to curb the growing population of dogs. This is despite the fact that last year more than 186,579 people were attacked by stray dogs in Sindh province. According to hospitals in Karachi, more than 70 people, mostly children, are bitten by stray dogs in the city every day.
In November last year, the Sindh local government department had launched a campaign to control the dog population by neutering the animals but things have not gone much beyond photo-ops. It was announced that around 500,000 stray dogs would be sterilised in the province. Now there are reports that the campaign has not made headway due to financial constraints and lack of expertise and human resources to handle the sterilisation procedure. Experts are, however, of the opinion that there is no need for a surgical procedure to neuter dogs and the whole process can be carried out only through an injection.
As for funds, Haleem Adil Shaikh, the parliamentary party leader of the PTI in the Sindh Assembly, says the local government department had allocated Rs1 billion for the dog sterilisation programme. He claimed the PTI had raised the issue of stray dogs in the assembly several times but the government was taking only ad hoc measures to control the dog population. He expressed fears that the funds might be bungled. On the other hand, a KMC official claims the poison being given to dogs is substandard, and it not only increases their agony it made them more violent before death. So the promise made in November is yet to translate into action. Governments give us much by way of promises.


Nawaz’s health debate


The status of Nawaz Sharif’s health condition is shrouded in mystery. When allowed to fly abroad by the federal government in the wake of an eight-week bail granted by the Islamabad High Court on medical grounds on October 29, 2019, the three-time former prime minister was said to have been serious, suffering from a medical condition called thrombocytopenia which means his body was unable to maintain a minimum count of blood platelets necessary to avoid bleeding. But, having been in London since November 19 last year, Sharif is not known to have been admitted to hospital for any kind of treatment – something that raises questions about the ‘seriousness’ of his current medical condition.
The PML-N has its own set of medical reasons to justify the delay in treatment, and thereby its position and that of its leader. However, the government has little doubt that Sharif – who, when bailed out, had been serving a seven-year prison sentence in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail over Al Azizia corruption reference – is faking his health to avoid returning to the country. In fact, the PM has time and again made comments implying that he had been dodged by the authorities under his very control – ironically including his own health minister in Punjab – into believing that Sharif was serious enough to be allowed treatment abroad. The government – having already extended Sharif’s bail duration for eight months – has now decided not to allow any further extension, and approach the Islamabad High Court to declare the ex-PM absconder in case he does not return.
It’s true that Sharif has had heart complications and has undergone cardiac surgeries in 2011 and 2016, but a political angle to the story – featuring his travel to London for medical treatment and his stay there well beyond the period initially allowed by the high court – cannot be ruled out completely. And as the PM has repeatedly suggested being tricked – obviously by those under his own clout and control – he should launch an inquiry to exhume the facts rather than just point an accusing finger at his political opponents in a bid to justify his position. The responsibility squarely lies with the government.


End of an era


Former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak has died at the age of 91. He was Egypt’s longest-serving president and ruled at the tail-end of the country’s 59-year stretch of military rule following the coup which overthrew King Farouk. But unlike the coup of 1952, led by future president Lt Col Gamal Abdel Nasser, with Gen Mohamed Naguib as the ‘face’ of revolution, or even Anwar Saadat, Mubarak was never seen as a leader with a vision for Egypt. Instead, he became notorious for running a brutal kleptocracy which led to the crash of Egypt’s once-rising star and made it an atypical third-world state — wholly dependent on the US, Saudi Arabia, and other benefactors to keep the taps running for the poor, while the ruling class accumulated unimaginable wealth. Even his credentials as a “military leader and war hero” had repeatedly been brought into question by others who served in the air force with him.
Indeed, if not for the fact that the short-lived democratic experiment that followed his ouster was itself killed off by a coup led by current President Abdel Fatah al Sisi, Mubarak may well have still been behind bars when he died. He was jailed for years after the Arab Spring uprising but was freed in 2017, after being acquitted of most charges. The acquittal stunned many Egyptians, thousands of whom poured into central Cairo to show their anger against the court. The only charge which stood was relating to financial corruption, and even that — using state funds to upgrade private residences — was much smaller than the billions his family and cronies were accused of siphoning off from state coffers. To millions of Egyptians, Mubarak was not a successor to those that deposed the king, but a latter-day pharaoh. Under the incumbent regime, most Mubarak cronies have had charges against them withdrawn, and some believe the old regime is already well and truly back. Indeed, Mubarak’s greatest legacy may be proving that dictatorial regimes can actually outlive the strongman.
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