The past week witnessed an unprecedented violence in Afghanistan. At least 291 Afghan security personnel were killed and 550 wounded in no less than 422 attacks in 32 provinces of Afghanistan during the week ending June 21, making it the “deadliest” week in nearly two decades of war in the country, according to the Afghan government. The violence continued into the ongoing week with simultaneous raids on one army and two police checkpoints in Kunduz province on Monday in which eight members of Afghan security forces were killed. In a more significant of the attacks, also coming on Monday, gunmen shot dead two prosecutors and three other employees of the attorney general’s office.
That the same law office had been working on a prisoner exchange — a requirement for the Taliban and Kabul to go ahead with peace talks — does show that peace spoilers are at work in Afghanistan yet again — this time with a bitterly nefarious sense of purpose. The attack, thus, drew condemnation from US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who led negotiations with the Taliban on behalf of Washington ahead of the February 29th peace deal in Doha between the two sides. In a tweet, Khalilzad urged the Taliban and Kabul “not [to] be deterred, and push forward to take the steps necessary to reach intra-Afghan negotiation” warning the two sides that “spoilers are trying to disrupt and delay” the peace process.
The spoilers, however, seem to have hit the target. To Kabul, no one but the Taliban are to blame for the past week’s killing of 291 security personnel and the attacks on Monday, with President Ashraf Ghani saying that the violence “is running against the spirit of commitment for peace”. The Taliban, on the other hand, only accepted carrying out “some attacks last week” but “mostly in defence”, and rejected the latest government figures on casualties.
The two sides, however, need to realise that the Doha deal has created a rare opportunity for peace in Afghanistan which must not be squandered at any cost.
Plane crash report
The preliminary investigation report into the May 22 crash of PK-8303 almost entirely pinned the blame on pilot error. The findings are being disputed by Palpa, the PIA pilots’ union, but the grounds for that opposition are weak. Palpa claims that none of their pilots were included in the investigation team, even though pilots and engineers qualified to fly and work with A320s, foreign investigators, and Airbus representatives were part of it. The publically-available air traffic control records also seem to support some degree of pilot error, while the report notes some mistakes on the part of the ATCs as well.
Regardless, the findings will provide little solace to the families of the victims, or indeed the survivors. Instead, coupled with the aviation minister’s comments in parliament, they paint a picture of recklessness and nepotism. Instead of continuing with the talk of taking PIA back to its glory days, it is becoming even more apparent that the time to put the airline out to pasture has passed. At this point, it needs to be put down. For reasoning, we could compare the airline to a prize-winning horse that went lame, but, given that PIA kills people, we think a much-loved but now-rabid pet dog is a better comparison.
According to the aviation minister, over 30% of pilots are not even qualified to be flying planes, according to the minister. Meanwhile, the staff to plane ratio is among the worst in the world, meaning that most PIA employees are getting paid to do nothing. The government continues to pay the airline massive subsidies which would better be rerouted to health and education. As for the fact that PIA flies to some far-flung areas, profitable routes — mostly for tourist destinations — will be quickly lapped up by private airlines, while unprofitable ones are still accessible by road and rail. The only losers here will be politicians from these areas that fly for free. They can drive for free instead.
Indeed, the only reason to keep PIA alive is for politicians to make illegal appointments at lower levels and ex-servicemen to get cushy post-retirement jobs at higher levels.
Prejudice of different kinds has prevailed in most human societies, with that based on skin colour being the most notable. Sometimes this kind of prejudice comes out in bold relief by egregious incidents of racism against black people in the US and other countries. The recent killing of two African-Americans, George Floyd and Rashard, sparked widespread protests both within the US and around the world. Inspired by the recent happening in America, a member of the Sindh Assembly, Tanzeela Ume Habiba Sheedi, who happens to be Pakistan’s first lawmaker from the Sheedi community, has announced working against the long-held prejudice against her community in Pakistan, saying the colour prejudice has held back the progress of Sheedis.
In this connection, the lawmaker presented a resolution in the Sindh Assembly condemning the recent wave of racism in the US, and also drew the attention of the House to the need for eliminating colour prejudice in the province and the whole of Pakistan. She says her community is being subjected to discrimination in various spheres of life. Because of this they have little access to education and resultantly jobs and other economic opportunities. She says community members are bullied and ridiculed in schools and other educational institutions not only by fellow students but by teachers as well. Such insults instill in the victims a feeling of inferiority complex. There is a general misperception about the community that they are ignorant. She has demanded of the government to take affirmative actions for her community to encourage education among them, because it is only education that can lead to real progress. She also blamed her own community for the prevailing sorry state of affairs confronting them.
Men and women from the community prefer to marry fair skinned people outside the community in order to improve the tone of their skin. Fair-skinned people enjoy advantages over people with dark skin. Seldom parents buy black dolls as a gift for their children.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26, 2020