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Dawn Editorial 23 December 2019

KL Summit fallout

THE dangers of lack of proper planning and foresight at the state level, especially in sensitive matters of foreign affairs, have become apparent in the fiasco that resulted when Pakistan absented itself from the Kuala Lumpur Summit, which wrapped up on Saturday.
The moot was touted as a forum to discuss the “state of affairs of the Muslim Ummah” and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, one of the architects of the summit, explicitly said the conclave was not a replacement for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
This is the fifth edition of the summit and the 2019 meeting was given an additional boost as Dr Mahathir, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Imran Khan had sought to make the forum a proactive one, along with other Muslim leaders, to discuss the state of affairs in the lands of Islam.
However, Pakistan’s abrupt withdrawal from the summit caused diplomatic embarrassment.
This was compounded by revelations by Mr Erdogan on Friday that the Saudis asked Pakistan to withdraw or else face the expulsion of Pakistani expatriates from the kingdom as well as the withdrawal of Saudi funds deposited in this country. The Saudi embassy in Islamabad has termed these comments “fake news”.
As we have stated previously in these columns, proper homework should have been done before committing Pakistan to the summit.
Withdrawing from the moot at the last minute, after Prime Minister Imran Khan made a dash to Saudi Arabia, did little to lift our international image. This reflects bad form and a lack of planning at the top.
Surely, there are experienced hands at the Foreign Office as well as retired veteran diplomats and other experts in international relations who could have been consulted to weigh the pros and cons of attending the summit before making a policy decision. Pakistan at one time enjoyed great prestige in the Islamic bloc; today, this reputation risks being tarnished if thoughtless actions such as the KL Summit debacle are repeated. Perhaps some damage control can be done by organising a conclave in Pakistan to discuss the Muslim world’s problems.
As for the OIC secretary general’s contention that events such as the KL Summit “are not in the interest of [the] Islamic nation”, this position is highly debatable.
It can be asked what — over the decades — has the OIC done to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinians, the Kashmiris, the Rohingya and other persecuted Muslim groups suffering from oppression. The bloc has been known for paralysis and grandiose, hollow statements more than for taking action.
The fact is Riyadh was wary of the KL moot where its geopolitical rivals — Turkey, Iran, Qatar — participated as equals.
If the OIC is incapable of addressing the issues of the world’s Muslims, from terrorism to disease to illiteracy, then other forums are bound to arise to tackle these problems.

 
 

Climate perils

 

PAKISTAN is one of the 10 countries most affected by the changing climate. The impact of the latter is showing up in different forms — erratic weather patterns, reduction in the availability of water per capita, melting glaciers, rapid desertification of fertile cultivable land, floods, and so on. The slow policy response to the climate challenge by successive governments means the changes are taking a heavy toll on agriculture and threatening food security. Take the example of the cotton crop. The overall cotton output has dropped by more than a quarter in the last one decade at the cost of the farmers’ well-being, textile exports, and farm and factory jobs. This year again, the unusual heavy rains caused a lot of damage to the cotton plants just as they were fruiting. Naturally, the crop output fell far short of the targeted 15m bales. This will have significant consequences for the government’s efforts to reduce the trade deficit as the industry will be forced to double its cotton exports this year to meet its consumption requirements for exports. According to some estimates, the imports could cost the economy anywhere in the range of $2bn and $3bn during the present fiscal year, depending on the quantity of fibre to be imported.
The erratic weather patterns mean that the country’s food security will also be hit as changing climate poses serious challenges. Immediate policy intervention is required for dealing with the emerging conditions. Experts believe the new climatic patterns are likely to shorten harvest periods, increase the risk of pest attacks and disease, and reduce overall productivity. The situation calls for heavy public and private investments in new seed varieties that can cope with the changing weather patterns, especially frequent heatwaves and dry spells. Moreover, training farmers to conserve water and providing them with access to timely weather information as well as encouraging the use of laser levelling is required. The promotion of the use of digital technology can be an effective way of combating weather changes and protecting agriculture. Countries across the world are inventing new technologies, and encouraging innovation and adoption of efficient practices to make agriculture efficient in order to overcome the challenges being posed to productivity by erratic weather conditions. With the country’s population estimated to grow by around 50pc in the next 30 years, it is high time we started using smart technologies to enable our farms to keep feeding us and to grow raw material for our industry.

 
 

A dog’s life

A STRAY dog’s life is nasty, brutish and short. To counter the growing incidence of dog bites and thus quell public outrage, the Sindh government directed the municipal authorities to revive a campaign to cull stray dogs in September. The order followed the death of child in Larkana who had contracted rabies from an infected dog. The heartbreaking video of the mother holding her child as he gasped for breath was widely shared and caused mass outrage. Earlier this month, a young boy passed away three weeks after being mauled by six dogs in Larkana. And this Thursday, six children were attacked by a pack of dogs on their way to school in Sukkur. At a recent hearing, the Sukkur High Court was informed that a total of 34,700 dogs have been killed across the province. Such extreme measures may receive the support of large sections of the public, particularly pedestrians who cannot afford the luxury of a car, but they are not a solution. Rather, they are indicative of reactionary, short-term thinking that ends up creating a bigger problem. Authorities have been carrying out dog culling drives for many years — whether by shooting or poisoning the animals — and yet their population only keeps increasing, as do the number of attacks on humans.
There are alternatives that are not only humane, but far more effective. Firstly, stray dogs are loyal to the places that sustain them, and so are mostly found living near garbage dumps. Sindh has had a problem with garbage collection, and the stray dog population can be combated through sustained cleanliness drives in residential areas. Secondly, while it may be more expensive and time-consuming, the success of the Trap-Neuter-Return programmes cannot be understated. In October, the Indus Hospital launched the Rabies Free Programme which administers vaccines and oversees sterilisation of stray dogs. While still limited in its scope, such programmes are performing an essential service and must receive all the support they can get.

 

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