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The Express Tribune Editorial 8 February 2020

Indian rhetoric and Kashmir


With Indian military and political leaders continuing to issue provocative statements, their opposite numbers in Pakistan have made it clear that “irresponsible rhetoric [has] implications for the region”. According to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release following the Corps Commanders Conference earlier this week, “Pakistan Armed Forces are forces of order and peace and fully prepared to thwart any misadventure, whatever the cost”. Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also commented on the situation in Kashmir, saying, “Repression of Indian occupying forces can never deny Kashmiris their right to self-determination as promised by UN resolutions. Regardless of the ordeal, their just struggle is destined to succeed.” Earlier, another ISPR statement had rubbished belligerent Indian statements as “routine rhetoric for domestic audiences to get out of ongoing internal turmoil”, a reference to problems in India-Occupied Kashmir and nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also spoke against India’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric. “You need to brush up on history. It seems your degree was fake,” said the prime minister, during a speech in Mirpur, in a reference to long-running allegations regarding Indian PM Narendra Modi’s education. But Imran also used some aggressive language of his own, which will undoubtedly worry doves on either side of the border. In case of an Indian attack, he said, every Pakistani “will fight to their final breath” as “none of us fears death”. He warned, “If you are under the false impression that you can take any action against Pakistan to strengthen your Hindu voter base, it will be the last mistake you make.” As for Kashmir, Imran observed how Modi’s lockdown had led to unprecedented international discussions on India’s illegal actions. “The entire world now demands an end to this oppression,” he said.
Unfortunately, while Imran may be able to get Pakistan’s point of view across to world leaders, it is meaningless until world leaders actually push Modi to tone down the rhetoric and end the oppression.


Public hanging


The National Assembly yesterday passed a resolution calling for public hanging of those convicted of sexually assaulting and killing children in view of the increasing cases of such offences in the country. The sentiments of the members who asked for public hanging deserve to be respected. However, it is a knee-jerk reaction, based on emotions, to the growing problem of crimes against children. The hand-written resolution referred to the “brutal killing of 8-year-old Iwaz Noor in Nowshera”. PPP legislators did not support the resolution. Raja Pervez Ashraf, PPP leader and ex-PM, said, “Ramping up the severity of punishments does not result in a reduction in crime. We cannot put public hanging into practice as it violates the laws of the United Nations.” Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhry also opposed the call for public hanging. He wrote on Twitter, “…Societies act in a balanced way. Barbarism is not the answer to crimes.”
We agree with this stance because all aspects of a decision should be taken into account before deciding on that particular action. Harsh punishments are indeed needed to act as a deterrent to rising incidents of rape, assault and murder of both females and males. Even capital punishment becomes necessary in heinous cases. Experience, however, shows that public hanging of criminals results in brutalisation of society. Since large numbers of people assemble to witness public executions, it apparently gives the impression that public hangings might deter the potential evil-doers. This usually is not the case, however. In many countries of the world, public hanging was put into practice in the hope that it will have more impact as deterrence than executions within jails. This proved a false hope. So the practice was abandoned. In the contemporary world, especially when human societies are fast returning to the state of nature where man’s life has again become short, nasty and brutish public hangings would make life nastier and more brutish.


An effective prescription


The Minister of State for SAFRON Shehryar Afridi has come under severe criticism for a statement that the tonnes of narcotics destroyed every year can actually be used to manufacture life-saving medicines. He made the statement while addressing a public gathering in the tribal Tirah valley, a key conduit for the nearly 10,000 tonnes of opiates that is grown and processed in Afghanistan before being smuggled into Pakistan. Afridi said that a factory would be set up to process the seized drugs into medicines. Despite the intense criticism, Afridi has stood by his stance.
A cursory view of the issue would lend you to weigh the criticism against Afridi as warranted. Given his stature of the minister, though, he at least deserves to be heard beyond the pseudointellectual cacophony from pleasure rooms. Opium — which contains opioids and is extracted from poppies, is actually one of the oldest forms of medicine and finds rich traditions of use in almost all pre-modern medicinal practices. Afridi is correct when saying that opioids do retain a place in modern medicine and a handful of countries and companies around the world create medicines using opioids as ingredients. It just requires the legal poppy-growing country and the pharmaceutics companies to be subject to extremely stringent controls.
The only place where Afridi’s argument requires some work is when he says that this raw material can be converted into medicines locally. The state of pharmaceuticals in Pakistan is not great. We lack the capabilities and the capacity to manufacture advanced medicines. Almost no antibiotics are manufactured locally. We even have to import critical vaccines such as those to combat polio. Perhaps this is where the minister can urge the government to focus on and make the country attractive for those firms which manufacture opium-based medicines.
Afridi has identified a true opportunity. The question is: do we have the will to stop the massive flow of narcotics by converting it into medicine?
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