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The Express Tribune Editorial 3 January 2020

Decrease in terrorism


We have left behind the dark days of death, destruction and mayhem caused by terrorism. Due to the efforts of law enforcers, Pakistan registered a nearly 31% reduction in terror-related fatalities over the past year, according to figures compiled by a think tank, Center for Research and Security Studies.
In its recently-announced annual report, the think tank said a 30.71% decline in fatalities was observed in 2019, down from 980 in 2018 to 679 in the year just gone by. The report noted that if Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the erstwhile Federally- Administered Tribal Areas are counted as separate regions, then Balochistan emerges as the region most affected by militancy and insurgency with 226 fatalities this year. This, however, represents a reduction of 44.2% in fatalities in 2019, down from 405 fatalities in 2018. After Balochistan, the largest drop in fatalities has been seen in the newly-merged tribal districts with a change of 39%, from 192 recorded in 2018 to 117 in 2019. Sindh saw a drop of 19pc, from 121 cases in 2018 to 98 in 2019; Punjab registered an 11.83% drop in fatalities, from 93 in 2018 to 82 in 2019. In K-P, there was a decline of 5.13%, down from 156 in 2018 to 148 in 2019. Islamabad, however, saw a rise in violence, witnessing seven fatalities in 2019 as against six in 2018. Gilgit-Baltistan showed the most improvement, going from seven fatalities in 2018 to zero fatalities in 2019.
In nearly 370 terror attacks during 2019 in the country, 518 persons died. This was a 30% drop from 739 fatalities caused by nearly 400 terror attacks in 2018. Civilians continued to be the most affected by terror-related incidents. However, overall civilian fatalities from terror attacks declined by around 36.28% from 521 in 2018 to 332 in 2019. A total of 141 militants were arrested.


Politicking on Karachi?


The poor state of civic amenities in Karachi is no secret. Yet from both the federal and Sindh governments we go on getting only promises. Recently Federal Ministers Asad Umar, Syed Ali Zaidi and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail at a press conference called for setting aside political differences for the welfare of the common people. The presser was held after a meeting which reviewed the pace of the Karachi Development Package announced by the PTI government. This came close on the heels of a statement by PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto in which he had blamed the centre for Karachi’s woes.
Asad Umar vowed to complete the ongoing development projects but he gave no deadline. He said the centre had released funds to expedite work on Green Line bus and K-1V water supply megaprojects, and announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan would inaugurate some projects in Karachi in February. On the centre’s relations with the Sindh government, he said, “Politics is not being done by any party on matters relating to public wellbeing,” and claimed that the required funds had been handed over to the province. He said the centre had already released its share of Rs13 billion for the project. He said currently the Sindh government was reviewing the design change of the K-1V project. The scheme aims to provide an additional 650mgd water to Karachi. However, informed circles say there are many obstacles in the way of the completion of the project and if they are not removed expeditiously, it will take many years to complete the project.
Later, a statement from a Sindh minister doubted the centre’s intentions to work with the provincial government. Politicians go on blaming each other for problems and things in Karachi continue to deteriorate. Anything can be explained away. Pretty clear thinking and sensible decisions are needed. Now Karachi is a wasteland with a million miseries. The common people need kindness, which even the deaf and the blind admire.


Inflation woes

The overall Consumer Price Index (CPI) monthly-based inflation grew by 12.6% in December 2019 compared to the same month last year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
The silver lining, however, is that the CPI actually went down marginally on a month-to-month basis, decreasing 0.3% when compared with November 2019.
Urban CPI increased by 12% against last year but was down 0.4% from November, while rural CPI increased 13.6% against last year but decreased 0.3% against November.
While the monthly numbers are less significant than the yearly figures, a levelling trend in prices of goods is heartening for most citizens, especially given that the economic crisis has already forced many to tighten their belts by a few too many notches.
Of course, some of that belt-tightening was made ‘easier’ by the fact that food prices rose by extreme amounts over the past year.
Just take tomatoes, which rose 321%, or onions, which rose 169%. For the less culinarily inclined, these two items make up the base for most basic dishes on the average Pakistani’s dinner table.
Along with a few spices and bread, they also make up one of the most affordable meal options — pyaz tamatar ki sabzi.
Other staples such as potatoes were up 78%, while lentils (dal) were up between 11% and 53%, depending on the type. Even wheat flour was up by almost 16%, while milk and tea rose by over 10% each. For the poor and middle class, these are unaffordable numbers.
Even fish and red meat were up by over 13% each, although chicken dropped by 17%.
Even the cost of cooking continues to rise. Gas charges increased by almost 55% last year, and are slated to increase even more in the new year. Meanwhile, with electricity up 17% and cloth and wool prices up by over 10% each, even keeping warm is becoming a luxury.
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