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The Express Tribune Editorial 7 February 2020

Trump impeachment


The US Senate’s acquittal of President Donald Trump was widely expected. Think about it. A president accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, with strong evidence to back up the charges, has been allowed to walk without witnesses even being allowed to speak at the trial. What does that say about a country that claims to be a bastion of democracy and justice? A conviction would have required 67 votes. While all 47 Democratic senators voted guilty, only one Republican joined them. The other 52 Republicans apparently see nothing wrong with a president using his office for personal political gain and failing to adhere by the checks and balances set up in the Constitution.
Trump once claimed that he could shoot a man in the middle of New York City’s bustling Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Today we learnt how. He would have rigged the trial, just as his allies did today. Opinion polls suggested that a majority of Americans agreed on Trump’s guilt. But the jurors, in this case, were not Americans appalled by the corruption of their president. They were senators, over half of whom have tied their political careers to Trump. They did not do this for Trump. They did this for themselves. As long as they are reelected, they couldn’t care less about what becomes of American democracy.
In fact, given the anti-democratic actions of Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, it can reasonably be claimed that the Republicans aren’t interested in democracy. These actions include making it harder for Americans, especially people assumed to favour Democrats, to vote. Before and during the trial, it was McConnell who flatly said he didn’t care about the evidence and would not allow witnesses, and no one batted an eye. This is the new normal. But why not? For four years now, McConnell’s wife, a Trump cabinet member, has sent a disproportionate amount of money to his state. He was not a pawn, but a willing participant in the Trump kleptocracy.
Given this sorry state of affairs, it is high time for the US to invade itself to install democracy.


SBCA in the dock


The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, has regularly been taking officials to task for their lackadaisical performance in improving civic affairs in the country and Sindh province, especially Karachi. This gives us hope. Yesterday, he reprimanded officials for the state of Karachi’s infrastructure while hearing a case pertaining to removal of encroachments. A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising the Chief Justice, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, had taken up miscellaneous petitions in the SC’s Karachi registry.
The court ordered the removal of the director general of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) and expelled another official of the SBCA from the courtroom for allowing illegal expansion of buildings. In its order, the court said an ‘honest officer’ should be appointed as director general of the SBCA. It asked the Sindh chief secretary to look into the matter and take legal action against officials found involved in corruption. “This department of yours [SBCA] is very corrupt,” the court said to the provincial advocate general.
In Karachi, entire parks, graveyards and residential plots had vanished — something that the Chief Justice also pointed out. “Unauthorised portions are being built after openly taking bribes, in every street, every block of Nazimabad. This is total destruction of the city of Karachi,” the top judge remarked. He ordered the removal of petrol pumps and other structures built over drains. Allowing structures, especially petrol pumps, over drains is an act of utter neglect. Gas formation takes place inside drains that can cause explosion endangering lives. Some years ago, explosions had taken place in Urdu Bazaar inside drains causing considerable damage to buildings built over the drains and in the surrounding areas.


Fight against cancer


A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), whose release coincides with the World Cancer Day on February 4, has pointed out inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries. It is just because of a lack of investment in prevention and care that the cases of cancer in low- and middle-income countries would rise by 81% by 2040 as against an overall 60% across the world, according to the WHO report. In what further stresses on the role of money to deal with the fatal disease, WHO experts say that better cancer treatment in high-income countries has resulted in a 20% drop in mortality rate between 2000 and 2015; and in comparison, the reduction in poorer countries remains only 5%.
Though not specifically mentioned in the WHO report, Pakistan is understood to figure among the low- and middle-income countries ill-equipped to put up a fight against cancer. Lack of primary care and referral system in the country — mainly due to paucity of funds — is what makes early detection of cancer difficult, and thus the battle against the disease tougher. Let alone the rural parts of the country, many an urban centre lacks proper facilities to treat the deadly disease. Patients in far-flung areas are the worst suffers. A recent news report on the plight of cancer patients in Balochistan, where there is no cancer-treating facility, is a serious case in point.
The WHO report, meanwhile, points out that one in five people worldwide would face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and this makes the disease a global burden. It, however, indicates that controlling cancer is not too costly an affair, and an investment of $25 billion over the next decade could save seven million lives from cancer. This is where the report puts onus on the role of affluent countries of the world in the fight against cancer.
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